'Blew my mind': Woman charged with crime she didn't commit in Cumberland County

When Jordan Woods started receiving mail from lawyers, she didn't pay much attention at first.

Days later, the pamphlets advertising legal services were still filling her mailbox.

"I get to about the third letter. It states the date of the incident that this crime occurred and that I was involved," Woods remembered.

The letters claimed she was charged with shoplifting in Cumberland County, a place Jordan said she's only been once.

"It literally blew my mind because the first one I opened, you know, me and my mom were like, this doesn't look real, so we started opening more and more and they all start saying the same thing," Woods said.

NIGHTMARE BEGAN WITH FALSE INFORMATION

Confused, Woods called and then drove to the Fayetteville Police Department for answers.

She said officers immediately recognized that she is not the same woman they initially caught shoplifting.

Woods said the woman who was shoplifting did not have an ID card to give officers so instead gave Woods' name. Woods does know the person but was shocked it was so easy for the charge to be placed on her.

A spokesperson for the Fayetteville Police Department said an identification card is preferred but not always possible.

"Most of the time, people tell the truth and we can corroborate their identity through our various databases. If enough information is provided to satisfy the officer, a citation can be written. Even with a physical arrest, people give fictitious names. If their fingerprints (or the name of the person they are giving) are not in the database yet, then nobody will know until the victim of the identity theft has to appear in court (such as what happened in this case)," an FPD spokesperson wrote.

INNOCENT BUT STILL PAYING THE PRICE

The charges connected with Woods were dropped and now she is waiting for them to be expunged from her record.

Though she didn't commit the crime, having the charge attached to her name, even briefly, affected her life.

Woods is attending school to become a medical assistant and said a background check was required right around the time the charge emerged. Luckily, she said she was able to work with her school.

"I would have been done. I would have lost my financial aid, probably would have been pretty devastated," she said.

Woods also said she has lost out on job opportunities as she waits for her record to be cleared.

"I'm still sitting here fighting for my life and trying to get my mental state back together now that I know I'm not going to lose everything," she said.

'WE HAVE TO FIX THIS'

Gerald Givens, the NAACP Raleigh/Apex president said he hears about similar cases too often.

"It totally interrupts their lifestyle," Givens said. "And we live in a society where we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and a lot of times, some people will get these charges that are pending against them. They lose their home. They lose their job and it becomes difficult for them to be able to take care of their families."

Givens said he speaks with law enforcement agencies about the need to change this. He said real change needs to be enacted by legislators.

Fayetteville Police said there is no way to track how often someone gives a false name or is arrested without an ID.

Givens said his NAACP chapter is working to create a database to track how often certain incidents happen.

"We need to find a better way to be able to record that these things are happening or these things are pending. And that it doesn't disrupt so many people's lives and so many families' lives in the process. We have to fix this," Givens said.

Givens recommends that anyone who has an experience like Woods' to reach out to their local NAACP chapter.

Woods' incident happened at the end of April. As of this week, the warrant for the woman who originally committed the crime has still not yet been served.
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