Even after 32 years, the trauma of finding her mother, sister, niece and two young sons slaughtered and three more children left for dead never leaves Tia Talbott.
“I just keep wishing it wasn’t real — that it was a dream or bad nightmare and I would wake up and this is all not real,” she said.
Talbott is having to relive it again. The Ohio Innocence Project, a legal clinic based at the University of Cincinnati law school, is footing the bill for new DNA testing it hopes will determine whether Samuel Moreland was guilty in one of the most gruesome mass murders in Dayton history.
On the night of Nov. 1, 1985, Talbott returned from the grocery store to a macabre scene in the family home at 35 South Ardmore Ave.
Slain were Tia’s mother, Glenna Green, 46; her sister, Lana Green, 23; and her sons Datrin Talbott, 7, and Datwan Talbott, 6; and her niece Voilana Green, 6. Three other children were beaten and/or shot and left for dead: Tia’s daughter Glenna, 2, son Dayron, 11, and niece Tia Green, 5. Her son, Danyuel Talbott, 4, was physically unharmed.
Missing from the house was her mother’s boyfriend, Samuel Moreland, who Tia described as a heavy drinker who sponged off her mother and scared her children.
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Eventually, Moreland was arrested, convicted by a three-judge panel and sentenced to death. Dayron Talbott, who was shot in the hand and face and beaten unconscious, provided key eyewitness testimony during the trial.
“There is no doubt in our minds: he murdered my mother, he killed my family, he killed my mother, Glenna Green; he killed my sister, Lana Frances Green; he killed her daughter, Voilana Green, 7-years-old. My son Datrin, 7-years-old, and Datwan, only 6-years old,” the now 58-year-old Talbott says in a steady, firm voice. “He beat my sons to death. I guess maybe he ran out of bullets. He beat my sons to death.”
On Ohio Death Row for the past three decades, Moreland, who will turn 64 later this month, has never admitted guilt and the courts in recent years granted him two rounds of post-conviction DNA testing. Talbottsaid she learned of the DNA testing from this newspaper.
“I was under the impression that Moreland had exhausted all his appeals, so this was very surprising to me,” she said inside her tidy one-story Dayton home, with Dayron at her side. “I think it’s a desperate attempt to not be executed.”
The Ohio Innocence Project, founded in 2003, represents Ohio convicts seeking post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence. It joined Moreland's defense in 2012 to help apply for post-conviction DNA testing under Ohio's newly revised laws. The first round of tests, conducted in 2013 on a bloodstained $20 bill found in Moreland's pocket that night, revealed DNA profiles from three people, including a 1 in 6,200 chance that one of those profiles was from murder victim Lana Green.
On July 10, 2014, Moreland’s legal team won the right to have shell casings, sweatpants and other crime scene items re-tested for DNA. But the items sat in the property room for another three years and five months. It wasn’t until Dec. 4 that Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Erik Blaine issued an order to send the material to the DNA Diagnostics Center in Fairfield. The Innocence Project is footing the bill for the new round of testing.
Why did it take more than three years to get started on the second round of testing?
“I don’t honestly know,” said Greg Flanagan, spokesman for Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck.
Ohio Innocence Project Director Mark Godsey declined to comment. Moreland declined to be interviewed for this story.
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DNA testing was not done at the time of trial. Instead, it was circumstantial evidence and testimony from Dayron that put Moreland on Death Row.
Dayron told the court he awoke on a couch as Moreland was pointing a gun at his grandmother. Moreland shot Glenna Green and turned the gun on Dayron, hitting him in the jaw and hand and then beating him unconscious with the gun, according to his testimony.
Police arrested Moreland at 3:20 a.m. when he returned to the house after drinking with his friend, Samuel Thomas. He had a bloody $20 bill tucked in his pocket. Tests showed a higher than normal amount of residue on his hands but not enough to conclude that he had recently fired a gun.
A week after the crimes, a tree trimmer found the .22 caliber Marlin Glennfield rifle in the dirt on South Kumler Avenue, cleaned it and gave it to his stepfather, who didn’t turn it over to investigators for a few months. Crime lab tests showed the bullets in the victims came from that weapon and the butt plate and screw matched the impression left on the forehead of Datwan Talbott.
Moreland’s account of that night included the claim that he was too drunk to remember anything after 10 p.m. His blood alcohol content registered 0.225 percent — well above the 0.08 BAC level for drunken driving.
