SIDNEY — “After nearly 14 years of unanswered justice, an arrest is made in the 2006 unsolved murder of Melinda McKinney (Shaffer),” Sidney Police Capt. Jerry Tangeman said in a press release Thursday.
Allen Romell Harris, 46, of Newcomerstown, was arrested at noon Thursday, May, 14, by Tuscarawas law enforcement in Tuscarawas County, where he now resides.
Early Thursday morning, May 14, 2020, evidence was presented to a Shelby County grand jury in regard to the ongoing murder investigation of McKinney, the release said. After reviewing evidence, an arrest indictment for murder was issued by the grand jury. The Sidney Police Department (SPD) coordinating efforts with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tuscarawas County Ohio Sheriff’s Office, had Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office execute the arrest warrant.
Harris has been indicted on one count of murder with a repeat violent offender specification. Harris is currently incarcerated at the Tuscarawas County Jail where he will remain until he is brought back to Shelby County.
Harris was been a person of interest since the early months of the murder, said Tangeman in the releaser. There was insufficient evidence at the time to make an arrest. New advances in DNA testing recently linked Harris to the murder of McKinney.
Sidney Police and paramedics responded on Saturday morning, June 17, 2006, to 901 N. Main Ave. after McKinney’s son, Matthew Shaffer, found her body and called 911. According to the autopsy report, she was stabbed more than 100 times on her neck, abdomen, face, back, head, upper extremities and thigh, and died within minutes of the onset of the attack. According to the 911 transcript of the call to police from Matthew Shaffer, he said there was a large amount of blood around her and a cut on her neck.
McKinney, whose maiden name was Dickerson, was originally from Troy and was the mother of three adult children. She had been married to Michael Shaffer, of Sidney, and later to Charles McKinney, of Michigan.
McKinney was an assistant manager at Perkins Restaurant in Sidney. She was well-liked at her job and known to be a giving person.
McKinney’s ex-husband was ruled out as a suspect, as police were able to account for his presence at the time of the killing.
In 2016, Tangeman told the Sidney Daily News that every year there is a new kind of test and new technology which were not available 10 years ago. He said the police department had resubmitted information to the lab for review.
There were “people of interest, some are stronger than others,” he said, but in 2016, they still did not have the “final piece” to charge anyone.
“For 14 years, this case has been on the top of the watch list for the SPD. Detectives regularly reviewed this case file, followed up on new information as it came in, and more importantly would review new possibilities in scientific lab testing. Detectives have conducted approximately 124 interviews with approximately 88 individuals; conducted three field searches, five polygraphs, and 10 search warrants,” said Tangeman.
There has been investigative collaboration with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), FBI, Montgomery County Prosecutors Office, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, and Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office. A special thanks needs to be given by our department and community and to the law enforcement partners at the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office who were instrumental in apprehending Harris when the warrant was issued.
“As long as a journey this case has been for law enforcement, it pales in comparison the despair that the family of Melinda McKinney (Shaffer) has had to endure for the last 14 years in not knowing who and holding accountable the person who murdered Melinda,” Tangeman said in the release. “I hope they can finally get some closure.”