Memphis violence prompts call for criminal crackdown

Dan Abrams Live

(NewsNation) — The two gruesome crimes that took place in Memphis, Tennessee over the past week were both allegedly committed by suspects imprisoned for earlier felonies, but released before serving out their full sentences.

That has critics asking what can be done to strengthen the state’s sentencing system. Cameron Sexton, speaker of the Tennessee House, told NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live” on Thursday that the state’s laws have already been changed to keep people convicted of serious crimes in prison for their entire sentence.

The body of Eliza Fletcher, assaulted and kidnapped while jogging early in the morning, was identified Tuesday. The suspect in that case, Cleotha Abston, served about 20 years of a 24-year sentence in state prison after the May 2000 abduction and robbery of an attorney. Previously, he had faced several aggravated assault and thef tcharges, as well as accusations of evading arrest and trespassing. 

On Wednesday, a gunman allegedly livestreamed himself driving around Memphis shooting at people, killing four and wounding three others in seemingly random attacks. He was finally arrested after crashing a stolen car, police said early Thursday.

Ezekiel Kelly, 19, the suspect in that case, was charged two years ago with attempted first-degree murder, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault and was imprisoned for three years in June 2021 at the Shelby County Department of Corrections, but was already out of jail, for reasons that are unclear. Kelly served only 11 months in jail and was released in March of this year.

“We’re the first state that has 100% sentencing for violent crimes … you have to serve every single day,” Sexton said. “If this law would have been in place … those individuals would have still been behind bars.”

The body of Eliza Fletcher, assaulted and kidnapped while jogging early in the morning, was identified Tuesday. The suspect in that case, Cleotha Abston, served about 20 years of a 24-year sentence in state prison after the May 2000 abduction and robbery of an attorney. Previously, he had faced several aggravated assault and thef tcharges, as well as accusations of evading arrest and trespassing. 

On Wednesday, a gunman allegedly livestreamed himself driving around Memphis shooting at people, killing four and wounding three others in seemingly random attacks. He was finally arrested after crashing a stolen car, police said early Thursday.

Ezekiel Kelly, 19, the suspect in that case, was charged two years ago with attempted first-degree murder, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault and was imprisoned for three years in June 2021 at the Shelby County Department of Corrections, but was already out of jail, for reasons that are unclear. Kelly served only 11 months in jail and was released in March of this year.

“What we’re trying to do,” Sexton told Abrams, “is set a line in the sand that says ‘here’s a line you don’t want to cross.’ If you do one of these crimes, you’re gonna do every single day” sentenced by a judge or jury.

Watch the full discussion in the video above.

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