Woman whose body was found at garage fire had 'long, sad history'

DAYTON — Police are closed-mouthed about the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheila Tucker, whose body was discovered Wednesday in the burned out rubble of a garage at 43 N. McGee St.

Police and court records portray a troubled 43-year-old Dayton mother who could neither read nor write, was the victim of domestic violence, addicted to drugs and alcohol and had numerous prostitution arrests and convictions.

“No matter what their history, no one deserves to die like this,” said Sgt. Dan Mauch, head of the homicide unit.

Tucker’s death is being investigated as a homicide, according to Dayton police. It was unclear Thursday morning how Tucker actually died.

“We have no suspects at this point,” Mauch said. He said results of the autopsy led police to classify the death as a homicide. He declined to elaborate, but did say the fire played a role in Tucker’s death.

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There has been no specific ruling on the cause of the blaze, according to Jeffrey Payne, assistant fire chief.

“The drugs just ate her up,” said Robert Tucker, Sheila’s ex-husband. “It was the reason we divorced.”

Sheila Tucker was the mother of two grown children.

“Her daughter called me yesterday and said, 'I need my mommy,’ ” Bonnie Lewis, Sheila’s stepmother, said Thursday. “I told her it was too late for that.”

Sheila Tucker was homeless at the time of her death, according to police. Over the past 20 years, Sheila Tucker was nearly a constant for Dayton police and courts. Her misdemeanor crimes were linked to her need for money for drugs and alcohol, according to those who knew her.

According to Dayton Municipal Court records, Sheila Tucker had 10 convictions for solicitation or loitering for prostitution. Interspersed were arrests and convictions for public intoxication, theft, disorderly conduct, among others.

She started out with suspended sentences before graduating to jail time and supervised probation. She was order into alcohol and drug treatment, as well as mental health counseling as part of her probation. Each time, she dropped out of the programs and was back on the street, soon to be arrested to serve the remainder of her jail time.

As a consequence, Sheila Tucker was on the radar of Children Service. Police reports indicate several instances of child endangerment. Family members said Sheila Tucker occasionally took her daughter with her when she bought drugs.

Ann Stevens of Montgomery County Job & Family Services, which oversees Children’s Services, said the agency had regular contact with Sheila Tucker and her family from 2002 through 2007.

“There was a lot of history there. And it was a long, sad history,” Stevens said.

“When she was off of drugs, she was the nicest person you would want to know,” her stepmother said. “We tried and tried to get her off of drugs. We would get her into rehab but she wouldn’t stay.”

Sheila Tucker also was a victim of men. In 2003, she was badly beaten by a man she was living with. At the time, she told police she could neither read nor write. She had been previously been beaten by another boyfriend in 2001.

“She’d had a hard life,” Sgt. Mauch said.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday, a neighbor reported an explosion followed by flames at the McGee Street garage.

The misery for her family continues.

Bonnie Lewis recalled her husband died just before Christmas last year. Now she said she must bury her daughter. “There’s been a lot of misery.”

When asked Thursday what he would like people to know about his former wife, Robert Tucker said, “She had a good heart.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2290 or dpage@coxohio.com.

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