Emotions run high at sentencing in murder case

LIMA — Emotions ran high in Allen County Common Pleas Court Friday afternoon as a 33-year-old Lima man was sentenced to up to life behind bars for a 2021 murder.

Judge Jeffrey Reed followed the joint recommendation of prosecutors and the attorney for Paul Curtis Jr. when he sentenced Curtis to a prison term of 19 years-to-life in the 2021 shooting death of 53-year-old Sam McLaurin.

According to McLaurin’s sister, Martina, who spoke passionately during Friday’s sentencing, her only brother was shot 18 times for no reason by Curtis outside a residence on Lima’s South Baxter Street on Nov. 30, 2021.

“My brother was a kind and gentle person; he did not deserve what happened to him,” Martina McLaurin told the court.

Turning her attention to Curtis, she continued: “I feel like the act you did that night showed cowardice. You shot an unarmed man multiple times. I feel that Paul should never see another day of freedom. He gave up that right when he pulled the trigger and took away my brother.”

The woman, her emotions on edge, questioned the deal made by prosecutors and defense attorney James Owen on Curtis’ behalf, but Reed said state law calls for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years-to-life for murder.

Another three years was added to that total due to a firearm specification and two unrelated counts of assault after Curtis attacked corrections officers at the Allen County jail while awaiting trial for murder.

Curtis did not speak during his sentencing hearing but a family member offered condolences to the McLaurin family.

“On behalf of Paul Curtis’ family we are truly sorry,” the man said. “I won’t want you to think we don’t feel your pain. You are all in my prayers.”

Curtis accepted a deal from prosecutors and pleaded guilty on Feb. 13 to a charge of murder, an unclassified felony that included the firearm specification. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting two correction officers at the county jail. In exchange for those pleas, prosecutors agreed to dismiss an unrelated drug charge.

Curtis, who was discovered several blocks away from the murder scene and was taken into custody, was out of jail on bond at the time of the shooting following his indictment in December of 2020 on charges of possession of cocaine, possession of a fentanyl-related compound and two counts of having weapons under disability. Those charges were dismissed as part of the negotiated plea deal.

On the night of McLaurin’s death, law enforcement officials used the GPS ankle monitor tracking device worn by Curtis to trace his movements after McLaurin, 53, was shot. While following his route, a 9 mm handgun was found that appeared to be a match for spent cartridges found at the murder scene, police said.