'It’s not right to take a person’s life. It’s wrong. If I could take it back, I would.'
- Cavona Flenoy
Chillicothe Correctional Center is a female prison in Livingston County, Missouri. It can house up to 1,740 inmates at a mix of different security levels at any one time. One of those 1,740 convicts is a woman called Cavona Flenoy. She is, by her own admission, a killer.
As is so often the case with such serious crimes, there’s quite a difference of opinion as to what drove Ms. Flenoy to take her victim’s life. She claims if was self defence; she feared for her life from a would-be rapist… The state of Missouri, however, say that hers was a premeditated killing that aided in her ultimate plan - the robbery of her victim.
On March 9th 2010, 19 year-old Cavona left her home in Kansas City, Kansas to meet up with a man and go out on a first date with him. That man was Hassan Abbas. He picked her up and drove her to his house because, he said, he’d just finished work and wanted to freshen up. His place was 20 miles north of Kansas City in Platte City, Missouri.
Over state lines.Inside his house, according to Cavona, Hassan offered her a large glass of Hennessey and some PCP. An alcoholic and sometime drug user, she accepted his offer. Then, she says, he took his shower.
When he returned, however, he was fully naked and wearing a condom. He demanded sex.
'I pushed him down like I was about to have sex with him. I got the gun. And I just pulled the trigger.'
She refused, a scuffle broke out and she shot him three times. Hassan Abbas later died of his wounds.
Panicking, Cavona grabbed Hassan’s wallet in case she needed cash to make her escape, got into his car and drove back to Kansas to her cousin’s house.
A day later, Cavona was arrested. She confessed fully.
During her police interview, Platte County Police used an old police trick that’s frowned upon in some circles but not illegal in any way. Midway through a conversation, the officers vacate the room. Behind them they leave a notepad and pen and suggest the suspect write a letter to someone. Or make notes. Or doodle. Just, y’know, let off some steam.
They then check out the pad for anything that contradicts their suspect’s official story and use it against them to build a case. It’s underhanded, but it’s often quite useful. Whether it’s fair or reliable or moral… that’s another story.
The cops used the ploy on Cavona. She made copious notes, 99% of which backed up her story. One sentence, however, stood out. It suggested cunning on her part. Cunning and a little premeditation.
It was all the police needed. The case was built around those few sentences. The prosecution had a field day with it. Not that the case went to court, though. Cavona took a plea bargain.
The deal? Cop to second-degree murder and admit guilt and she could skip court and end up with a 10-year stretch. (In Missouri if a defendant does not receive probation, second-degree murder carries a minimum 10-year sentence). Reject the deal and it’s a first-degree murder charge that risks life in prison.
Cavona Flenoy, understandably, took the plea. It turned out to be a huge mistake.
It transpires that Platte County in Missouri is the kind of place that takes law and order very seriously indeed. The kind of place that doesn’t care if you’re a young woman who has effectively been kidnapped and trafficked over state lines. If you come into that county with a gun and kill a Missourian, you’re in serious trouble. No matter how it went down.
'This defendant repeatedly shot her victim in the chest with a gun she had bought three days earlier,' Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said afterwards in a statement. 'She murdered him and then stole his wallet and his car. She might look like a harmless 19-year-old girl, but the truth is that she is a very dangerous woman.'
The judge gave Cavona Flenoy a 25 year sentence. (In Missouri, second-degree murder is punishable by a maximum of life in prison or a term of up to 30 years in prison.) She’s in prison now and will be for the foreseeable future.
Did Cavona Flenoy murder Hassan Abbas in cold blood just to rob him of his wallet and car? Or was she trying to save her own life? Shooting a man three times as he lay naked and unarmed on a bed seems extreme though, doesn’t it? Unless there are mitigating circumstances, that is…
Cavona Flenoy claims to have been raped before. And not just once. A series of sexual assaults as a teenager led to her suffering from quite serious mental health and addiction issues. Severe domestic abuse from the father of her child hadn’t helped.
Psychiatrists that have spoken to and evaluated Cavona agree that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. At trial, the judge was made aware of Cavona's PTSD from lengthy testimony from Dr. Marilyn Hutchinson.
Three years after her sentencing, a new legal team appealed Cavona’s surprisingly lengthy 25 year sentence. Platte County remained unswayed and upheld it. She’s looking at another 17 years inside Chillicothe Correctional Center.
Is it fair? Is Cavona Flenoy a cold-blooded killer that needs to be kept away from society? Or a victim of abuse with PTSD that fought for her life against a potential rapist?
Make your mind up when you hear her full story on the latest episode of I am a Killer.