Pike County killings bring back memories of infamous Moreland case

Three decades later, the mental images are still crystal clear. The power was out, so a flashlight led Dayton police detective Dan Baker through both floors of the Ardmore Avenue home where eight women and children were found beaten and shot. Five died.

Tattered furniture was upended. Water had leaked into the home and formed puddles.

“We looked down and it looked like we were walking in a pool of blood,” Baker said.

One child had an imprint on his forehead from the butt of a rifle.

“It was simply a shocking scene.”

Baker, now retired, said the memories of that 1985 slaying flooded back with news reports from Pike County, where a family of eight was found gunned down in their homes last month. Such carnage leaves a permanent scar on responding officers, surviving family members and the community.

“It touches people far beyond the actual crime scene,” Baker said.

At about 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, 1985, Tia Talbott returned from the grocery store to the crowded Ardmore Avenue home that her family rented for $250 a month.

She found what first-responders would call a “slaughterhouse.” Her mother and sister were fatally shot in the head. Two of her children, ages 6 and 7, were beaten to death. Her 6-year-old niece was shot in the head. And two more of Tia’s children, ages 2 and 11, were severely beaten and lay wounded along with her 5-year-old niece.

“I can still see it,” Talbott said in a 1990 interview with the Dayton Daily News. “Those are things that will just never go away.”

Baker said the grandmother’s violently tempered, hard-drinking boyfriend was an immediate suspect. It would later come out in court that he was enraged because she wouldn’t give him money to buy alcohol.

As paramedics rushed the wounded to the hospital and carried off the dead, dozens of detectives set up mobile lighting and began collecting evidence. The science of DNA and forensics wasn’t what it is today, Baker said, but like now the police noted shoe prints, fingerprints and other evidence. Officers began fanning out looking for Moreland.

Two hours later, Moreland showed up at the scene. He was drunk and accompanied by a drinking buddy.

“When Moreland returned to the scene, he never once asked what happened or voiced any curiosity or concern about the occupants and dozens of police,” Baker said.

Moreland denied involvement. But Talbott’s 11-year-old son, Dayron, who was shot and had three fractures in his face and jaw, said he had fallen asleep on the couch and was awakened by Moreland and his grandmother fighting.

“She had a bottle in her hand (and) at the same time he had shot her, she threw the bottle at him,” he testified in court.

Dayron said he charged at Moreland, who shot him in the hand and hit him in the face with the rifle, knocking him out.

A paraffin test showed Moreland had recently fired a gun. And there were rifle parts in the house. But there was no gun at the scene.

Residents who saw media reports of the case reported weeks after the murder that a tree trimmer had found a .22 caliber rifle in some nearby bushes. Police confiscated the weapon. The ballistics — and marks from the rifle butt left on victims — matched.

“All of that came about because of the publicity of the case,” Baker said.

Moreland maintains his innocence while on death row. Baker is sure Moreland is guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in Dayton’s history.

That night in 1985, Baker recalls, “Quite a few of us detectives, including myself, got rid of our shoes after we left there.”

But the memories stayed with him.

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