UPDATED 8:59 AM PT – Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Violent crime has continued to rise in Memphis, Tennessee. This comes as Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) recently slammed soft-on-crime policies hindering the nation.
“We in Tennessee have just been heartbroken over what has happened in Memphis with criminals being back on the streets,” stated the Republican lawmaker.
Her comments came after recent attacks in Memphis, where it was discovered the suspects in two recent attacks had been released from prison before serving their full sentences for prior convictions.
Eliza Fletcher, 34, was allegedly abducted during her morning run on September 2 and her remains were later found behind an empty house. The suspect, 38-year-old ex-con Cleotha Abston, also known as Cleotha Henderson, served only 20 years of a 24-year prison sentence for an armed kidnapping. He was released in 2020. Henderson has also been indicted on rape, kidnapping and felony firearms charges after allegedly sexually assaulting a victim in 2021.
Additionally, the recent shooting in Memphis that killed four and injured three others is being tied to 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly, which came after Kelly was previously charged with criminal attempted first degree murder. Kelly reportedly pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault in 2021, but walked free early only serving 11-months of his three-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, Tennessee state Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Tenn.) recently said the Truth in Sentencing law could have kept Henderson and Kelly behind bars had it been enacted earlier than July 1 of this year. The law says if an individual is convicted of murder, they must serve their full sentence. If convicted of lesser crimes like aggravated assault, however, they only need to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
“If this law would have been in place back in 2000 or just a little bit ago for the other case, the Kelly case, those individuals would still be behind bars,” Sexton stated. “They wouldn’t have been out, they wouldn’t have had these victims, these individuals would not have been killed.”
A recent survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association found overall violent crime spiked 4.2 percent from January to June this year. However, in the case of Ezekiel Kelly, Democrat Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is placing the blame on the judicial system.
“The problem is not the Memphis Police Department, cause they’re arresting people,” said Strickland. “The problem is this judicial system that will not punish. That is our problem.”
Political analysts say violent crime could be a driving force for voter turnout in the upcoming midterm elections.