Family asks for help in unsolved homicide

Vancouver woman, 66, last seen alive May 8 at apartment building

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



Vancouver police detective Lawrence Zapata said he believes that Sharon Allison, the 66-year-old victim of homicide, was last seen wearing these clothes.

Sharon Allison was last seen alive on the morning of May 8 talking to an unidentified man in the hallway of her Columbia House apartment building. The next day, police found her body in a large blue recycling bin inside her apartment, dead from what police have called homicidal violence.

Nearly a month after Allison’s death, homicide detectives are still searching for her killer. Now the family of the 66-year-old Vancouver woman is pleading for anyone with information to come forward.

“I am madder than you could imagine,” said Linda Haley, Allison’s daughter. “I’m very, very mad that someone would take advantage and hurt a disabled person who could not defend herself, that they would hurt a good woman.”

In 1984, Allison was the victim of an assault that left her with head trauma. Years later, Allison suffered an aneurysm and stroke that surgeons said was a delayed effect from the injury, said Allison’s sister, Betty Minor. A man named James Mitchell Cunningham was arrested for aggravated assault in that case.

“She did not know a stranger; she was just kind,” Minor said. “Some of it got her in trouble, being too kind, and she let the wrong people possibly into her life.”

After suffering the aneurism, Allison underwent surgery and nearly died several times, but was brought back to life.

“By the grace of God, she came out of it,” Minor said. “We got a different Sharon, but we got Sharon.”

The outgoing, horse-loving, outdoorsy Allison was gone. She was disabled on the left half of her body. Walking was difficult and she had severely reduced mental capacity, her family said.

“It’s devastating. This is a hideous crime and it’s unfortunate because we’ve gone through this already, thinking we’d lost Sharon,” minor said. “No one should have to go through this once, let alone twice, feeling the loss of somebody.”

The lead detective on the case, Lawrence Zapata of the Vancouver Police Department, said that investigators are still developing leads but have not yet identified a suspect.

Part of the investigation has involved establishing a timeline.

Allison’s body was discovered when her caregiver became worried after not hearing from her. She stopped by Allison’s apartment Columbia House, 130 W. 24th St., at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 9. The caregiver and then the floor monitor knocked on her apartment door. After receiving no answer, they called 911.

Detectives have not said exactly how Allison died, but Zapata said that her body was intact. Zapata said it is too early to say whether Allison’s killer was a person she knew or a stranger. The only door to Allison’s apartment leads into the indoor hallway, and police have not said if there was any sign of forced entry. Nor has a motive been established.

“At this point, you don’t want to get tied down to one theory or idea,” Zapata said.

The last time Allison was seen alive was Friday morning, Zapata said, and he wants to talk to the person she was seen visiting with in the hallway of the Columbia House.

The man is described as a white man in his 40s, between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, average build with short light brown hair.

Anyone with information is asked to come forward by calling Zapata at 360-487-7420 or by emailing him at

Allison’s family is echoing the request, saying that any information could help them get closure.

“I just hope that this is put to rest soon so I can rest myself and so she can rest,” Haley said. “She was a grandmother, a mother, a sister, a daughter. She had family. For someone to come in out of their own selfishness and take her from us … he or she will have his day. Whoever did this, they’re going to pay.”