CELINA — The family of a Rockford woman killed by her boyfriend listened Thursday in the courtroom, sometimes crying, as a prosecutor read their letters explaining how her murder has ripped apart their lives.
A letter from Melinda Shinn’s 10-year-old son, Braden Etgen, listed all the fun places his mother took him, including a Cincinnati Reds baseball game and her company’s picnic.
“I miss my mom so much. We did everything together,” Braden said in the letter.
Shinn's killer, Daniel Martin, sat in the courtroom listening to each letter Mercer County Prosecutor Matt Fox read during the hearing.
Judge Jeffrey Ingraham sentenced Martin to life in prison with the chance for parole after 18 years.
Martin, 40, pleaded guilty in May to murder with a gun. He was charged in the Nov. 8 death of the 26-year-old Shinn. She was shot and killed inside a home she and Martin shared at 509 North St., Rockford.
Martin asked Shinn’s family for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry for what happened. It wasn’t like everybody is saying it was,” he said.
Mike Shinn wrote that his daughter’s life is over and she will never have the chance to brighten anyone’s day again with the smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes.
“Daniel Martin, in a selfish, angry moment, took everything from us. Mindy’s (Melinda's) life is over, and his should be over, too, for the act that he committed,” Mike Shinn wrote.
Martin was called a monster in one of the letters. His attorney, David Bruns, disputed that label.
Bruns said Martin has taken full responsible for the killing and pleaded guilty to prevent Shinn’s son from having to testify and relive the day his mother was killed.
“Mr. Martin is not a hopelessly defective person. He is a faulty person like all of us in this courtroom,” Bruns said.
Shinn’s son, then 9, was home and inside the residence when his mother was killed. Martin ran from the home after the shooting, eluding authorities. The U.S. Marshals Office led the search for Martin, who fled out of state. It took two months to track him to Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was taken into custody without a fight.
The murder in Rockford, a small Mercer County village, was its first known homicide in recent history. It also was the county’s only homicide in 2012.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said Martin and Shinn were in several arguments the night before the shooting and the day of the shooting. Shinn sent text messages to people, telling them about the arguments.