Story on the murders... http://www.daytondailynews.com/n/con...7maryside.html
Comedian praises Dayton's Christmas killers in tasteless TV special
By Mary McCarty, Dayton Daily News Staff Writer
Tune into the current Showtime comedy special, Mo'Nique: I Coulda Been Your Cellmate, and you'll be yukking it up with two of the most notorious killers in Dayton history. It's no joke. Up front and center, in places of honor, you'll find Laura Taylor and Heather Matthews, the women convicted in the 1992 Christmas murder rampage that claimed the lives of six Daytonians. Sound like the stuff of comedy to you? But the phenomenal poor taste isn't the worst of it. Even more offensive is the overly sympathetic tone with which comedian Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson interviews the women and later addresses them during her Mother's Day concert at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. She uses the words, "I admire your strength." She uses the words, "I'm here because we live in a society that threw you away, deemed you not worthy."
The two words that are never used? "Christmas killings."
During her tearful interviews with Taylor and Matthews, Mo'Nique expresses outrage that they have been put away for 145 years and 182 years, respectively. "One hundred forty five years," Mo'Nique says to Taylor in a sob-sister whisper. "That means your natural life." An equally tearful Taylor replies, "It means I'll die here. It means when my time comes, I'll reach my hand out and there will be no one there." Mo'Nique cherry-picked the inmates with the longest sentences, apparently for the sympathy factor. But she never connects the dots for viewers. While she scorns the society that "threw them away," she never mentions that Taylor and Matthews threw away the lives of six fellow human beings.
Nor is there any reference to the fact that the women, along with their male accomplices, were en route to kill three more people when police apprehended them. (Marvallous Matthew Keene, 19 at the time of the crimes, is sitting on Ohio's Death Row in Mansfield. The fourth killer, DeMarcus Smith, is serving a life sentence. Dayton Police Detective Doyle Burke, one of the lead detectives on the case, believes it's no coincidence that Mo'Nique fails to provide any context for the women's imprisonment. "She can't tell you what they're in for," he observes, "because nobody would watch the rest of the show. They killed six people — one of them for a pair of shoes. If you put them in that context, everybody would switch the channel."
Burke is scornful of the brief remarks aired during the interviews. Matthews, 34, talks about her "wrong choices and wrong decisions." She tells Mo'Nique, "I didn't do any of the actual killings, but I didn't stop them because I was too scared." It's true that Matthews didn't pull the trigger, Burke said, but she was an enthusiastic participant in the four-day murder rampage committed "for fun." "Her remarks show me that she's still denying responsibility for her actions, which contributed to the deaths of several people," Burke said. "Each of these individuals had every opportunity to leave, but they stayed and continued to enjoy that notoriety. These are true spree killers. They enjoyed this; it was for their amusement."
During the concert, Mo'Nique also singles out Debra Denise Brown, the accomplice of Alton Coleman. In 1984, Brown and Coleman killed at least seven people and assaulted several others, including a Dayton minister and his wife. "This is a couple who victimized kindly elderly black people and preyed upon their sympathy," Burke said. Does Mo'Nique really think it's an outrage such women are locked up for life? Does she really want them set loose in society? Living in her neighborhood?
At the end of the Showtime special Mo'Nique said her goal is to keep other women from embarking on a life of crime. But the program sends the opposite message, as the comedian repeatedly portrays the women as victims of a cruel criminal justice system. "I don't care what happened yesterday!" she shouts. "I admire you sisters, because you're still standing!"
Burke doesn't have a problem with an entertainer coming to the prison to give the inmates a few hours of enjoyment. "It's a good thing a comedian is volunteering her time, but I have a huge problem with talking about how strong they are and how they're enduring," Burke said. "This is the path they have chosen, and they are living out the punishment and consequences for their actions. The real strength is to be found in the family members who must go on every day without their loved ones."
Rhonda Gullette of Dayton is one of them. Her younger sister, Danita Gullette, 18, was gunned down Christmas Eve while talking at a phone booth on Neal Avenue. Police believe she was targeted for her Fila sneakers. "I have compassion for anyone affected by a violent crime," Gullette said. "It's a ricochet. It doesn't just limit its effect on the families; it affects the community. I still have a void in my heart left by the killing of my sister. She was a great person with a great heart." Every day she sees a living breathing reminder of her sister — Danita's daughter Dominique, now 16, whom Gullette has helped to raised since her sister's death. Dominique, 2 at the time of the killings, is active in her church and doing well at Fairborn High School. But she still hurts, sometimes, from the absence of the mother she can't remember. "I'm the oldest and Danita was the youngest," Gullette said. "She was my baby; we definitely had a bond. My niece looks just like my sister. Often I catch her sitting and I look at her hands. When she folds her hands, they look just like Danita's."
Remarkably, Gullette also has compassion for her sister's killers. "I am sympathetic that these horrible crimes took place while most of them were teenagers," she said. "I am sure if they could go back, they would do something different." Gullette visits inmates through the prison ministry at her church, Omega Baptist. "As Christians this is what we are expected to do," she said. "We visit the incarcerated and we don't pretend they don't exist. I still commend entertainers like Mo'Nique who take time out to give back. But if I were Mo'Nique I would have educated myself on the whole story, not just the story heard from Heather Matthews and Laura Taylor."
At one point in the hourlong, profanity-ridden concert, Mo'Nique addresses Taylor directly: "145 years! If I were you, I would have told that judge, 'What did you just say? I won't live 100 more years, judge! That is so (expletive deleted) unrealistic. Give me a joint, judge." Taylor slaps her thighs and rocks her body back and forth with laughter. This is the woman Burke describes as "the most vicious of the bunch." It was Taylor who conceived the idea of robbing the Short Stop Mini-Mart downtown, where Keene shot and killed 38-year-old Sarah Abraham, an Ethiopian immigrant and mother of three. It was Taylor who lured two men, including a former boyfriend, to their deaths with the promise of sex. It was Taylor who turned on her own friend, 16-year-old Wendy Cotrill. She watched as Keene fired a bullet into the temple of the pregnant teenager. Cotrill's body was found at a city gravel storage area. Her shoes were missing. What would the Showtime audience think if they knew any of this background?
Maybe they wouldn't find it a laughing matter.