For the past seven weeks, since Tiffany Hoskins was found dead in a burned Middletown home, Tina Payne wondered how her sister spent the last few minutes of her life.
Payne, 42, wept in the back of the Middletown Municipal Court as the statement of facts was read: Her sister was raped on Jacoby Avenue, forced next door, shot in the back of the head, doused with bleach and gasoline, and lit on fire in hopes of covering the crimes.
“I have these feelings, ‘Did she suffer? Did she beg for her life? Did she cry out for my mom? What did they do to her?’” Payne said. “There is nothing she could have done bad enough to deserve what they did to her.”
While the accused may spend years — if not their lives — in prison, Payne said at least they’re alive.
“We have nothing,” she said while standing outside the City Building. “Absolutely nothing. They didn’t just take my sister. They took a piece of all of us.”
Middletown police said three Middletown men are responsible for committing two murders in the city last month, though they haven’t disclosed how the crimes are connected.
Doug Best, 28, of 402 Richmond St.; Derrick Brown, 22, of 815 Crawford St.; and Charles Ray Graham, 27, of 2002 Pearl St., are each charged with two counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated arson and one count of kidnapping.
They appeared Friday morning for their arraignments, and Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall set no bond and the men were taken back to the City Jail.
Their preliminary hearings are set for Thursday in Middletown court, and relatives of Hoskins and Romano said they will attend every court hearing. Even though the City Building was closed Friday for the holiday, several family members were in the courtroom.
Another of Hoskins’ relatives, Heather Belcher, wonders if she was killed because she knew how Romano was killed. She said Hoskins had no connection to the three men who are charged in her death.
Belcher said her opinion of the death penalty has changed.
“I want them to die,” she said. “They don’t deserve to live. They don’t deserve to breathe. They don’t deserve to make a life in prison.”
On Nov. 4, police responded to 1517 Lafayette Ave. and found Romano fatally shot inside the kitchen of the home. He was found about 8 a.m. by two people described by police as housemates. His death was ruled a homicide by the Butler County Coroner’s Office, who said Romano died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Less than 24 hours later, the body of Hoskins was found inside a home at 1507 Jacoby Ave. that caught fire. Firefighters found flames shooting from the second floor of the home when they arrived at about 4:20 a.m. Nov. 5. After being told the home was vacant and fighting the blaze for about 1o minutes, firefighters found Hoskins’ body at the top of the home’s stairway.
Hoskins had a gunshot wound to the head, Middletown police said.
After an investigation, police served four search warrants Thursday at several residences in the city. Search warrants also were served on two Mercedes Benz vehicles in Butler County as part of an ongoing investigation, according to police.