In another account , he said he drank four bottles of wine that day, including one with Glenna Green, returned to the darkened house around 10:30 p.m. and encountered three men. He struggled over a rifle held by one of the men, was hit on the head and tied up but managed to escape through a window, struggle with a second armed man and fell to the ground. Once he escaped, he drank more wine with friends and returned home, where police arrested him.
At trial, Moreland’s attorneys tried to sow doubt by suggesting that Dayron Talbott told a Dayton firefighter and paramedic that Dayron said a name that sounded like ‘Higgins’ or ‘Hagans’ but the boy later told police investigators Moreland was the man with the gun.
Eugene Hagans was the father of two of the young victims and the ex-boyfriend of Tia Talbott. Hagans, who was stabbed to death in 1996, had a violent history with Tia Talbott.
‘This is a monster’
From his prison cell, Moreland has mounted appeal after appeal. He claimed he never consented to waiving his right to a jury trial, that his defense attorneys brought him to court under the influence of a powerful sedative and that Dayron’s testimony conflicted with his initial statements. Moreland lost at the Second District Court of Appeals, Ohio Supreme Court, federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court.
Flanagan, Heck’s spokesman, doesn’t believe the material sent for a second round of testing will alter the outcome for Moreland.
“The evidence they now want tested has been contaminated — over the last 32 years, these items have been handled by dozens of people, including the defendant’s attorneys, and court staff, which is not unusual — and will not be determinative of guilt or innocence,” Flanagan said in an email. “So, we have opposed this further testing.”
Tia and Dayron Talbott said they are certain that the DNA tests will confirm what they have long known. “That Samuel Moreland murdered my family. That’s the only possible conclusion that I can come up with. He murdered my family. He murdered my mother, my sister, my niece and two sons,” she said. “I don’t understand if all his appeals were exhausted, why are they doing this? This is a mass murderer. This is a monster that murdered innocent women and children.”
All five murder victims are buried at West Memory Gardens in Jefferson Twp.
Talbott’s message to the criminal justice system: “I would ask them to please execute Samuel Moreland. This was the verdict of the judges. He has exhausted all his appeals. He has shown no remorse for what he has done, whatsoever. I would ask them to please do justice. Let justice be done for my family. They did not deserve to be murdered. They did not deserve to die the way they did…I just think everybody should be outraged. I think everyone should say ‘Don’t let Samuel Moreland get away with murder.’”
Living with grief
For the Talbott and Green families, the grief has never disappeared.
“I’m not the same person I was,” said Tia from the home where photos of her mother overlook the dining room. “You learn not to trust and you learn who you can trust and who you can’t trust. You live in pain and heart attack and sorrow and you try to hold each other up. My son, a lot of times, I’m crying on his shoulder.”
She no longer lives in the house on Ardmore Avenue but is reminded of what happened there on birthdays, holidays and whenever another mass murder occurs. Sometimes mundane happenings bring it back too.
“I love them and I miss them and they were a part of my life,” she said. “They’re gone. And it’s still like yesterday. November of ‘85, it’s like it’s still here. It just didn’t go away.”
Dayron Talbott, now 43, said he is haunted by the brutal crimes and thinks about suicide.
“I don’t need triggers. Everything around me is a trigger. I see it every night,” he said. “Even now, I really, I have to be creative with ways to keep from taking my own life. Every day, I have to stay busy and find things to keep from taking myself out. It has affected me that much.”
He carries survivors’ guilt. “I’d rather them be here than me. Plain and simple,” he said.
After the murders, Tia moved to California with her two younger surviving children and Dayron decided to live with his great-grandmother. His mother returned to Dayton after a few years.
Whether he was scarred by the trauma or something else, Dayron turned to drugs, alcohol and crime — theft, carrying a concealed weapon, passing bad checks, trafficking in counterfeit drugs. According to court records, in prison he joined a gang and acquired the nickname “Psycho.” In 1998, he pleaded guilty to felonious assault in the beating death of 16-year-old Anthony Dyer.
No longer incarcerated, Dayron is married and living in Louisville, where he operates a business that sells custom t-shirts and dental jewelry. He is a step-father to three boys.
He shakes his head, thinking of how long Moreland has survived on Death Row. Moreland entered Ohio Death Row in May 1986, marking him as one of the longest-serving inmates awaiting execution. The average time spent on Death Row is 16 years.
An execution date has not been set.
“It’s not going to bring my family back but it would give us some closure to move on from that point,” he said. “But at the same time, justice needs to be served.”
‘Standing out here for you’
Tia said she doesn’t relish the idea of witnessing Moreland’s execution.
