MANSFIELD — Richland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop said he felt mixed emotions following the sentencing of John Mack Jr. on Thursday.
After a 14-day trial in the Richland County Common Pleas Court, a jury found Mack guilty of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Melinda Davis of Shelby.
Mack was convicted and charged on 17 counts, including two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping, multiple counts of tampering, abduction, theft of a motor vehicle, gross abuse of a corpse, domestic violence and obstructing official business.
Judge Brent Robinson sentenced Mack to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 20 1/2 years.
"We're dismayed by the circumstances of this case, but happy with the outcome we've achieved," Bishop said. "Our hearts continue to go out to Melinda Davis' family.
"They still have a long road ahead of them and hopefully that healing process can now begin in earnest."
Davis was last seen alive the morning of February 25, 2021. After dropping her son off at school, Davis texted a friend at approximately 8:54 a.m. and said she was going to Mack's residence to pick up some personal belongings.
Davis also conveyed a foreboding warning: "If you don't hear from me, something might be wrong," Assistant Prosecutor Jodie Schumacher said, paraphrasing the message for reporters.
After Davis didn't show up to meet another family member for lunch, her family reported her missing to the Shelby Police Department. Law enforcement officers performed a wellness check at Mack's residence on 592 Cliffside Drive at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Mack's niece, who was living with him at the time, gave officers access to the home.
"She recognized things were out of order," Schumacher said. "John had asked her to be out of the home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day."
Schumacher said Mack did not respond to phone calls from family following the incident, but he did rent a vehicle in Columbus and drove several hundred miles throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee before returning to Mansfield and turning himself in on March 4.
Mack reportedly boasted to law enforcement officers that Davis' body would never be found.
On March 14, the Columbus Police Department found Davis' car parked at an apartment complex in Galloway. Davis' bruised and naked body was found in the trunk of the vehicle.
The investigation into Davis' disappearance and murder involved local law enforcement agencies from across Richland County, as well as the U.S. Marshal's Service, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation and Columbus Police Department.
Sheldon thanked all the agencies involved in the investigation and praised the work of Richland County Prosecutor's office.
"This was a coordinated effort between 17 different law enforcement agencies that entailed over 7,000 hours of investigation," Sheldon said.
Bishop called it one of the most complex litigation cases in the history of Richland County.
"We had over 300 exhibits in this trial," he said. "We had over 60 witnesses. We literally joined the defense in May and asked (Judge Brent Robinson) for a continuance because we needed more time to prepare. It was just that voluminous and complex that both sides had to agree that we needed more time."
Bishop's team faced an added hurdle in the eleventh hour: He was diagnosed with cancer about a month before the trial was set to begin.
"My prognosis is good. I'm not trying to make this about me," Bishop said.
"On very short notice, I had to inform my staff that after working on this case for approximately 18 months, I was not going to be there to try the case and would have to delegate it to them," he said.
Assistant prosecuting attorney Jodie Schumacher took the lead on the case, working with assistant prosecutors Matthew Metcalf and Andrew Wick.
Prosecutors and law enforcement alike expressed their condolences for the family during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
"I think the first thing we need to do is pay our condolences to the victim's family," Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon said. "Law enforcement, the prosecutor's office — everybody goes through a lot of emotional upheaval in an incident like this, and it's much worse for the family."
Davis had four children, none of whom she shared with Mack.
"It's a very strong family, even though they've been torn apart and fractured. I trust that they will heal," Schumacher said. "She's certainly loved and that family has a lot of love amongst each other."
When asked about motive, Schumacher said Mack has continued to deny any wrongdoing.
"Obviously the jury saw through his explanation of events," she said. "Our understanding is that there was some health issues at stake and potentially some financial issues that may have led to John's decisions."
Prosecutors said Mack showed no remorse throughout the course of the trial.
Mack requested appellate council be appointed to his case at his sentencing Thursday. Schumacher said prosecutors don't know if Mack will follow through with the appeals process.
"They would have 30 days to file a notice of appeal. They can, of course, request extensions for that," she said. "We do not know one, if he in fact will appeal or two, what those those appeals issues might be."