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Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:30 PM
— In December, 1992, downtown Dayton was filled with holiday decorations and activities. There was the Christmas tree lighting on Courthouse Square and across the street, the Dayton Arcade had reopened temporarily with pop-up shops and eateries for the holiday season. As people shopped and celebrated, they would have never imaged what was about to happen.
A band of teenagers were looking for trouble. Laura Taylor, Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews and Demarcus Smith called themselves "The Downtown Posse." They were estranged from their families and looking for trouble.
"Let's get some drama in our lives," Taylor, a 16-year-old runaway, said to the group.
On Christmas Eve, they began the worst crime spree in Dayton history. The first victim was Joseph Wilkerson. The girls lured their way into his Prescott Avenue home promising sex, and the 34-year old General Motors worker was shot and killed. The posse then partied in Wilkerson's house over the next three days. They ate his food and drove his cars while he lay dead in a bedroom.
That same night, they shot Danita Gullette, 18, who was using a pay phone outside a neighborhood market in West Dayton. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police said Gullette was robbed of her gym shoes, jacket and book bag.
"All she said was, 'Don't shoot me' and they shot her anyway," said Rhonda Gullette, the victim's sister. "She gave them everything that she had. I just wish that they would have spared my sister."
On Christmas day, the body of 19-year-old Richard Maddox was discovered in a car. He had been shot in the head. Detectives later found out that Maddox was the former boyfriend of Laura Taylor. Jeffrey Wright was also shot that day outside a home on Yuma Place. Despite, 4 bullets, he survived.
The posse went into the Short Stop Mini Mart on December 26, and shot Sarah Abraham who was working in a family business that holiday weekend. The 38-year-old mother died 5 days later in the hospital. A store customer who was shot, Jones Pettus, survived .
At first, Dayton homicide detectives did not know that these crimes were all connected.
"Really the first thing that made the connection for us was the ammunition," said retired Dayton Homicide Detective Doyle Burke. "Then you start to worry and you figure out that we've got a person or persons that are probably not going to stop."
Burke said they had no idea who they were looking for.
"The fact that it was truly stranger on stranger crime, which is the most difficult homicide to solve…there was not even a motive," Burke said.
Later on December 26, former Dayton Police Sgt. John Huber, spotted a stolen car on Kumler Avenue. At the time, he did not know that he was stopping Dayton's spree killers.
"They all cooperated and put their hands up. I was later to find out from the detectives that Laura Taylor told Marvallous Keene to shoot me and he wouldn't.," said Huber.
After the four members of the posse were behind bars, Taylor got a visit from a local minister who was concerned that she was only sixteen and accused of such terrible crimes. During their visit, Taylor told him about two more victims. Police found the bodies of Wendy Cottrill, 16 and Marvin Washington, 19, in a city-owned gravel pit on Richley Avenue. Taylor said they were shot because the group thought that they would snitch to the police.
Keene confessed and was sentenced to death. After 17 years of appeals, he was executed in 2009. The other three got life prison sentences. During a prison interview in 2000, Heather Matthews explained why she got into in the crime spree.
"I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do what they was doing," Matthews said.
Detective Burke said that once the killing started, he believes they were all willing participants.
"They enjoyed it. They lived it. It made them somebody," Burke said.
Rhonda Gullette admits that even after 25 years, the holidays are very difficult.
"I grieve for my family but I continue to grieve for the other victim's families and also the people who are incarcerated," said Gullette. "Anybody's life can either go to the left or the right, so I do, I think about them very often."
Gullette said the murder of her sister had a huge impact on her life. The crime led to the break-up of her engagement, the loss of a child and her mother.
"Six years later my mother passed away prematurely," said Gullette. "My mother passed away at 51-year's old and she passed away because of grief. My mother absolutely died of a broken heart."
Gullette is now an advocate for victim's rights and is working on her master's degree. She said she gets through the holidays by serving her church and feeding the homeless.
John Huber, retired from the Dayton Police Department, is the Public Safety Director at Sinclair Community College. Doyle Burke is Chief Investigator for the Warren County Coroner and has written a book about the homicide cases that he has investigated, including this one.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:29 AM
BUTLER COUNTY — A 30-hour standoff that involved a 10-year-old boy being held against his will at an apartment complex in Liberty Twp. began with the door being opened for the suspect.
Donald Tobias Gazaway, 31, was let into the apartment late Friday night by residents of the apartment in the 700 block of East Hamilton Place, according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.
“This was not a home invasion, this was a ‘come on in,’” Jones told this news organization today.
Once inside, Gazaway demanded cash, according to what the boy’s mother told officials.
“He demanded thousands,” Jones said.
According to the mother, she did not have that kind of money.
“There was an argument and she said he pulled out a gun,” Jones said.
Jones said statements from the mother about how she knew Gazaway are conflicting.
“She said (she knew him a) couple weeks and that he was a friend of the family,” Jones said.
But there is evidence Gazaway had stayed at the residence before.
“He pulled the gun and it appeared it was every man and women for themselves, except the child,” Jones said.
Gazaway remained in the residence with the boy until a police vehicle drove up to the door. Then he took the boy and fled to a car in the garage, where he remained until surrendering Sunday morning.
During the standoff, Gazaway raised the garage door up and down and turned the car lights on and off.
“And occasionally he shot at us,” Sheriff said.
About 20 shots were reported fired during the incident.
Jones said the mother was at the scene during most of the incident, “in an area sleeping with a blanket over her.”
The sheriff’s office will be recommending Butler County Children Services open a case concerning the family.
