Tyra Patterson spent 23 years in prison for a crime she says she didn’t commit.
At just 19, Tyra was convicted in the robbery and murder of a 15-year-old girl named Michelle Lai in Dayton, Ohio. For over two decades, Tyra has been professing her innocence in the crime, despite her sentence of 24 years to life.
Dayton Daily News reports that most of what happened the night Michelle was murdered is still a mystery. Tyra was possibly with the group of people who shot and killed the teen, but she didn’t fire the shot. Still, she was charged as an accomplice to the murder, which in the state of Ohio means she could be given the same sentence as the actual murderer.
Despite her conviction and jail sentence, Tyra had a lot of public support. Even celebrities like filmmaker Ken Burns, actress Alfre Woodard, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner spoke out in support of Tyra, Dayton Daily News reports.
Tyra also received strong support from Holly Lai Holbrook, the sister of the murder victim. In fact, Holly wrote a letter to the governor in 2016 regarding Tyra’s innocence, according to Dayton Daily News.
“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,” she wrote. “But I’ve decided that what’re more important is that I tell the truth about how I feel.”
Tyra told Dayton Daily News, “Holly Lai is a hero, and she has been an advocate for me.”
Finally, on Christmas Day 2017, Tyra was paroled. She ran out of prison into the arms of her family, tears all around.
But getting out of prison is just the first step. Adjusting to life after spending more than two decades behind bars can seem impossible — but Tyra knew just what she wanted to do when she got free.
Tyra is now working with the firm that helped her gain her freedom: the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
Tyra will be working as a paralegal, helping other people like her. She will also work with parolees to help them find homes, jobs, food, and clothes. The cause is close to her heart.
Tyra told WCPO, “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 even says her new office is bigger than the entire jail she used to live in.
Check out the video below to meet Tyra and learn some more about her story, and please SHARE this story on Facebook!
Footage and photos provided by WCPO Cincinnati
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