published Monday, August 25th, 2014

LaFayette police investigate woman's death

LaFayette Police Capt. Stacey Meeks is used to responding to disturbances at Langley Apartments.

"We respond there quite often on domestic disturbances. It's one of our routine response areas," he said.

But when deputies arrived just after dinnertime Saturday evening to check on Francis Middleton, there wasn't any angry shouting softened only by doors unable to contain the anger and hurt penned up inside.

What there was, was blood. Lots of blood.

"Once the officers got on the scene they concluded pretty quick it was a potential crime scene," Meeks said Sunday. "Due to several factors, most of which I can't really comment on ... at this point we're treating it as a potential homicide just with how the suspect looked."

Middleton was new to the complex, having only lived there a few weeks, said Meeks. But in that time, she'd made friends.

"She's been a fixture in the community," he said of the late 46-year-old. "We liked her, she was a good girl."

When Middleton's neighbors hadn't seen her out that day, they went to check on her, Meeks recounted. Through her window, they managed to catch a glimpse of her lying on the floor of her living room, so they forced their way in. That's when they saw the blood.

"There was a large amount of blood on and about the deceased," Meeks said.

Just like Langley Apartments, Middleton herself was often at the center of domestic disturbance calls, said Meeks: with her now estranged husband as well as with other men. But that was more so back in the early days of his 20-plus-year career.

"She's one of those people you come to know kind of through the course of doing your job," he said. "I had prior dealings with her in the past. Nothing major; typical domestic type issues. I hadn't dealt with her recently lately."

Lately, their interactions had centered around Middleton's health.

"I'd spoke with her several times over the last few weeks," said Meeks. "She said she'd been battling serious health issues and battling depression. I'm not sure exactly what all was going on. I know recently she had some surgeries."

Her estranged husband is not a suspect at this time, according to Meeks, though he has been questioned. As of now, there is still no motive -- or even a definitive crime. The cause of death won't be known until autopsy reports come back from the Georgia Crime Lab, hopefully by Tuesday afternoon, Meeks said.

At that point, the department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is assisting with the case, will determine how to proceed.

Meeks said it's typical for his department to call in the help of the GBI on potential homicides.

"We're a small agency. That's kind of our protocol," he said. "They have crime scene specialists we don't have ... their forensic capabilities... We might have a murder once a year or two; they work these weekly statewide."

Contact staff writer Jennifer Bardoner at jbardoner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6579.

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