MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)— Mayor Jim Strickland offered condolences Thursday to Memphis-area families touched by two terrible acts that have rocked the city in less than a week: the abduction and murder of St. Marys teacher Eliza Fletcher and the violent rampage Wednesday night that left four dead and three injured.
“This has been the worst week that I can remember in Memphis,” Strickland said. “I don’t know how to describe it in any other way. These two men are just evil people, and did unspeakable, awful, violent, brutal acts. I can’t explain it and it’s just so incredibly sad.”
Earlier this week, Cleotha Abston-Henderson was charged in Fletcher’s murder. Ezekiel Kelly was captured Wednesday night and has numerous charges pending in the shootings, some of which were streamed live on Facebook. It’s the first steps in what could be long court battles in both cases.
These crimes have hit home for the city — Stickland said his own daughter was at Memphis Pizza Cafe in Overton Square during as the shootings and chase erupted nearby Wednesday night.
“I understand,” he said. “My family lives in this community. We drive the same streets. I panicked a little last night when my 17-year-old was out and had to coordinate with my wife to make sure she was safe.”
The mayor said suspect Ezekiel Kelly had pleaded down an attempted murder charge to aggravated assault and sentenced to three years on that charge. He only served 11 months of that sentence and was released from prison in March, less than six months ago.
“Had he served his entire three-year period, he would still be in prison today and these four individuals would still be living,” Strickland said.
State law strengthening sentences was changed this year, but the change did not go in effect until July 1, he pointed out.
Strickland said he welcomed accountability for himself, local government and police for lowering crime, but said the primary blame lay with a “broken” judicial system.
“Unless the public gets engaged and holds all these other entities and parties as accountable as we are in city government, things are not gonna change,” he said. “Please get engaged. We need you.”