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Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Sidney man previously served time for killing

By Margie Wuebker
A 32-year-old Sidney man is expected to enter guilty pleas to charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape in Shelby County Common Pleas Court on Thursday afternoon.
Chris Harris, who has confessed to committing offenses that culminated with the death of 84-year-old Victoria Eilerman of Fort Loramie, will waive presentation of his case to a grand jury and then plead during the 1:30 p.m. hearing.
The plea was part of a negotiated agreement, with the suspect agreeing to cooperate with authorities and reveal the location of the body. The state, which had considered seeking the death penalty because the murder was committed to cover up kidnapping and rape, subsequently dropped those plans in favor of life imprisonment without parole.
Harris is no stranger to court proceedings. In fact, a trial on an unrelated burglary charge was to commence Thursday, according to Shelby County Prosecutor Ralph Bauer.
Bauer, who assumed the role of prosecutor earlier this year, declined to comment on recent published reports of Harris killing another person almost 20 years ago.
In 1989, at the age of 14, Harris confessed to holding the head of 4-year-old Russell "Rusty" Romine under the water of Tilberry Run Creek in Sidney. The youngster, who reportedly angered the teen by calling him names, died the following day after life support equipment was disconnected.
Published reports indicated Harris at that time lived with his mother in the 10000 block of Lochard Road - the same general location where Eilerman was bludgeoned to death nearly a week ago.
Convicted of voluntary manslaughter as a delinquent minor, Harris was sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Services for a minimum of one year and a maximum of seven years until the age of 21.
Since juvenile court records are sealed, attempts to find out the actual length of his sentence proved unsuccessful.
"I have been a lawyer and associated with the prosecutor's office for 18 years," Bauer told The Daily Standard. "I am aware of his background, but I cannot comment about juvenile matters."
Harris served nearly six years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in connection with a 1996 robbery case. He knocked a woman down and snatched her purse in an alley in downtown Sidney.
The current burglary case involved forcibly entering the home of a neighbor woman by removing a window air conditioner. She saw him flee her home and enter his neighboring Maywood Place home.
In Fort Loramie on Tuesday, nearly a thousand people converged on Gehret Funeral Home to pay their respects to the Eilerman family. Owner Louis Gehret received in excess of 200 flower arrangements and memorial tributes on behalf of the woman's seven children, 26 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
Some people waited in line for 31/2 hours as temperatures dipped into the 40s with the approach of nightfall. Eilerman's grandchildren offered cookies and hot chocolate to the mourners waiting outside. The last visitors filed out the door at 11:30 p.m., three hours after the scheduled conclusion of calling hours.  
This morning, lines began forming long before the funeral home opened for calling at 9:30 a.m. A steady stream continued until the doors closed prior to removal of the body to nearby St. Michael Catholic Church for an 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial.
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