Less than two weeks before he fatally stabbed his estranged wife, Cantrell Ellis slammed Charlotte Ellis to the floor during an argument at their home, Clovis police said.
A spousal abuse charge stemming from that incident has been added to the charges against Ellis, 37, who also is accused of trying to choke a 38-year-old Clovis man the night he allegedly killed his wife.
The alleged spousal abuse occurred on April 20. Officers were called to the home the Ellises shared on the 2300 block of Holland Avenue where they say Cantrell Ellis pushed Charlotte Ellis, 33, to the floor, causing her to hit her head.
"She didn't want to file charges," said Janet Stoll-Lee, Clovis police spokeswoman, but officers cited Cantrell Ellis for spousal abuse.
Charlotte Ellis moved out of the house on Holland Avenue into a home on the 2600 block of Sierra Madre Avenue not long after the spousal abuse attack.
Police said Ellis broke into the Sierra Madre home about 2:30 a.m. Friday and stabbed his wife in the heart, lungs and liver with two kitchen knives.
He had been charged with murder in the death of his wife and with attempted murder of the man, who ran from the house and called police.
Ellis was already scheduled to appear in court on the spousal abuse charge.
Monday, the Fresno County District Attorney's Office combined that charge with the murder count and new charges of burglary plus special circumstances.
The District Attorney's Office changed the attempted murder charge to assault with a deadly weapon.
With the special circumstances, Ellis could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole if his is convicted. He remains in Fresno County Jail on $1,090,000 bail.
Stoll-Lee said officers who responded to the spousal abuse call at the Ellises' home referred the couple to the department's Safer Program that helps victims and suspects in domestic violence cases get help.
"We know there have been a number of victims who have been helped to get out of domestic violence," said George Rodriguez, who helped found the program in 2003.
That year there were seven homicides in Clovis, all connected to domestic violence, Stoll-Lee said.
The Ellises were given phone numbers to call for help, but Stoll-Lee said she doesn't know whether they called.