By Ed Runyan
Chris Becker, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, made it clear he doesn’t want to see Nichole Allen painted as a victim in the death of her husband, Terry Allen, on July 12.
Police say Nichole Allen, 35, of Mineral Ridge, was among five people who set out to burglarize homes in Niles that night, but the resident of one of the homes saw and heard the burglary in progress and fired a shotgun blast through the front door in self defense, killing Terry Allen, 37.
The resident called 911 to report firing the shot, saying he was unsure whether he hit anyone.
Prosecutors decided to charge Nichole Allen and the three other purported accomplices with Terry Allen’s murder, as well as attempted aggravated burglary and involuntary manslaughter. The resident was cleared of wrongdoing.
As prosecutors have explained, Ohio law allows accomplices to be charged with the murder or involuntary manslaughter of a co-defendant even if they didn’t pull the trigger, as long as the death is the “proximate result” of the other crime they were committing.
It is the first time a murder charge of this type has been indicted in Trumbull County, officials say.
At her arraignment Friday in common pleas court, Nichole Allen’s attorney, Matt Pentz of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, asked Judge W. Wyatt McKay for a bond low enough so she could remain free to care for her four children.
“The defendant didn’t give a damn about her four kids when she and her husband” committed the burglary that night, Becker said, adding that Nichole Allen was the “driving force” behind the crime.
Allen was the driver of the van that carried the five to the crime scene, and “because of that, her husband is deceased,” Becker said.
Police said the Allens left their four children home alone while they attempted to commit the 12:30 a.m. burglary.
Judge McKay set bond at $500,000 for Nichole Allen, as he did for Scott Crislip, 18, of Niles, another alleged accomplice arraigned Friday.
Crislip and Nichole Allen turned themselves in to police Thursday evening and Friday morning, respectively, officials said.
The two others charged with the crimes — Michael S. Burns, 33, Mineral Ridge, and Mindy C. Sierra, 32, Niles — were arraigned on the charges Thursday and also are being held on $500,000 bond.
Crislip’s father, Eric, of Sharpsville, Pa., and sister, Ashley, of Niles, said after the hearing they think the murder charge is unfair.
“My brother is not a vicious person,” Ashley said. “He’s a good kid. My dad hasn’t been around a lot, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but he wouldn’t do something like that.
“There’s no way he could kill somebody. How I feel is he was with the wrong people at the wrong time,” she said.
Eric Crislip said he looked up the law on the Internet and understands that it’s possible to hold co-conspirators responsible for what happens during commission of an aggravated burglary.
But his son is young, weighs only 110 pounds and only went along to help with a copper theft on what the group hoped was a vacant house, he said.
“I think it’s absurd,” Ashley Crislip, 24, said of the murder charge.