Updated: 11:23 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 | Posted: 11:22 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, 2011

Strickland shortens killer’s prison term


Strickland shortens killer’s prison term photo
Tyra Patterson is serving time in the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

By Tom Beyerlein

Staff Writer

On his last weekday in office, Gov. Ted Strickland on Friday shortened the sentence of Tyra Patterson, who was convicted of aggravated murder in the 1994 shooting of 15-year-old Michelle Lai.

“After examination of the totality of the materials available to me, I believe that the sentence imposed upon Tyra Patterson is excessive and/or highly disproportionate when compared to other similarly situated offenders,” Strickland wrote. “A commutation is warranted. Ms. Patterson’s sentence shall be commuted from 43 (years to) life to 16 (years to) life.”

The Ohio Parole Board had recommended that Strickland grant a less generous clemency to Patterson.

Of 766 clemency applications before him, Strickland granted 152 pardons and seven commutations, and denied 607 of the requests. The parole board had recommended denial in 629 cases.

Strickland denied clemency to Karl Vultee, who killed Dayton Police Officer William “Steve” Whalen in 1991.

Then-gov. Bob Taft denied clemency to Patterson in 2006, said Leon Daidone, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor. Last year, over the objections of Daidone and Lai’s mother, Wanda Lai, the parole board recommended that Patterson be given parole eligibility in 2018 — the same year as Lai shooter LaShawna Keeney — instead of Patterson’s previous first parole hearing date of 2025. Daidone said it appears Patterson now will be eligible for parole consideration after this year.

“I didn’t like what the parole board recommended, so I’m certainly not happy with what the governor did,” Daidone said. “We feel the judge’s original sentence should have been honored.”

Patterson, now 35 and incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville, was one of five people charged in the slaying of Lai and the robbery of her sister and three other girls in a car in an alley in the 300 block of Smithville Road. Prosecutors said the girls were looking for garages to burglarize. Coincidentally, Lai was one of several troubled youths featured in a Dayton Daily News series, “Kids in Chaos,” published the week she died.

Patterson and Joseph William Letts III were the only defendants who went to trial. Both were convicted, but Letts’ aggravated murder conviction was overturned on appeal. He was released from prison in 2007 after serving time for the robberies, said Montgomery County prosecutor’s spokesman Greg Flannagan.

The aggravated robbery sentences imposed on Letts and Patterson by Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman were longer than the ones she gave Keeney, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13-28 years for three counts of aggravated robbery and life for aggravated murder.

Angela Jo Thuman pleaded guilty to the same charges as Keeney and got 6-to-25 years for the robberies and life for the aggravated murder. A 14-year-old defendant, Kellie N. Johnson, was committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services until she was 21. Thuman and Keeney remain in prison.

Columbus bureau reporter La


a A. Bischoff contributed to this report.


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