Dayton woman convicted of murder fights to overturn what she calls a wrongful conviction

Tyra Patterson convicted of murder fights to overturn what she calls a wrongful conviction (Courtesy: DRC)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - A Dayton woman is days away from finding out if she'll be set free after spending 23 years in prison for aggravated murder.

Tyra Patterson has been fighting to overturn what she and others call a wrongful conviction, and has been granted a final release hearing at the end of October.

The case dates back to September 1994.

The victim was 15-year-old Michele Lai, who was shot and killed when a group of suspects tried to rob the car she was in with her sister and friends.

Patterson was 19 at the time, and was outside her apartment around the corner from the shooting and called 911.

"Hello, this is Smithville and there's something going around, around here," Patterson told 911 dispatcher's the night of the crime. "I don't know what it is but I heard a gunshot."

Attorney David Singleton said Tyra got caught up in the case by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that her wrongful conviction is from a false confession.

FOX 45 obtained police tape from 1994 of Tyra's interrogation with Dayton investigators, and the confession that would eventually put her behind bars.

"Describe the necklace," the investigator asked Tyra.

"I don't want to," Tyra replied, shaking her head. "I don't know why I grabbed it."

"The reason why the victims testified against Tyra at trial is because by that time, they had heard that Tyra admitted grabbing a necklace from someone at the scene and that got them thinking, well if she did that then she was obviously involved," Singleton told FOX 45. "A false confession ended up ensnaring Tyra into something that has cost her 23 years of life."

It would be 22 years before the bombshell break that could help free Tyra came from an unlikely source: the murder victim's sister.

"One of the victims, Holly Lai, who was the government's star witness has come forward to say to the governor that Tyra is innocent," Singleton said.

Wednesday, prosecutors around Ohio, former jurors and social activists joined the fight for Tyra's release.

She is currently serving out a life sentence for the charge, but if release is granted Tyra Patterson, would come home to Dayton for the first time in 23 years.

"She's not bitter," Singleton said. "She prays for the victims she prays for Holly every day. She is very understanding that sometimes these things happen."

Tyra's hearing is October 24.

Holly Lai has also been petitioning Governor John Kasich to grant Tyra clemency.

Singleton told FOX 45 the Montgomery County prosecutor who originally put Tyra behind bars is expected to testify against her at the release hearing.

Singleton also said when Tyra was convicted more than two decades ago, she was a sixth grade dropout.

Behind bars, she has since earned her GED, her boilers engineers license and is a certified tutor and paralegal.

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