Man receives life sentence for killing woman, setting North St. Paul apartment on fire

An apartment building in North St. Paul where a woman was found dead after a fire. (FOX 9)

A Ramsey County judge sentenced a man convicted of first-degree murder for killing a woman before setting her North St. Paul apartment on fire in 2022.

Melvin Bilbro Jr., 42, was found guilty by a judge in February on charges of first-degree murder while committing domestic abuse with a past pattern of domestic abuse, second-degree murder, and first-degree arson in the death of 43-year-old Shanna Renae Daniels. 

In court on Tuesday, a judge handed down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder charge and a 57-month prison term for first-degree arson, which is to be served consecutively. 

According to court records, police responded to a reported fire inside a third-floor unit of a North St. Paul apartment building at the corner of South Avenue East and 5th Street North on Aug. 25, 2022.

At the scene, police heard someone yelling for help, but officers were unable to enter the unit due to the smoke and fire.

Once firefighters extinguished the flames, they found Daniels' body. An autopsy determined she suffered multiple sharp force injuries and was dead before the fire started, court records say. 

Officers searched the apartment and found a bag with a pack of cigarettes, a pair of scissors, and a broken folding knife, all of which had bloodstains, court records said. 

According to the criminal complaint, witnesses identified Daniels' boyfriend as Bilbro, and claimed to see him go into the apartment before law enforcement arrived at the scene. 

Officers obtained a search warrant for Bilbro’s apartment, where authorities say they found multiple items with blood on them, Daniels' keys, and her dog, which was covered in soot and smelled like smoke, charges said.  

Bilbro will serve his prison term at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud, according to court records.