News

Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer Cleotha Abston back in court

The man accused of kidnapping and murdering heiress Eliza Fletcher — a year after allegedly raping another woman at gunpoint — was due before a judge in Memphis on Monday.

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, was due back in court in Shelby County, Tenn., for a hearing.

Abston-Henderson faces charges of abduction and murder in Fletcher’s case.

The suspect, who served 20 years for an especially aggravated kidnaping in 2000 targeting a lawyer, also has been charged with an additional count of aggravated kidnaping and rape in a separate case, according to police.

The alleged victim in that case, who publicly identifed herself as Alicia Franklin, 22, told the Institute for Public Service Reporting and the Daily Memphian that detectives assigned to her rape case “didn’t care” and failed to collect fingerprints from her phone, or show her a recent photo of her attacker for identification purposes.

Eliza Fletcher
Abston-Henderson has been charged with kidnapping and murder for the death of heiress Eliza Fletcher, 34.
Instagram/Liza Fletcher

A sexual assault kit was submitted by Memphis police in Franklin’s case, but they did not ask for it to be expedited so it wasn’t analyzed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for another 10 months, according to WREG.

Franklin said she believes these steps could have put her alleged rapist, Abston-Henderson, behind bars months before Fletcher’s killing.

She accused cops of failing to make her case a priority, suggesting that her race may have played a role in it.

“I was just an average black girl in the city of Memphis,” she said.

Police investigating Fletcher's disappearance
Fletcher was abducted in Memphis while jogging in the early hours of Sept. 2.
AP

Franklin said she met Abston-Henderson on the dating app Plenty of Fish and agreed to meet him in person in September 2021.

She claimed that as soon as she entered his apartment, Abston-Henderson pressed a gun to her neck, then covered her head with a T-shirt and raped her, before taking off with a wad of her cash.

“I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of my head,” she recalled.

Nearly a year later, Fletcher, 34, the granddaughter of a billionaire, and a married mom of two, was jogging around 4:20 a.m. Sept. 2 near the University of Memphis when police said Abston-Henderson ambushed her.

Cleotha Abston-Henderson
Abston-Henderson, who served 20 years for a prior kidnapping, is also facing charges for allegedly raping a woman in September 2021.
AP

Security footage showed the man forcing Fletcher, whom he apparently did not know, into a car and speeding away.

Abston-Henderson was arrested the next day after DNA linked him to a pair of sandals left near the abduction scene.

Fletcher’s body was recovered three days after her disappearance, on Sept. 5, outside an abandoned home in South Memphis, in an area close to where police say Abston-Henderson was seen in surveillance video cleaning his clothes and the inside of his GMC Terrain.

It remains unclear how or where Fletcher died.

Leave a Comment