Tonisha Harris sentenced to 3 years in prison

Harris sentenced for role in Nichelle McKnight murder

UPDATE @ 6:35 p.m.:

A Dayton woman was sentenced to prison Thursday for her role in the disappearance and murder of a young mother and her 4-year-old son in 2014.

Judge Steven K. Dankof sentenced Tonisha Harris, 31, to three years in prison. She was charged with tampering with evidence, failure to report a crime and gross abuse of a corpse for her role the killing of Nichelle McKnight, 25, and her son Zaden.

The child’s body has not been found but he’s presumed dead.

“I am so sorry for the loss that the family has had, and if you don’t mind I want to turn around and I want to look the family in they face and I want to say I’m sorry, I’m sorry for the part that I played, the things that I did, but I didn’t have anything to do with her death,” Harris said to McKnight’s relatives during the sentencing. “There’s no evidence, no one that said Tonisha Harris did this. Yeah, I did things that I shouldn’t have done, I did things that was against the law, and if you take back everything that I did, every action that I played, I promise, it would not bring nobody back.”

Dayton police have said McKnight and Zaden likely were killed in the basement of Harris’ former home at 23 Birchwood Ave. in April 2014 by suspect Antwan Anderson, 26. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with police.

Anderson reportedly dated McKnight and Harris, who previously was sentenced to 10 months in prison for using McKnight’s credit cards.

McKnight’s body was found near the banks of the Stillwater River weeks after she and her son disappeared.

During their investigation into the disappearances, police found evidence that suggested Harris cleaned blood out of her basement and the trunk of her car. DNA linked the blood to both victims, officials said.

Investigators also uncovered a series of text messages between Anderson and Harris that implicated the couple in the crime. The messages were included in court documents.

In one message, Anderson texted to Harris, “don’t touch the stuff in your trunk and don’t put nothing in it. Put bags on your shoes when you go down to the basement.”

In another text message Anderson sent to Harris at 4:41 p.m. March 27, 2014, about 48 hours after McKnight and her son were last seen, Anderson wrote, “Did u look dat stuff up.” Minutes later, Harris used her Samsung Galaxy Android cell phone to access a website titled “Finding blood with UV light — Physics Forum.”

Later that day she accessed another website titled “Evident Crime Scene Products — Forensic Alternate Light Sources,” according to the court document.

“This is just a heartbreaking and tragic case, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck said. “Nichelle McKnight had a bright and promising future and cared deeply for her son, Zaden. Hopefully the body of Zaden will be located so that the family of the victims may have some closure.”

UPDATE @ 4:38 p.m.:

Tonisha Harris spoke to the family of Nichelle and Zaden McKnight during today’s sentencing.

“I’m so sorry for the loss that the family has had and if you don’t mind, I want to turn around and I want to look the family in the face…and say I’m sorry,” Harris said. “I did things that [were] against the law, and if you take back everything that I did, every action that I played, I promise it would not bring nobody back.”

UPDATE @ 4:00 p.m.:

A judge sentenced Tonisha Harris to three years in prison today for her role in the murder and disappearance of Nichelle McKnight and her 4-year-old son Zaden.

INITIAL REPORT:

Dayton resident Tonisha Harris is expected to be sentenced today for her role in the murder and disappearance of Nichelle McKnight and her 4-year-old son Zaden.

Harris, 31, is charged with tampering with evidence, failure to report a crime and gross abuse of a corpse. She was scheduled to go on trial Oct. 5, but she waived her rights and entered guilty pleas for the first two charges and pleaded no contest for the gross abuse of a corpse charge. However, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven Dankof found her guilty on that count.

Prosecutors said in October they are pushing for the maximum four years in prison for Harris.

Dayton police have said McKnight and Zaden likely were killed in the basement of Harris’ former residence at 23 Birchwood Ave. in April 2014 by suspect Antwan Anderson, 26. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with police.

Anderson reportedly dated McKnight and Harris, who previously was sentenced to 10 months in prison for using McKnight’s credit cards.

McKnight’s body was later found near the banks of the Stillwater River. Police presume Zaden is dead, but have not located his body.

We will be in the court room this afternoon when Harris is sentenced, and we’ll bring you the latest.

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