Parole hearing possible for woman convicted in Dayton Christmas killings

A woman who was a teenager when she partook in the Dayton Christmas killings will meet with the parole board later this month to determine whether she should have a full parole hearing.

Laura Taylor, one of four people convicted in the killings, will get the meeting because of a law change that allows most people convicted of crimes committed in their youth to get an opportunity at parole.

Taylor, who was 16 at the time of the killings, was originally sentenced to 145 years to life in prison, according to the Ohio Department of Correction website, and while she will meet with the parole board on Dec. 29, that doesn’t mean she will be set free.

“I think the possibility of her being freed is absolutely zero,” retired Dayton Police detective Doyle Burke said.

Burke investigated the case at the time of the 1992 killings. He said the investigation made a lasting impact on him, as it was a group of young people traveling around Dayton killing people “for fun.”

Taylor, Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews and Demarcus Smith were convicted in the slayings that shocked the community and devastated the victim’s families. The group of teens terrorized Dayton and were eventually tied to six killings that took place during Christmas time.

The victims were Joseph Wilkerson, 34; Sarah Abraham, 38; Wendy Cottrill, 16; Marvin Washington, 18; Richmond Maddox, 19; and Danita Gullette, 18.

Taylor shot Maddox in the head in his vehicle on Christmas, Burke said, and instigated the others to continue their rampage.

Danita Gullette’s sister, Rhonda Gullette, told the Dayton Daily News that she understands the law change and taking a second look at sentences in cases where a child committed a crime, but also said she wishes more factors were taken into account before getting the hearing.

“I gave a statement to the parole board about how I felt that she shouldn’t be eligible for parole because of the heinous crimes she committed and the ones she helped mastermind during the Christmas killing,” Rhonda Gullette said.

Rhonda Gullette said she loves and misses her sister, and when she reflects back on the killings, she not only grieves for Danita Gullette and the other victims, but also for the suspects who lost their futures because of the senseless killings.

Taylor is one of about 20 offenders who will meet with the parole board this year because of Senate Bill 256, which became effective in April.

The law abolished life without parole sentences for minors and gave most offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles a chance to get out of prison sooner. Aggravated homicide offenses and terrorism-related murder offenses are excluded, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Public Information Officer Greg Flannagan said the office participated in victim conferencing last month and plans to fight her release if Taylor is granted a full parole hearing.

Taylor isn’t the first local offender to meet the parole board early due to the law change. Clarence Nottingham, of Greene County, and David Michael, of Miami County, previously went before the board early for parole hearings. Both were denied.

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