SIDNEY — Case closed. The 2006 death of a Sidney woman is officially closed.
Allen Romell Harris, 48, was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday for his role in the murder of Melinda McKinney (Shaffer). Shelby County Common Pleas Court Judge Jim Stevenson accepted an Alford plea of guilty from Harris. The plea agreement reduced the charged from murder with a repeat violent offender specification to attempted murder without specification, a first degree felony.
The trial scheduled for the case was dismissed when Harris agreed to the Alford plea of guilty negotiated by his attorney and Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office on Sept. 14.
The state of Ohio and Harris jointly recommended that the court immediately impose a mandatory sentence of nine years in prison. As part of the agreement, Harris waived his right to have a presentence report prepared prior to sentencing.
Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell explained why the plea agreement was reached.
“The murder was in 2006 and it was a 15-year-old case,” said Sell. “We had a lot of issues including witnesses who changed their story, witnesses who moved out of state and one expert who moved out of the field of forensic science.
“We knew that would make it more difficult to get a conviction,” he said. “If we went to trial, we could lose but we were confident in our case that we had a better chance to win.”
Sell said his office was involved in a discussion with McKinney’s two surviving children.
“They wanted the case resolved before the trial so they could secure closure,” said Sell. “With their approval, the case was resolved.”
Sell said the sentencing aspect of the case was based on what would have occurred in 2006.
‘The charge of murder has 15 years to life,” said Sell. “The next step down is voluntary manslaughter or attempted murder, which is a felony one. In 2006, the charge (attempted murder) had a maximum 10 year sentence.
“We has some room for negotiation and came to the number of nine years. The family gave their approval to that,” said Sell.
“The brutality of this murder is such that the plea agreement and recommended sentence doesn’t provide justice,” said Sell.
But, he said, reviewing the facts of the case, he believes this “is a fair resolution to the case.”
“With the two children of the victim endorsing (plea, sentence) I felt comfortable making that deal,” said Sell.
At the time of the murder in 2006, there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest, said Sidney Police Department Capt. Jerry Tangeman. New advances in DNA testing linked Harris to the murder of McKinney. Harris was arrested on May 14, 2020, after he was indicted by the Shelby County grand jury. The arrest was made by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office and Harris was transported back to Shelby County where he has been in jail ever since.
“The case is closed,” said Tangeman. “We are not looking at anybody else in the case.”
Tangeman said it’s been a long journey for McKinney’s family and officers involved in the investigation.
“When a loved one is murdered, the family needs closure,” said Tangeman. “At the end of the day, hopefully they can get closure.”
On Saturday morning, June 17, 2006, Sidney Police and paramedics responded 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. The 911 transcript of the call to police from Matthew Shaffer said there was a large amount of blood around her and a cut on her neck.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.