After more than two decades behind bars, Tyra Patterson became a free woman on Christmas Day—but not because she was exonerated for a crime she has staunchly insisted she didn't commit. Rather, she was released on parole after serving 23 years of a life sentence for the 1994 murder of Michelle Lai, a 15-year-old whose sister even acknowledged was killed by someone other than Patterson. Patterson's case received more attention than most, thanks in part to a three-part Guardian special report that ran in 2016, and the fight isn't quite over. Here's a look at the crime and the aftermath:
- The crime: Lai was out "rogueing," or stealing from garages, with sister Holly Lai and three others on the night of Sept. 20. They were in Holly's Chevrolet Chevette in an alley when a group that included Patterson came upon the car. The Dayton Daily News reports some members of Patterson's group started "antagonizing" the girls in the car and robbed them. Things quickly turned physical, and LaShawna Keeney shot Lai.