If there is one thing we’ve learned from delving into all kinds of true-crime tales through shows, documentaries, and podcasts, it is that most heinous offenses transpire when dating and personal involvements go awry. There are frauds, adulterous affairs, and greed in terms of motive, yet retribution takes the crown for being the most prevalent. And NBC’s ‘Dateline: Smoke and Mirrors,’ examining the 2007 murder of Nailah Franklin, unfortunately, includes multiple such aspects. So now that it’s been a while, let’s find out every nitty-gritty detail of this matter, shall we?
How Did Nailah Franklin Die?
At the age of 28, Nailah Franklin was a Chicago, Illinois, native who hailed from a big family but still had a lot of individuality, which helped her forge a stable and happy life for herself in the city. She graduated with a degree in advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana but chose to switch gears soon after, becoming a pharmaceutical sales rep instead. Nailah’s life seemed to be going great until it wasn’t, and everything changed in 2007. After all, she disappeared on September 18, having last been seen alive in, or while leaving, her University Village condominium.
According to records, Nailah was reported missing merely a day later, and her vehicle, a Black Chevrolet Impala, was located in Hammond, Indiana, after three more days. The car was rubbed clean; thus, no DNA, fibers, or fingerprints could be recovered. Furthermore, pieces of her jewelry, along with some of her prescription drug samples, were supposedly discovered in the parking lot of a Calumet City restaurant.
Despite all this, there were no indications of Nailah’s whereabouts. It was only on day nine of the extensive search for her that her naked and nearly skeletal remains were recovered from the desolate wooded area behind a vacant video store in Calumet City. In a total of 10 days, she’d been badly decomposed, so it took a while before medical examiners could positively reveal that her cause of death was asphyxiation.
Who Killed Nailah Franklin?
Soon after the investigation into Nailah Franklin’s homicide began, officers zeroed in on Reginald Potts, a man she’d been casually dating up until the summer of 2007. They had parted ways because she’d learned of not just his lengthy criminal background but also of his sleeping around with other women, even fathering a daughter with one of them. Therefore, it was not amicable in any sense, and he began stalking her.
Moreover, days before Nailah vanished, she’d told a friend that if she went missing or something terrible ever happened, Reginald “did it.” Surveillance tapes from her condo complex furthered the suspicion by showing that he was in her building on that fateful day. And as if all this was not enough, on the evening of the murder, a friend allegedly picked Reginald up mere blocks away from the exact spot her car was later found.
With that, even though there was no physical evidence linking Reginald to the offense, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder within days. During his 2015 trial, following many delays partly due to his wish to represent himself until a judge appointed him a public defender, the state unveiled a myriad of added circumstantial evidence. These comprised the threatening calls and e-mails Reginald had sent to Nailah, the fact that he has been described as someone prone to outbursts of anger, and his history of domestic violence against, at least, two other women.
As per the prosecutors, a week before her demise, Nailah had told her ex-partner that she’d filed a police report and would seek a restraining order against him if he continued to stalk or bully her by sending messages and e-mails full of profanity. She tried her best to fight back, but she was also terrified of Reginald. In fact, she even gave her best friend her passwords just in case something happened. Prosecutors suggested that his motive was Nailah’s decision to break up with him and speak to her friends about his past, which he didn’t like. “‘I could erase you,” he once told her.
Official records also reveal that cell tower signals show their phones close together on that fateful day. Reginald went as far as to use her device to text her family and friends, hoping to convince them that she was alive. However, the most incriminating aspect was that Reginald’s brother-in-law owned the vacant store behind which Nailah’s remains were found. He maintained his innocence, yet with the above information and roughly 30 witness testimonies against him, in November 2015, a jury found him guilty of the young woman’s murder. Reginald was later sentenced to serve life in prison.
Read More: Where is Reginald Potts Now?