Where Are Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews, Demarcus Smith, and Laura Taylor Now?

Image Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Investigation Discovery’s ‘The Christmas Slayings’ gives a detailed account of the darkest Christmas holidays that the nation has ever witnessed. While the regular residents of Dayton, Ohio, were planning to celebrate yet another Christmas filled with love and happiness besides their loved ones, a group called Downtown Posse also had red on their minds, but the gruesome kind. Setting off on a killing spree, they turned the most beautiful time of the year into something violent and painfully lasting for the victims’ family and friends, as they took six reported lives and left two others severely injured, starting from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day.

Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews, Demarcus Smith, and Laura Taylor Made Up the Downtown Posse

In 1992, the Downtown Posse, which was led by the 19-year-old Marvallous Keene, went on a random killing spree, referred to as “joy killing” by the police, over the Christmas weekend, from December 24 to December 26. The bloodthirsty group consisted of the leader’s 16-year-old girlfriend Laura Taylor along with the 19-year-old DeMarcus Maurice Smith and his 20-year-old girlfriend Heather Nicole Matthews. Believed to be estranged from their respective families, the union of the four members of the group proved to be lethal.

Marvallous Matthew Keene//Ohio Department of Corrections

The festive time of the holiday season turned grim, starting on Christmas Eve, when Laura and Heather plotted to entice the 34-year-old Joseph Wilkerson for money. After luring him back to his humble abode, the rest of the gang showed up and killed him in cold blood, taking over his assets and house for the following three days. Still thirsty for blood, the Downtown Posse went out looking for another victim and chose 18-year-old Danita Gullette randomly. Despite getting all her belongings they asked for, the gang shot her anyway.

While the first two victims might have been random, the third one wasn’t. Continuing the killing spree on Christmas Day, the Downtown Posse chose to unleash their wrath onto the 19-year-old Richard Maddox, Laura’s ex-boyfriend. After tricking him out of his parents’ house, Laura joined him on a car ride with the rest of the group tailing. When Richard suspected something fishy, he slammed his foot on the accelerator but was gunned down by Laura, who jumped out of the car before it crashed into a tree.

On Boxing Day, the gang continued their violent streak inside Short Stop Mini Mart as they killed 38-year-old Sarah Abraham then and there. A customer named Jones Pettus also came into the crosshair but managed to survive despite suffering gunshot wounds. Meanwhile, one of the staff members survived by pretending to be dead. While the Downtown Posse continued taking victims left and right in the town of Dayton, the police were struggling to connect the dots. Finally, when they examined the bullets at the crime scenes, they realized that the same weapon was responsible for all the shootings.

After taking six lives together, Keene, Heather, Demarcus, and Laura got worried that someone from their own clan might switch on them. So, they decided to turn on two of their own themselves — 16-year-old Wendy Cottrill and 18-year-old Marvin Washington. The four killers picked up Wendy and Marvin in their car and enjoyed some beer and wine before pulling up into a gravel yard on Richley Drive and executing them behind a large pile of dirt, marking their fifth and sixth victims over the weekend.

Sometime later, on the same day, their killing spree was halted when a police sergeant caught the suspicious vehicle they were riding in. As the gang members got surrounded, Demarcus tried to get away but was captured and arrested quickly. His fellow friends were arrested without any incident. Besides Laura, who didn’t talk at all during the interrogation, other members talked and confessed to the events that unfolded around Christmastime.

Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews, Demarcus Smith, and Laura Taylor Feel the Wrath of Justice

The trial of the Downtown Posse began in the summer of 1993, a few months after they turned the Christmas holidays into a bloodbath. Heather pleaded guilty to aggravated murder charges in the deaths of two of the six victims — Joseph Wilkerson and Sarah Abraham — and even testified against Keene. Demarcus ended up accepting a plea agreement just a few hours before his trial commenced. On the other hand, Keene and Laura were found guilty of all the charges against them. By the end of the trial, Laura, Demarcus, and Heather were sentenced to life in prison while Keene, being the leader and instigator, was sentenced to death.

Laura Taylor//Ohio Department of Corrections

After spending 17 years on death row and getting several appeals rejected, Marvallous Keene was finally executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville in July 2009. When asked to state his final statement, the killer said, “No, I have no words.” In 2021, nearly three decades after the massacre, Laura Taylor had a parole hearing since she was a minor at the time she committed the crimes. Currently serving her time at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at 1479 Collins Avenue, Marysville, alongside Heather Matthews, she is eligible for parole in 2026. As for Demarcus Smith, he is reportedly serving his life imprisonment sentence at the Mansfield Correctional Institute at 44901 1150 North Main Street in Mansfield.

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