But, she said, “I want to stand up for my family. I don’t know if I’m standing outside the prison or if I’m standing somewhere near the facility. I want to just be where I can say ‘Mama, I’m out here and I’m standing out here for you.’”
Miami Valley area prisoners on Death Row include:
Richard Bays, 52, Greene County, admitted June 1995 for aggravated murder and robbery of a 76-year-old wheelchair-bound Xenia man.
Davel Chinn, 60, Montgomery County, admitted September 1989, for aggravated murder, robbery and kidnapping of Brian Jones from a downtown Dayton parking lot. Chinn’s co-defendant was later murdered in the 1992 Christmas killings, for which Marvallous Matthew Keene was executed.
Timothy Coleman, 48, Clark County, admitted in April 1996 for drug dealing and aggravated murder of Melinda Stevens, who was scheduled to testify against him in a drug case.
Von Davis, 71, Butler County, admitted May 1984 for aggravated murder of his girlfriend, Suzette Butler, outside an American Legionn hall in Hamilton.
Jason Dean, 43, Clark County, admitted September 2005 on robbery and attempted escape charges and convicted of aggravated murder and other charges in June 2006. He was convicted in the 2005 murder of youth counselor, Titus Arnold.
Antonio Franklin, 39, Montgomery County, admitted September 1998 on arson, robbery and murder charges. He killed his uncle and grandparents and torched their home and then fled to Nashville, Tenn.
Terry Froman, 44, Warren County, admitted June 2017 on aggravated murder and kidnapping charges. He shot his ex-girlfriend, Kim Thomas, 34, in the back of his SUV on Interstate-75 near Middletown in September 2014.
Larry Gapen, 69, Montgomery County, admitted July 2001 on escape, robbery, abduction and aggravated murder charges. He admitted to police that he used a wood-splitting maul to smash in the faces of his ex-wife, Martha Madewell; her ex-husband Nathan Marshall; and her daughter Jesica Young.
Donald Ketterer, 68, Butler County, admitted February 2004 on aggravated murder and robbery charges. He stabbed to death Lawrence Sanders, 83, and struck him in the head with a cast-iron skillet.
Juan Kinley, 49, Clark County, admitted May 1991 for robbery and aggravated murder. He used a machete to murder his girlfriend, Thelma Miller, and her 12-year-old son, David.
Jose Loza, 45, Butler County, admitted November 1991 on four counts of aggravated murder for killing members of his girlfriend’s Middeltown family.
Calvin McKelton, 40, Butler County, admitted in November 1990 on assault, domestic violence, murder, arson, abuse of a corpse and aggravated murder charges. He was sentenced to die for the execution-style shooting of Germaine Evans Sr., a witness who saw him strangle to death his girlfriend, Margaret Allen.
Samuel Moreland, 63, Montgomery County, admitted May 1986 on five counts of murder and three counts of attempted aggravated murder. He shot or beat to death two women and five children in their Dayton home.
Austin Myers, 23, Warren County, admitted October 2017 on aggravated murder, kidnapping, robbery, theft, safecracking, abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering charges. He and accomplice Timothy Mosley were convicted of stabbing to death of Tim Back, 18, at his Waynesville home.
David Myers, 52, Greene County, admitted March 1996 on robbery and aggravated murder charges. He drove a railroad spike into the head of Amanda Jo Maher, 18, of Xenia.
Gregory Osie, 56, Butler County, admitted May 2010 on murder, burglary and robbery charges. He stabbed to death David Williams, a disabled man.
Kerry Perez, 52, Clark County, admitted December 2005, on an aggravated murder charge. He shot and killed Ronald Johnson during a 2003 bar robbery in Springfield.
William Sapp, 55, Clark County, admitted October 1996 on rape, kidnapping, murder and other charges. He was convicted in the beating deaths and rapes of Phree Morrow, 12, and Martha Leach, 11, in 1992 near downtown Springfield.
Duane Short, 50, Montgomery County, admitted June 2006 on burglary and aggravated murder charges. He used a shotgun to kill his estranged wife, Rhonda Short, and Donnie Ray Sweeney.
Kenneth W. Smith, 52, Butler County, admitted February 1996 on aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated murder. He slashed the neck and beat Lewis Ray and strangled Ruth Ray in their Hamilton home.
Clifford Williams, 45, Butler County, admitted February 1991 on breaking and entering, robbery, assault and aggravated murder charges. He shot to death Wayman Hamilton, 39, and stole his money.