Below, is a portion of Tyra Patterson’s affidavit that will introduce you to her and explain her background. She hopes that this may give you the reader, and all who are involved with the clemency process, a clearer picture of who she is and why it’s time for her to come home:
“I was born on May 20, 1975 in Dayton, Ohio. My mother, Jeannie Patterson, is still living. My father . . . was an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was about thirteen years old. I have two older brothers – Tyrone and Robert – and a younger brother Antwaune.
My parents did not get along very well. There was lots of turmoil in our house. My parents argued a lot. My father abused my mother emotionally and physically. My father was a different man while drinking Wild Irish Rose. His actions were always terrifying because he was an alcoholic.
Momma ended her relationship with my father. That happened after she came in and heard me tell my father to stop kissing me. I was around seven or eight. Momma told us to get our coats because “we’re leaving.” Our first few days were spent in a car until Momma moved us into a one-room apartment. Momma then moved us again and again because he kept finding us and threatening her life.
The last time he found us, Momma was involved with [a different man]. Momma got together with [this man] mainly because she thought he would protect her. [This man] was a controlling man who was just as abusive as my father. One time after Momma threatened to leave [the man], [he] beat her and then shot up the apartment. I remember trying to defend Momma by throwing shoes at him but to no avail. He continued until the police came.
We then moved in with [the man’s] mother. [The man’s mother] treated me and my brothers like slaves. Momma was working two jobs when we lived with [the man’s mother]. So, Momma wasn’t around very much. [The man’s mother] would make me do her hair and then would yell at me and beat me if I did not do it right. Momma put up with [her] because she didn’t want us thrown into the streets with no place to go. It wouldn’t have been that bad living in the streets because [the man’s mother’s] basement, where we slept, was just as cold.
Eventually, we moved from [that place] and lived in different apartments. Occasionally we were homeless and slept in Momma’s car or in hotel rooms. When I was nine, Momma sent me to live with an aunt in Colorado. Momma wanted a better life for me. My aunt had money and provided me with a good life. She gave me an allowance and made sure I ate healthy food. That was all foreign to me. I missed Momma and my brothers too much and wanted to come back to Dayton. I stayed in Colorado less than a year and moved back home.
Momma continued to work two jobs to try to support us. She worked so hard that when she came home each night she was so tired we had to help her into a chair so we could take off her shoes, rub her feet and comb her hair.
Although Momma worked hard, we were very poor. Sometimes she would go to Red Cross to give blood for extra money. My brothers and I tried to help out by collecting bottles, raking leaves, and shoveling snow – whatever we could do to earn a little money from time to time. Still, that was not enough. There were times when my brothers and I shoplifted food so we would have enough to eat.
Sometimes we would “break” food stamps. For example, a neighbor would give me one dollar’s worth of food stamps, which I would use to buy something inexpensive that we needed. I would then give the change to the neighbor, who would use it to buy non-food items.
We would also steal candy bars and then trade them for pencils with our school classmates. Although we could have stolen pencils from the store, we stole candy instead because we wanted to be able to have something that our classmates wanted. This was important to us because we were ashamed of showing up each day to school wearing the same dirty clothes. Trading candy for pencils distracted other kids from teasing us about being poor and dirty.
As I look back, I’m not proud of some of the things I did as a child. Momma taught us that stealing was wrong. But there were times when my brothers and I felt we had no choice but to steal in order to eat. I sometimes took things that did not belong to me in order to survive.
Although my brothers and I occasionally stole, we never robbed anyone. Using force to take from others was a line I’ve never crossed. Because she was so tired all the time, Momma did not pay much attention to how my brothers and I did in school. My grades in elementary school were terrible. The few Cs I got were like As. The only subjects I did well in were Art and Physical Education.
One day in the sixth grade I stopped going to school. I was tired of being teased about being poor and I wasn’t doing well in school anyway. I convinced myself that it was okay to quit school by telling myself that my older brothers would always take care of me. School officials never reached out to Momma to find out why I was not in school. And Momma didn’t find out I had dropped out until much later. Each morning I would act like I was going to school so Momma would think I was getting an education but I wouldn’t go. Attached is a letter from the Dayton City School District showing that I quit going to school in the sixth grade. After dropping out of school, I filled my days by doing household chores and hanging out with my brothers. When the weather was nice, my brothers and I would fish. Many days we fished for our dinner.
I learned to cook and would make the meals for our family out of whatever was available when Momma was at work or too tired to cook. When I was eleven or twelve, I started smoking weed. I liked it because it helped me forget the tough times we faced. Occasionally, I drank beer but not that much. I never took harder drugs or drank liquor.
I held only one regular job in my life – at Wendy’s. My manager made me work the cash register because she thought the customers would like my personality. I didn’t have the courage to tell her that I couldn’t make change correctly. When customers kept telling me that I was messing up – either giving too little or too much change – I knew I had to leave. I was too embarrassed to stay at Wendy’s. Besides, the manager would have eventually fired me anyway for not knowing how to give correct change.
I didn’t even collect my first and only paycheck. It didn’t matter because I didn’t know how to cash checks and would’ve been too embarrassed to ask for help. My brothers eventually moved out and got places of their own. When I was fifteen, I moved in with my boyfriend. I ended the relationship and moved out after he cheated on me.
I then moved back in with Momma, who at that time was living in an apartment complex at North Smithfield and Radio Road. She got reduced rent because she agreed to serve as the apartment manager. I was seventeen when I moved back in with her.
I liked living in that complex. I did not know a lot of the people who lived there. But I did get to know a young woman named Rebecca Stidham. Although she was a few years older than me, I looked up to Becca. We became close friends. She was with me the night Michelle Lai was murdered.
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