Dayton native, released from prison last Christmas, honored in Cincinnati

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Tyra Patterson talks about being released from prison after more than two decades.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Tyra Patterson, who spent more than two decades behind bars for a crime she says she did not commit, was honored by Cincinnati City Council with a resolution on Wednesday.

Patterson, who grew up in east Dayton, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at age 19 for the murder and robbery of 15-year-old Michelle Lai on Sept. 20, 1994. Patterson was paroled on Christmas Day after Lai’s sister — Holly Lai Holbrook — wrote a letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016 vouching for her innocence.

» UNMATCHED COVERAGE: Every day is a second chance for Tyra Patterson

The Ohio Parole Board voted Tuesday to grant parole to Tyra Patterson who was convicted of murder in relation to the death of 15-year-old Michelle Lai in 1994. Patterson could be released from prison on or around Dec. 24. LISA POWELL / STAFF
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The Ohio Parole Board voted Tuesday to grant parole to Tyra Patterson who was convicted of murder in relation to the death of 15-year-old Michelle Lai in 1994. Patterson could be released from prison on or around Dec. 24. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Lai Holbrook, who watched her sister get shot that night, told Kasich: “I no longer believe that Tyra participated in the robbery that led to Michelle’s murder. I believe it is wrong for Tyra to stay locked up.”

Cincinnati City Council voted unanimously on a resolution to honor Tyra Patterson for “her courage and perseverance in overcoming 23 years of incarcerations for a crime she denies committing and for her efforts to improve her life and those of many others.”

The resolution was proposed by Councilmember Tamaya Dennard, one of Patterson’s mentors.

» READ MORE: Woman convicted of teen slaying in Dayton released on Christmas Day

Patterson is working for the Ohio Justice & Policy Center in Cincinnati, which works to protect the rights of prisoners and those who leave prison. In prison, she earned her GED, paralegal certificate, furthered her education through several programs and even learned a little Spanish and Arabic. Before prison, she had a limited ability to read or write after dropping out of school.

Read more about Patterson in this in-depth feature by the Dayton Daily News

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