Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
The Exonerated
Teresa Culpepper
Teresa Culpepper
When Teresa Culpepper called police on August 21, 2011, to report her truck stolen, she had no inkling of the ordeal that was about to begin. When officers arrived at her house, rather than make a report about her stolen truck, they arrested her on an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault. The only problem was, that the warrant was not for Teresa Culpepper, but for another African-American woman named Teresa. According the Culpepper's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, police never took Culpepper's I.D., nor, would it seem, did they even read the information on the warrant, "Her birth date didn't match. Her address didn't match. Her description didn't match. Other than the name Teresa, nothing matched." said Merchant, "My client is older, about 25 pounds lighter and at least 5 inches shorter than the Teresa who was supposed to be arrested." The arresting officer claimed to have followed a "hunch" that this was the woman from the warrant and, according to Merchant, radioed the dispatcher saying, "don't bother with a police line-up you might as well put her straight in jail." Despite her protestations that she didn't even know the alleged victim, Culpepper, who could not afford the $12,000 bail set by the judge, was held until October 12, when the victim of the alleged assault appeared in court and testified to the fact that Culpepper was not the attacker.

Unlike police, Atlanta WSB-TV reportedly did track down the Teresa named in the warrant, who said police never came to arrest her. Culpepper, on the other hand, spent 53 days in jail and lost everything according to her attorney, "Imagine not being able to pay any of your bills for 53 days. She's lost her home and is now living with friends. Her phone's shut down. Her truck was impounded and she still can't afford $500 to release it."

Culpepper wants the officers involved held accountable and is seeking financial compensation for false arrest and wrongful incarceration.
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