The Christmas Killings: Dayton’s worst crime spree

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:30 PM

The Christmas Killings: Dayton’s worst crime spree

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. 

>> MAP AND TIMELINE: The notorious ‘Christmas killings’ of 1992

"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. 

>> PHOTOS: Infamous killing spree shook the community 25 years ago

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." 

Danita Gullette, 18, was killed while she stood at a pay phone on Neal Avenue in 1992. Her murder was part of a spree over the Christmas holiday weekend in Dayton that left 6 dead and injured two. COURTESY OF GULLETTE FAMILY

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. 

A book called, "The Christmas Killings," was written by retired Dayton Police Officer Steve Grismer, Detective Dennis Murphy and Dr. Judith Monseur. Both books will be published early next year.

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Driver convicted in 55-mile police chase up Interstate 75 sentenced

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 6:37 PM

            David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan was sentenced to 30 months in prison. CONTRIBUTED
David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan was sentenced to 30 months in prison. CONTRIBUTED

A Michigan man who led state troopers on a 55-mile chase from Piqua to Allen County in November was sentenced Monday in Miami County Common Pleas Court to 30 months in prison.

David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and six months in jail for driving while under the influence. The sentences will be served concurrently in the penitentiary. Nehmer’s driver’s license was also suspended for five years.

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Nehmer was arrested in the early morning hours on Interstate 75 near Bluffton. The pursuit began in Piqua after troopers received a report of a vehicle driving on its rims.

The pursuit of Nehmer — wanted on warrants out of Michigan — included speeds of more than 120 mph, troopers said.

Janna Parker, an assistant county prosecutor, said Nehmer was on parole in Michigan at the time of the chase that included what she called “insanely fast speeds” on tire rims. She said Nehmer put not only himself but multiple police officers and countless motorists at risk.

Judge Christopher Gee sentenced Nehmer, calling the pursuit “a horrific and very dangerous chase.” Gee said Nehmer was fortunate no one, including him, was injured.

“This kind of behavior cannot be condoned in any way,” Gee said.

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Mother distraught to learn daughter buried in wrong grave

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 5:57 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 6:30 PM

PHOTO COURTESY: Connie Rosellen
PHOTO COURTESY: Connie Rosellen

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office says a woman’s 3-month-old daughter who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1984 was buried in the wrong grave at a family plot in Glen Haven Memorial Gardens in Bethel Twp.

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Connie Rosellen told News Center 7 she discovered the mistake after the death of her stepfather. During his burial, cemetery officials reportedly struck her daughter’s casket and broke it.

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Rosellen said she called deputies last week after arriving at the cemetery for her daughter’s disinterment and reburial and allegedly found the baby’s remains in what she described as a shallow grave, covered only by the blanket she was buried with, a tarp and and a plywood board.

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The Clark County Sheriff’s Office says multiple deputies responded to the cemetery but they didn’t open a criminal case. According to their initial investigation, the cemetery followed all legal procedures.

After this news outlet has reached out to Glen Haven Memorial Gardens, 8200 W. National Road, for comment, they replied: “As part of our commitment to all our client families, we guard their privacy and because of this, we do not discuss specific client matters with the media.”

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Family files wrongful death suit in Moraine police shooting 

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 9:44 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 11:58 AM

Moraine police shooting: 1 man fatally shot

A wrongful death civil lawsuit has been filed in the October Moraine police officer-involved fatal shooting of a Dayton man.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court by the estate of Jamarco McShann alleges a conspiracy and misconduct involving several Moraine police officers.

“Defendant Officers John Howard, Jerry Knight, Michael Cornely, Justin Eller, Brian O’Neal, and unnamed officers willfully and maliciously shot Jamarco Dewayne McShann to death, and/or failed to intervene to prevent the use of deadly force against him despite the duty and the opportunity to do so,” the lawsuit states.

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On Wednesday, the attorneys that filed the suit had a press conference that included other community activists and mothers of other Ohio men who have been shot and killed by police.

“Jamarco McShann’s rights were violated,” said attorney Andrew Stroth, who filed the lawsuit. “He was unjustifiably shot and killed. There was no provocation. There was no threat of danger. The officers shot and killed him through the back of his vehicle. And the lawsuit outlines the allegations.”

Rev. Jerome McCorry, president and CEO of the National Congress on Faith & Social Justice, said: "We will fight for justice until justice is done.” Attorneys for the family also said it was “unacceptable” that the officers who fired their guns were back on full duty.

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“The City of Moraine does not comment on pending litigation,” read a statement made Wednesday by Moraine law director Buzz Portune, “but is satisfied that all actions taken by its Division of Police and officers involved in the matter were fully compliant with all applicable law enforcement standards and appropriate under the circumstances.”

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“The defendant officers otherwise acted both willfully, wantonly, recklessly, negligently, intentionally, and with malice and willful indifference in committing the acts alleged in this complaint, which resulted in the wrongful death of Jamarco McShann,” according to the suit.

The 23-year-old McShann, died from “multiple shotgun and gunshot wounds” after a confrontation with Moraine officers John Howard and Jerry Knight in the early-morning hours of Oct. 20, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation oversaw a probe into the matter at the request of the Moraine Police Division. That has been forwarded to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

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The defendants “together with their unnamed co-conspirators, reached an understanding, engaged and continue to engage in a course of conduct, and otherwise jointly acted and/or conspired among and between themselves to unreasonably stop, seize, shoot, and kill Jamarco McShann in violation of his constitutional rights, complete false, inaccurate, and misleading reports, and to make false statements to superior officers in order to conceal their wrongdoing,” according to the suit.

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Piqua man guilty in rape case plea agreement

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

            Dylan Cost, 21, pleads guilty in rape case. CONTRIBUTED.
Dylan Cost, 21, pleads guilty in rape case. CONTRIBUTED.

TROY — A Piqua man pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony rape in a case heard in Miami County Common Pleas Court.

Dylan Cost, 21, initially faced one count of rape for alleged sexual conduct with a person under age 13, in August in Piqua. As part of a plea deal, that charge will be dismissed.

The new charge does not specify the age of the victim and carries a shorter potential sentence. He could receive up to 11 years in prison at sentencing April 30. The original charge carried a possible life sentence.

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Judge Jeannine Pratt found Cost guilty and ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

He will be classified as a Tier III sex offender at sentencing. The designation will require him to register his address at the sheriff’s office in the county where he lives every 90 days for the rest of his life after prison release.

Cost remains in the county jail on $250,000 bail.

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