ROCKFORD — Just after 10:45 a.m. Thursday, all was quiet in a small Rockford community. No more arguing, no more yelling, just the faint sound of sirens wailing in the distance. Closer, closer, closer.
When Rockford Police Chief Paul May entered the neighborhood and then the mobile home at 509 North St. Thursday morning, he found 26-year-old Melinda S. Shinn dead inside her residence, shot after what officials are saying was a domestic dispute with her live-in boyfriend.
“Throughout the evening of Nov. 7 and into the early morning hours of Nov. 8, the couple had been in several arguments,” said Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey Friday. “That’s verified by people even outside of the home as there were text messages and things that were sent to people from the victim to people outside of the home.”
But that’s not all he found inside. Shinn’s 9-year-old son was also tucked away inside the mobile home, apparently witnessing the entire incident.
“There was a child present at the time,” Grey said. “That child is safe. He was unharmed and has been reunited with other family members since.”
And the suspected gunman, Daniel C. Martin, 40, is still on the loose. Grey said a warrant has been issued for his arrest, on the charge of murder, and they are still conducting interviews and searching for him. But they may be hot on his trail.
“Yesterday, we were looking for a 1998 Ford Explorer. That vehicle has been located (in Fort Wayne, Ind.) and recovered and is currently in an impound lot up in Fort Wayne,” Grey said. “We’ve been working with Fort Wayne Police trying to locate him as he has relatives in the Fort Wayne area.”
Martin does have other children, both in Fort Wayne and Mercer County, but the only child present during the time of the shooting was Shinn’s son, he said.
Though the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help to locate Martin, Grey warned that his office suspects he is still armed and dangerous.
“We would suggest to the public, if you see him, call your local law enforcement agency. Call the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. Do not approach him. We don’t know what he’s capable of at this point,” Grey said. “I’m sure that he’s scared and I’m sure that he knows that we’re looking for him.”
He is described as a black male, 5-foot-11-inches tall, 230 pounds, black hair and brown eyes, Grey said. Martin has what Grey called “a lengthy criminal record,” including charges of carrying a firearm without permit.
“He’s known to have some violent tendencies,” he said. “When I checked our system this morning, we had had some calls up there. There was only a couple of calls that were arguments. The other calls were for squad runs there because an older lady had lived there with them for a while, things like that.”
May said the two had been together for a couple of years and said this is the first homicide to ever occur in Rockford limits.
“I believe (Shinn) graduated from Parkway High School,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve known her to be in the area for at least 20 years. I knew her and I knew her son. I actually coached him in football. It’s very hard. We just don’t expect this is in our area.”
Rockford Mayor Amy Joseph said the village people are still shaken by the homicide and still in shock.
“Like the chief said, this is something that has never happened in our village,” she said Friday. “I’ve been assured by the sheriff’s department and Chief May that it wasn’t a random thing and it was between two people, and that the village should feel safe and the people don’t have anything to worry about.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, and Rockford Police Department are also assisting in the investigation. Grey said his office isn’t releasing where the shooting took place in the house, how many times Shinn was shot or the location of her wounds.
Shinn’s death marked the first homicide in Mercer County for 2012, but the third in the last 12 months, Grey said. Her autopsy was scheduled for Friday afternoon in Lucas County to confirm the official cause of death.
Anyone with knowledge of Martin's whereabouts or details about the crime is encouraged to contact the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office at 419-586-7724.
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