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At just 16 years old, Cyntoia Brown was working as a child prostitute on the streets of Nashville. Here’s everything we know about Cyntoia Brown’s story.

Cyntoia Brown: There can be redemption after murder

When she was just 16 years old, Cyntoia Brown was working as a child prostitute on the streets of Nashville. She was arrested and charged with the murder of Johnny Allen, who Brown claimed paid her to have sex with him. Brown never denied shooting Johnny Allen, but claimed the whole ordeal was in self-defense. 

After spending some time in prison, renewed interest was shed on her case as high profile celebrities rallied together to raise awareness about the possible injustices surrounding her sentencing. 

Her case was brought before a committee and then brought to the attention of the Governor, who granted her clemency and released her from prison after 15 years. Netflix created a documentary about her journey called  Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story. The documentary is slated for release on April 29, 2020. Here’s everything we know about Cyntoia Brown’s story. 

Background and Early Life

Cyntoia Brown did not have an easy life. Born as the daughter of a drug addict and alcoholic, it is believed that Brown was born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Rather than live with a mother who could not care for her, she was placed up for adoption. 

While it is believed Brown did go to a decent home during this process, she ended up entangled with the law anyway and was in and out of the juvenile court system as a teenager. Between April 2001 – September 2003, she actually resided at the Department of Children’s Services for committing “crimes against persons and crimes against property”. She managed to flee several times and ended up on the streets. 

It was during this time, at just 16 years old, that she met Garion McGlothen, who went by the name of Kut Throat. They had an abusive relationship centered around drugs & violence. McGlothen would pimp Brown out, sending her out to have sex with men. If she returned without cash, he allegedly beat & raped her. 

Johnny Allen

On August 16, 2004, Brown was 16 and met a man called Johnny Allen at a parking lot in Nashville, Tennessee. Brown testified later that she agreed to have sexual intercourse with Allen for US$150. Allen bought them both some food and she accompanied him back to his place of residence. 

Brown claims that once they returned to his house, Allen began to present his gun collection to her. According to Brown, the two never actually ended up having sex, as this notion of Allen boasting about his gun collection made Brown fear for her life. At some point during their rendezvous, Brown shot Allen in the back of the head with a .40 caliber handgun.

Cyntoia Brown claims this action was completely in self-defense. Police, however, found Allen in bed naked with a gunshot wound to the back of the head, Brown’s hands underneath his face, indicating that he was sleeping when the event occurred. After shooting Allen, Brown raided his wallet and took the $172 that was inside, stole two of his guns, and stole his truck. Brown fled the scene, abandoning his truck in a Wal-Mart parking lot & made her way back to McGlothen. 

It is alleged that Brown recruited the help of a neighbor to drive her back to the abandoned truck at the Wal-Mart parking lot. When Brown asked the friend to then drive her back to Allen’s place so she could steal more of his things, the friend allegedly refused. Brown confessed what she had done to the neighbor, who eventually called police, fearing retaliation. 

The Arrest

Cyntoia Brown was arrested and charged with homicide, aggravated robbery, handgun possession, and criminal impersonation. Brown was deemed “too much of a risk” and was tried as an adult, despite being only 16 years old. Brown never actually denied shooting Allen, rather she claimed that the act was done in self-defense. 

Brown claimed that Allen stood over her repeatedly while she was laying in his bed in a  threatening manner, which incited great fear in the girl. She then claimed that Allen reached for a gun while the two were laying together in his bed, which caused her to shoot the man with her own gun that she carried on her person. 

Police stated that no gun was found on, or near the bed they occupied, while forensic examiners reported that Allen’s hands were interlaced underneath his head. The combination of the type of gunshot wound Allen received, and the close proximity of gun residue on the pillows allowed the prosecutor to claim this was, indeed, an act of homicide.

As part of the investigation, Brown was taken to the Western Mental Health Institution for a psychological evaluation. During this visit, Brown allegedly attacked & threatened a mental health practitioner working at the institution. The nurse claims that Brown admitted to shooting Allen, while subsequently threatening to do the same thing to her. 

At the end of the trial, Cyntoia Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery & sentenced to life in prison. 

Incarceration and Clemency

While incarcerated, Brown educated herself. She earned herself a GED in March of 2005, an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts in December of 2015, and finally a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Studies in Organizational and Leadership in 2019. 

During her studies, Brown reported learning about the concept of sex-trafficking. She claimed that prior to this time, she had no knowledge that this was actually a thing. It made her reflect on her own experiences & she delved in, educating herself as much as possible about the issue. 

In November of 2017, Brown’s case went viral as several high-profile celebrities jumped on the bandwagon, posting on various social media platforms about the injustices of her sentence. Some of these celebrities included LeBron James, Snoop Dog, Kim Kardashian & Rihanna. 

Consequently, in May of 2018, Brown was given a public hearing at the Tennessee Prison for Women. On December 6, it was announced that Brown would be eligible for parole after 51 years. Unsatisfied with this, a wave of support emerged in favor of Brown and the Governor’s office was flooded with requests of clemency. 

On January 7, 2019, the Governor reduced Brown’s sentence and scheduled release date of August 7, 2019. Brown would be held to ten years of supervised parole, but was released from prison on August 7, 2019. 

Since being released from prison, Brown has released her own memoir about her experiences and currently dedicates her life to working to eradicate human trafficking. Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story is scheduled for release on April 29, 2020.

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