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Woman Spends 23 Years In Prison For Teen’s Murder Until Victim’s Sister Stepped Forward

Tyra Patterson was just 19 years old when life as she knew it changed forever. She was convicted in the robbery and murder of a 15-year-old girl named Michelle Lai in Dayton, Ohio — a crime she’s insisted she didn’t commit. She was given a life sentence. Starting in December 1995, she spent the next 23 years in prison, all the while asserting her innocence.

Patterson was there on the night Lai was murdered. She’d been with the group of girls who’d gotten into an argument with Lai, but she hadn’t been the one to fire the shot that killed her when the fight escalated into violence. Still, she was charged as an accomplice to murder, and as such under Ohio law, could be given the same sentence as the actual murderer.

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Despite going to prison, Patterson received a lot of support from unlikely sources including celebrities and politicians who called for her release. Even Holly Lai Holbrook, the victim’s sister, wrote a letter to the governor in 2016, explaining she wasn’t involved in the robbery or shooting.

“For a long time I didn’t want to publicly support Tyra’s release because I was fearful and anxious about how my family would respond,” Holbrook wrote. “But I’ve decided that [what’s] more important is that I tell the truth about how I feel.”

YouTube / | 9 On Your Side

It wasn’t until Christmas Day in 2017 that Patterson was finally released on parole. “To meet my attorney on the other side of the fence who worked so hard for my freedom was a gift that only I know,” she told WCPO. Even better is that she wouldn’t have to worry about finding a job — she already had one waiting at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, the firm that had fought for her release!

YouTube / | 9 On Your Side

Now Patterson will be working as a paralegal, helping other parolees navigate through life after their release. Learn more about her story and her plans to make a difference in the video below.

At 42 years old, Patterson has a very bright future ahead of her. We wish this strong woman all the best as she dives into her second chance at life.

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