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Published: Thursday, 6/30/2011

Patterson gets life sentence in girlfriend's July slaying

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Danny Patterson was sentenced to life in prison soon after being convicted in the July 10, 2010, murder of his live-in girlfriend, Vanessa Tucker. The disabled woman was beaten, stabbed, and suffocated. He had admitted the killing in a police interview but testified that he was provoked by her. Danny Patterson was sentenced to life in prison soon after being convicted in the July 10, 2010, murder of his live-in girlfriend, Vanessa Tucker. The disabled woman was beaten, stabbed, and suffocated. He had admitted the killing in a police interview but testified that he was provoked by her.
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Watching as handcuffs secured the wrists of their mother's former boyfriend -- her killer -- Vanessa Tucker's children said it was an image still not as powerful as the one of their mother lying in a casket.

"The pain that my brother, sister, and me share will never go away," said Angelo Byrd after watching Danny Patterson led away to prison.

Patterson, 40, was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, moments after being convicted by a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury of murder. He was found guilty of the July 10, 2010, death of Ms. Tucker, 53, who was his live-in girlfriend.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for just more than an hour before returning the verdict. During the three-day trial, jurors heard the testimony of nine witnesses including Patterson, who testified in his own defense.

Ms. Tucker's extensive family, including her three adult children, tearfully watched as the man who had beaten, stabbed, and suffocated the disabled woman was sentenced to life in prison. He is eligible for parole after 15 years.

"I'm going to miss her always, she was my little sister, but I'm glad justice was done," said Ms. Tucker's sister, Beverly Byrd, after the sentencing. "We have to keep on going. … As a family, we try to stick together. We won't and can't ever forget her."

Ms. Tucker's lifeless body was found in the apartment she shared with Patterson after her family became concerned that they hadn't heard from her in nearly a day and called police.

Patterson had barricaded the door in the apartment at the Regina Manor apartment complex and remained inside.

Ms. Tucker's bloodied clothing and bedding were found in a Dumpster outside and smears of her blood were found on the walls.

During a recorded interview with a Toledo police detective that was played for the jury, Patterson admitted to killing Ms. Tucker. He admitted it again when he testified at the trial, but said he was provoked into the killing by the "nasty" and hurtful words Ms. Tucker said to him about his family over their more than six-year relationship.

Attorney Jon Richardson asked jurors during closing arguments to consider these words as well as Patterson's testimony that he had been slapped by Ms. Tucker during the escalating argument. He acknowledged that Patterson was guilty of a crime but said that his state of mind during the incident showed something other than murder.

Specifically, Mr. Richardson asked jurors to consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter, which is causing the death of another while acting under the influence of sudden passion or a sudden fit of rage.

"You have a synergy, a toxic synergy of words and actions that this time put him over," Mr. Richardson said. "Why this time rather than another time? I don't know, but this time it did."

Mr. Richardson declined to comment after the verdict.

Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson told jurors during closing arguments the only person who testified that Ms. Tucker ever made disparaging comments was Patterson himself. He then noted Patterson lied several times to police on the day of his arrest and perhaps during his testimony to jurors.

"It was out-of-control behavior," Mr. Anderson acknowledged, "but that doesn't mean it's manslaughter. This was murder."

Before being sentenced to the mandatory life term, Patterson told Judge Gene Zmuda he hoped Ms. Tucker's family could move forward. "I'm not going to lie, I'm always going to miss her," he said.

Ms. Tucker's family thanked the "team," including police and prosecutors, that worked to put their loved one's killer behind bars. They noted it had been nearly 11 months since they learned of her death and said they planned to continue helping each other move forward.

Assistant County Prosecutor Lindsay Navarre said she hoped the guilty verdict would "help bring some closure to the victim's grieving and heartbroken family."

"This case was about control, but it was not about the defendant losing control. It was about his attempt to maintain control over the victim," Ms. Navarre said. "Too often, domestic violence escalates into murder when one party tries to leave and the other party won't allow it.

"It was a tragedy that Vanessa Tucker lost her life under such circumstances," she said.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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