Eliza Fletcher Died After Cops Mishandled Earlier Case
According to a complaint filed by the victim’s family, the Tennessee police neglected to properly investigate the suspected killer in a previous sexual assault case, which led to the kidnapping and murder of a jogger.
The two cases involving Cleotha Henderson have now resulted in charges. In the case involving Eliza Fletcher’s death, he was accused of murder, and in the case from 2021, he was charged with aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and the unauthorized carrying of a firearm.
According to the lawsuit, Fletcher was already suffering from the effects of the assault when charges were filed. After Fletcher had already passed away, the DNA evidence that had led to prosecution in the first sexual assault case pointed to Henderson as the perpetrator.
The mother of two and teacher, 34-year-old Fletcher, disappeared from the University of Memphis campus early on the morning of September 2. Her body was discovered three days later in the backyard of an abandoned house. Henderson, also known by the surname Abston, was arrested on September 4 and charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping the following day. On September 9th, Henderson was rebooked on accusations pertaining to the 2021 case.
The accused victim of Henderson’s sexual assault filed suit against him on Tuesday. The lawsuit asserts that police arrived at the scene of the crime without collecting any physical evidence, took too long to process the rape kit, failed to fix a problem with a lineup that would have allowed Henderson to be identified, and failed to make an attempt to arrest Henderson despite having evidence against him.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff sustained “physical and emotional injuries” that necessitate long-term medical and psychological care. She has asked for monetary compensation but has not specified how much.
The complaint claims that if Henderson had been apprehended “many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021, based on all of the information set forth in the preceding paragraphs of this Complaint, and the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have occurred,”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted standard DNA testing on the stolen rape kit in late June, leading to the most recent indictment. A hit was returned for Henderson on September 5, 2022, one day after he was booked in connection with Fletcher’s kidnapping (the kit was returned on August 30, 2022).
According to the complaint, Henderson was previously known to the woman as “Cleo.”
2 women raped by the same man. One reported it and was ignored. His DNA from her body was never tested.
This allowed him to roam the streets and do it again this time murdering the next victim. #ElizaFletcher #AliciaFranklin pic.twitter.com/SVknRHuPVX
— 🤨 Lovely 🤨 (@SweetPea1636) September 24, 2022
At the same apartment complex where Henderson was arrested in early September, the two went on a date. According to the lawsuit, Henderson met the woman outside an apartment complex, threatened to kill her, blindfolded her, and raped her in a car parked behind the complex.
The woman gave investigators the name “Cleo,” a phone number, a description of the vehicle he drove, and information from his social media accounts; however, she has not been identified.
The lawsuit claims that the police had many opportunities to strengthen their case against Henderson, including the ability to show the woman a lineup with a more recent photo of Henderson after initially displaying her an outdated one.
The lawsuit also claims that an entry for Henderson in a national DNA database provided sufficient probable cause for his detention. A representative for the Memphis Police Department said the agency does not provide information on ongoing legal proceedings.
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