Tyra Patterson, a Dayton woman who has garnered international support for her claims of innocence, will walk out of state prison as a free woman on Christmas Day, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The Ohio Parole Board voted in October to grant release for Patterson, now 42. She is currently being held at the Northeast Pre-Release Center in Cleveland.
Patterson entered state prison in December 1995 as a 20-year-old after being convicted of the murder and robbery of 15-year-old Michelle Lai on Sept. 20, 1994.
That night, Lai and her sister, Holly, and three other young women were out “roguing” or stealing when they encountered a group of robbers, according to court records. One of the girls, Candy Brogan, had a necklace ripped from her neck by one of the robbers.
Patterson did not fire the shot that killed Lai but under Ohio law accomplices to murder can get the same punishment as killers. Patterson has maintained that Dayton police coerced her into confessing on camera to a robbery she didn’t commit, which opened her up to the aggravated murder conviction.
Patterson, who dropped out of school in the sixth grade, has a job awaiting her at the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice Policy Center and has multiple offers for housing.
She was denied parole in March 2011 but by July 2017, the parole board indicated its willingness to release her, noting her motivation and considerable community support.
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