An Ohio woman who spent 22 years in prison after she was jailed for being an accomplice to a teen’s murder has finally been released after celebrities joined her campaign for freedom.
Tyra Patterson, now 42, was freed early on Christmas Day from Cleveland’s Northeast Pre-Release Center.
Patterson, who has always maintained her innocence, was convicted in the 1994 murder and robbery of 15-year-old Michelle Lai.
She did not fire the shot that killed Lai, but under Ohio law accomplices can be handed the same punishment as killers.
Patterson has always maintained that Dayton police forced her into confessing to a robbery she says she never committed, which then opened her up to an aggravated murder conviction.
A number of celebrity supporters recorded videos last year in support of her innocence claims, including documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, actress Alfre Woodard and ‘Mad Men’ TV show creator Matthew Weiner.
Patterson was initially denied parole in 2011, but was granted release in October following the wave of support.
Following her release, Patterson ran down a snow-covered street in Kettering on Monday to greet family members for Christmas, Fox 45 reported.
‘Let’s eat and open gifts!’ she said after hugging her mother.
The murder victim’s sister, Holly Lai, was among those to advocate for Patterson’s release saying she wasn’t involved in the shooting or robbery.
Lai, and a group of teen girls including her sister Holly, were out burglarizing garages on the night of September 20, 1994.
They had been sitting in a Chevy Chevette in an alley when they were confronted by a different group that included Patterson.
The two groups got into a heated shouting match that resulted in Lai being shot in the head. Another girl, LaShawna Keeney, is accused of firing the fatal shot.
SOURCE: The Associated Press