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Atlanta Woman Jailed for Two Months in Case of Mistaken Identity

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Teresa Culpepper was in jail for 53 days for a crime she didn't commit and lost her house in the process. (credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

Teresa Culpepper was in jail for 53 days for a crime she didn’t commit and lost her house in the process. (credit: Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — An Atlanta woman is trying to get her life back together after she was mistakenly put behind bars for nearly two months.

In a sequence of events that Teresa Culpepper’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, calls “crazy,” officers arrested Culpepper after she reported her truck missing. Police thought she was another Teresa who was wanted for allegedly pouring boiling water over her boyfriend’s face.

It took 53 days for the legal system to acknowledge that Teresa Culpepper wasn’t Teresa Gilbert.

“She was a black Teresa. That’s all they had in common,” Merchant told CBS Atlanta. Gilbert is 5-foot-10 — taller than Culpepper — and has 30 pounds on her. They have different addresses and birthdays.

It took Culpepper’s public defender to bring in the alleged victim, who said police arrested the wrong person.

Meanwhile, Culpepper lost her disability benefits, her truck and her house. She and her fiancé had to move in with his father.

Merchant said the Atlanta Police Department should make it right by settling or going to court. They missed a critical step, she said, when they sent Culpepper directly to jail instead of getting a positive identification from the victim in the first place.

“She’s not looking to get rich,” Merchant said. “She’s looking to be made whole.”

Atlanta police have launched an internal investigation into the matter.

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