My Town Monday: A Not-so Merry Christmas

Courthouse Square, where the Downtown Posse used to hang out

One of my writing friends wrote a flash fiction piece on Friday about a Christmas that wasn’t so merry–and she conveyed amazingly well in 100 words the devastation losing a loved one during the holiday season can wreak on a family.

But can you imagine how much worse it would be, if that loved one was murdered?

That’s what happened one year to the families of six people in Dayton, in a murder spree dubbed The Christmas Killings. Six people, murdered for no reason, between December 23 and December 26, 1992 – and an appropriately dangerous, conflict-laden situation into which to dump a character – as I did in my time-travel short story, “Time’s Holiday.”

At that time, there was a loose-knit street gang who called themselves The Downtown Posse – teens and twenty-somethings who mostly hung out around Courthouse Square, bumming money off of people to buy booze and drugs. A couple of days before Christmas, the Posse decided to up their game, when one it its members suggested they rob a man she knew, who she enticed with an offer of sexual favors.

Robbery turned into murder, and the four Posse members involved got away with the man’s car, a television set, and his microwave. They’d gotten away scot-free, so why not try it again?

The next day, they shot a young woman on the phone in a phone booth, just for the hell of it. She didn’t have any cash to speak of on her. They took her designer gym shoes and her coat. They then decided to go after one of the girls’ ex-boyfriend – he had money and a car. He managed to get away with a gunshot wound in his leg.

All this time, the cops were busy investigating and putting together clues. The Posse weren’t the smart criminals we read about in suspense novels, so it was a matter of time before they slipped up. The Dayton Police only hoped it was before more people died.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it worked out. The Posse’s next victim was another ex-boyfriend, but at the scene of that murder – on the street in front of his home, when he got suspicious – the cops found leads and witnesses that began to point them in the right direction.

The Posse hid out at the home of one of its members. This boy’s mom and her boyfriend were terrified of the Posse (and rightly so), and holed up upstairs the whole day and a half the Posse occupied their house. This is the point at which, in my short story “Time’s Holiday,” young Taylor Gressman shows up and finds herself in a heap of trouble.

The Posse went on to kill a convenience store clerk – the single mom of an 11-year old girl. After that, they cruised around some more in their stolen cars, now numbering three, with some other friends. One young man convinced them to take him home. The other two weren’t so lucky, and were killed because the four ringleaders were getting nervous and feared they might snitch.

As it turned out, the boy they’d dropped off earlier was the one who snitched, giving the police the last bit of evidence they needed. They trapped three Posse members in one of the stolen cars, and found the other at the house where they’d been staying – and where the terrified mom identified the last culprit.

All four of the Posse members who were arrested that day were convicted by the court. One man, Marvallous Keene, was executed by the State of Ohio in July, 2009. The other three perpetrators were only 16 and 17 at the time of the murders, so all three are serving multiple sentences, with no chance for parole until 2098 at the earliest.

While there have been plenty of other murders in the area, including some where more people were killed at once, the police consider this the worst, as it was clearly premeditated, and one murder was committed, then another plan was executed, and another. And the worst thing was, not only did it happen over Christmas, it was done for kicks.

Here is a reprint of a Dayton Daily News article that tells the whole story, which I used extensively in my research.

My story, “Time’s Holiday,” is available as a standalone ebook for FREE! Although fictitious, find out how seventeen-year-old Taylor sneaks away on Christmas Eve, hoping to find the angel who saved her life a few weeks earlier. Instead, she takes an unexpected trip back in time, and finds herself in the midst of a murderous street gang. Now it’s up to Taylor to ensure that she and a newfound friend don’t become the gang’s next victims, and in the process, learn that giving is the best gift of all.

If you’ve thought about giving the Saturn Society series a try, this is a great way to see if it’s something you might like. Grab a copy of the ebook from AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKobo BooksSony or iTunes.

If you’d like something more, “Time’s Holiday” is also included in the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America’s anthology, Home for the Holidays. The anthology is available in both print and ebook at; and in ebook from SmashwordsKobo Books, Sony, Barnes & Noble and should be coming soon to  iTunes. All proceeds go directly to Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America, and help bring in educational programs for the whole chapter.

What about you – do you have any creepy true crime stories in your home from around the holidays? Can you imagine what the victims’ families must go through every year? And not to end on such a downer, do you like holiday stories?

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Look! Christmas can be Murder

How? you might ask. Well, if you’re Taylor Gressman, and you inadvertently go back in time a couple decades, you might find yourself in the midst of the Christmas Killings, the worst killing spree in Dayton’s history. The killers, four of whom were caught and convicted, murdered six people between December 23 and 26 in 1992 for little more than a few bucks, a pair of shoes, and a jacket.

No one’s ever accused me of being too nice to my characters.

This is the premise of my upcoming short story, “Time’s Holiday,” and urban fantasy author Debra Kristi gave me the perfect opportunity to introduce it by tagging me in the LOOK! meme (Thanks, Debra!).

The rules are pretty simple. Just do a search for the word “look” in your work-in-progress, and paste it in with the surrounding paragraph or two. Then, of course, you get to tag others. First, a little bit of “Time’s Holiday:”

She opened her eyes to find a blond girl about her age staring at her from across the small… bedroom, she guessed, although there wasn’t any furniture. The worn carpet beneath her head was an indeterminate grayish-brown, and riddled with what looked like cigarette burns. The drywall above the blond girl’s shoulder was cracked, and someone had punched a hole through it just above her head. “Where…” Taylor began. She swallowed, her mouth dry. “Where am I?”

The girl half-shrugged. “Bill’s place.”

Taylor tried to shake off the lethargy. “Where’s… that?”

The girl cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t remember coming here? Man, you must’ve gotten some strong stuff.”

Taylor struggled to brace a hand on the floor. Had she been drugged? Finally, she pushed herself up. As she caught her breath, she looked down.

She still wore her black peacoat, her frilly black skirt billowing from beneath it. Her granny boots remained laced on her feet. A tiny, red hair clip shaped like a buttefly lay beside her. She lifted her hand to her head–ugh, why was it so hard?–and patted her hair. One of her ponytails had come out. And she realized that the girl across the room wasn’t blurry, so she still had her glasses on. “I…” Taylor stared at her hands. “No, I don’t remember.” The last thing she remembered was going to Courthouse Square to look for her angel, then some bum handing her a flyer…

Thanks again, Debra, for the tag!

image from Microsft Clip Art ( now I get to tag people. I’ll just do a few, since I’d love to get a taste of what these authors are working on:

If you don’t have time or something ready to share, no worries!

My goal with “Time’s Holiday”  is to give those who’ve already read the Saturn Society books a fun glimpse into a minor character’s backstory, while piquing the interest of those who haven’t read the books.

On another note, when I did my search, the word “look” or a variation of it appeared24 times in 23 pages. Too much? What do you think? Do you like holiday stories? Is this too gruesome a topic for one (there’s no on-the-page violence)? While it isn’t the swee goodness and light that many holiday stories are full of, it does have its moments of Christmas cheer and goodwill.