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Franklin Freeman Autopsy Released

Transvestite's death caused by bullet through artery

After Franklin Freeman tangled with an off-duty vice officer in January, the events surrounding his life got increasingly bizarre. The circumstances of his June murder, which occurred just five days before he was scheduled to testify at a suspension hearing for a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, are no exception.Last week, Freeman's autopsy was finally released by the Mecklenburg County Office of the Medical Examiner after months of requests by the media. According to the autopsy, the cause of the 35-year-old transvestite prostitute's death was a gunshot wound to his leg that lacerated his left femoral artery and vein. The bullet that killed him entered his body through the upper part of his left buttock, traveled forward and downward through his left leg, exited his upper left leg, re-entered his upper right leg and lodged in his right leg muscle. Aside from a few minor bruises and abrasions, his body was otherwise unblemished.

Creative Loafing decided to publish the findings of the autopsy because of rumors that have circulated about the level of damage done to Freeman's body by his attacker. Medical examiner's office personnel say that an eight-month turnaround on the release of an autopsy is not unusual because the department is underfunded and understaffed.

Freeman's troubles with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department started at about 3:30am on January 8, when off-duty vice officer Michael Marlow, who'd just come from a drinking party in the police parking deck with other members of the vice squad, drove off with beer still in his unmarked police car. Rather than going home, Marlow drove to the North Davidson Street area where Freeman was working as a prostitute that night. After letting Freeman in his car, Marlow allegedly fired his Glock at him twice during an argument over money. According to Freeman's statement to police, he refused to leave the car until Marlow gave him $20. Marlow forced him out of the car and called other officers for help.

Freeman was arrested later that night for resisting an officer and assaulting a government official. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Freeman and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Darrel Stephens later wrote Freeman a letter of apology. Marlow resigned from the force before an investigation into his conduct was completed. At least three officers were fired or disciplined in the incident.

Then in June, Freeman was found murdered on a North Church Street sidewalk, the only prostitute to be killed in Charlotte in a year. Freeman's family, friends and co-workers have said they don't trust the police department to investigate the case.

Police spokesperson Keith Bridges says the department is still investigating the case but would not comment on the status of the investigation.