The boy was returned to his mother and taken to the hospital to be checked out. He is reportedly doing well, according to Jones.
Immediately after securing the boy, he was taken to a safe place and kept warm by deputies, who provided a coat and doughnuts.
An official at the scene described the boy as wearing “Snoopy” pajamas during the ordeal and being very interested in the box of doughnuts they provided, eating them as fast as he could.
Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 3:28 PM
Updated: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 8:47 AM
MIAMI COUNTY —
UPDATE @ 9:22 a.m. (Jan. 16):
Bond was set at $1.5 million for Randy Freels, 57, who is accused in the shooting death and crash involving his wife Samantha Freels, 52.
Randy Freels appeared for his initial arraignment via video in Miami County Municipal Court Tuesday.
UPDATE @ 8:40 a.m. (Jan. 15):
A man is charged with murder and other charges after deputies said he was involved in the shooting death and crash involving his wife Friday afternoon.
Randy A. Freels, 57, was booked into the Miami County Jail after special response teams from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, Troy police and Piqua police took him into custody around 10:30 p.m. at his home on South Rangeline Road in Union Twp.
Samantha Freels, 52, of Union Twp., was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest in in a vehicle that was crashed in a creek in the area of Ohio 55 and Elleman Road around 3 p.m. Friday.
Deputies believe Samantha Freels was shot to death in her vehicle very close to where she crashed, officials said. Deputies also said a blue Dodge pickup registered to Randy Freels went off the road near the crash scene.
“While processing what we now believed was a crime scene we received information that…Randy A. Freels…had made comments that afternoon to a third party that he expected to be in some type of shoot-out with law enforcement,” Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said in a prepared statement.
Duchak said the special response teams responded to the Freels’ residence on South Rangeline, where Randy Freels was taken into custody without incident.
“We believe Mr. Freels to be a suspect and do not have any evidence to indicate there were others involved. As this is an active homicide investigation we are conferring daily with Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell and his staff,” Duchak said.
Randy Feels remained in the Miami County Jail Monday morning on charges of murder, leaving the scene of a crash and inducing panic, jail records showed. He’s expected to appear in court Tuesday.
Search warrants were used to search both vehicles and the Freels’ home on South Rangeline.
Samantha Freels was employed as a digital sales specialist for Cox Media Group Ohio, the parent company of WHIO-TV and Dayton Daily News.
“Samantha (Sam) was a talented, dedicated, and beloved member of our advertising team. We are incredibly saddened by this tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to her family”, said Rob Rohr, Ohio Market Vice President and General Manager of Cox.
Funeral services for Samantha Freels will be held Wednesday at Hale-Sarver Funeral Home, 284 N. Miami St., in West Milton at 10:30 a.m. The family also will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home Tuesday.
Anyone who may have been in the area of Ohio 55 and Elleman Friday between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and may have seen or heard anything is asked to contact the Miami County Sheriff’s Office at 937-440-9911.
UPDATE @ 3:45 p.m.
Randy Albert Freels, 57, is charged with murder in the death of his wife, the Miami County Sheriff’s Office said.
The body of 52-year-old Samantha Freels was found inside a car Friday afternoon that crashed into a creek on Ohio 55. Freels died of a gunshot wound to the chest, deputies said.
Randy Freels has been held at the Miami County Jail since Friday night.
UPDATE @ 1:55 p.m.
A 52-year-old Ludlow Falls woman found dead inside a car Friday afternoon died of a single gunshot to the chest, according to the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.
Samantha Freels’ husband, 57-year-old Randy Albert Freels, has been held in the Miami County Jail since Friday night on two misdemeanor charges of inducing panic and for a hit-and-run crash.
Crews were dispatched around 3:10 p.m. Friday to Ohio 55 at Elleman Road around on reports of a vehicle that crashed into a creek. Evidence at the scene, however, led officials to believe Freels’ death was suspicious and more than just a crash.
The Miami County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team, along with SRTs from the Troy and Piqua police departments, went to her home on Rangeline Road, where Randy Freels was found and taken into custody without incident.
Further investigation revealed Freels was shot to death.
Randy Freels’ charges may change pending autopsy results, officials said.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:16 AM
Dayton — An Amazon package theft on Monday afternoon has prompted the victim to believe there is a person following mail trucks to commit thefts according to a Dayton Police report.
The package was stolen from a residence in the 100 block of High Street and according to the victim the package contained two computer cables.
The neighborhood where the theft occurred has a google account set up to communicate safety information and they believe the suspect is acting like he wants to shovel residences before he steals packages.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 10:24 AM
A Dayton man killed in a shooting involving two Moraine police officers in October died of several gunshot wounds, according to the coroner’s office final report.
The cause and manner of Jamarco McShann’s Oct. 20 death was “multiple shotgun and gunshot wounds,” the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office said this morning. He could not specify how many wounds McShann sustained or where they were located.
The case involving the 23-year-old’s death closed Jan. 9 and has been ruled a homicide, said Mike Fox, an administrative assistant in the coroner’s office.
A homicide is defined as the killing of a human being and is not necessarily a crime.
Fox said the office could not release the final report — including results of the toxicology report — on McShann because the case remains under criminal investigation.
The day of the shooting, the Moraine Police Division placed on the officers involved in the shooting - John Howard and Jerry Knight – on paid administrative leave, as standard protocol. It also asked the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation oversee the case, and that investigation continues.
Howard and Knight returned to administrative duty Nov. 20 and were re-activated to “full duty” in early December, according to Moraine Police Chief Craig Richardson.
-MORE COVERAGE OF THIS ISSUE: