For a few days, stacks of fliers with Nailah Franklin’s smiling face served as a reminder of the need to highlight the disappearance of women of color.
When the pharmaceutical rep’s naked, decomposed body was found covered in leaves in Calumet City later that fall in 2007, she also became another tragic statistic.
This week — eight years later — Franklin’s on-and-off ex-boyfriend, Reginald Potts, finally will stand trial for her brutal murder.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in what is expected to be a three-week trial before Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer Jr.
Reginald Potts is on trial for the murder of his former girlfriend. | Chicago Police Department photo
Franklin’s death and the subsequent delays in the legal process have been a “very long, painful ordeal,” said Lehia Franklin Acox, the victim’s sister, adding that her family would withhold further comment until a verdict is reached.
Potts, a former real estate investor and father of three, initially chose to represent himself in court before agreeing to be defended by a team of veteran assistant public defenders.
While in custody at Cook County Jail, Potts, now 39, wracked up additional felonies for allegedly beating up sheriff’s deputies and destroying property.
Officials said the South Loop man once chewed through three mouthguards that were placed on his face to muzzle his tendency to spit on officers and passersby.
Potts, who also went on hunger strike and complained about mistreatment while incarcerated, was eventually shipped off to the Livingston County Jail for “security issues.”
Before that transfer, Potts frequently called the Sun-Times throughout the years to maintain his innocence, as he did to columnist Mary Mitchell in the days leading up to his arrest for Franklin’s asphyxiation.
“I may talk a lot of s— — pardon my language — but me putting my hands on somebody isn’t really happening. Making somebody disappear — having something to do with their abduction — having something to do with a murder, that’s kind of extreme. That is a huge leap,” Potts told Mitchell.
But it isn’t a far-fetched scenario for prosecutors, who plan to call Potts’ ex-wife and another former girlfriend, both of whom have said he repeatedly beat them.
At least two women were granted orders of protection against Potts, a career criminal who once slipped out of his handcuffs while in FBI custody.
Franklin, who casually dated Potts for a few months in 2006 and 2007, had filed a police report about her ex roughly a week before Sept. 18, 2007 — the day she was last seen alive at her University Village condo.
Around that time, she also sent her friends an email about Potts’ criminal past, which prosecutors said sent him into a rage.
In a threatening call to the 28-year-old Franklin, Potts told her “he could have her erased,” prosecutors said.
Potts was caught on surveillance cameras walking with Franklin in her building’s elevators and parking garage before she disappeared, authorities said.
Franklin’s body was discovered Sept. 27. Her 2005 Chevy Impala was found just a mile away, in Hammond, Indiana, near the gas station where police say Potts was picked up by friends.
During the ride home, Potts allegedly used Franklin’s cellphone to ring 911 three times. He didn’t say a word, prosecutors said.
But Potts’ silence wasn’t throwing anyone off, according prosecutors, who say cell tower records show his phone was at Franklin’s condo, the Dan Ryan Expressway and in Calumet City where the young woman’s pharmaceuticals and jewelry turned up.
Defense attorneys are expected to stress that the case against Potts is circumstantial at best.
However, prosecutors hope the alleged domestic abuse detailed in court records will help jurors understand the level of violence authorities say he is capable of.
Franklin had told police that Potts “had been physical — not with me, but with other women,” according to court documents.
During their 2005 marriage, Nathaly Figueroa said Potts punched her so hard while she was driving on the highway that she had to pull off the road because her eye was swelling, obscuring her vision.
Figueroa said Potts also choked and smothered her with a pillow when she was pregnant.
A day before their second child was born, Figueroa said Potts grabbed her by the arm, causing her to fall on the floor.
And when Figueroa said she wanted a divorce, she said Potts clocked her in the ear.
Figueroa said when she would threaten to call police, Potts told her the police wouldn’t respond right away — and, he warned her, he could “cause a lot of damage in that time.”
Ina Dorsey, another woman who had a child with Potts, said he was rough with as her as well when they dated in 2007.
In one alleged incident, which prosecutors are not allowed to discuss at trial, Dorsey’s family home in Maywood ended up riddled with bullet holes.
A relative of Dorsey’s said she got a call the next day from Potts. “Next time,” she said he warned her, “they won’t miss.”