Rape victim sues city of Memphis alleging negligence in 2021 case that allowed Eliza Fletcher’s death

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – The victim who says she was raped by Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer 11 months ago filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Memphis for failing to investigate the 2021 case and subsequently failing to prevent the death of Fletcher.

The victim, Alicia Franklin, agreed to Action News 5 using her name.

“I don’t really want to put myself in the spotlight for this,” Franklin said, “but I felt like it could help a lot of women come forward.”

The lawsuit says that “the Memphis Police Department failed to investigate the violation adequately and with due diligence,” and that officers failed to “use existing evidence in a timely manner” to effectively arrest the suspect “in time to prevent him from committing at least one more violent crime.”

The documents show that this suspect was Cleotha Henderson, the same man behind bars for Eliza Fletcher’s kidnapping and murder.

According to the lawsuit, Franklin agreed to go on a date with Henderson after a month of texting and talking on a dating app.

On September 21, 2021, they met at The Lakes at Ridgeway Apartments in southeast Memphis, where Henderson told her he worked as a maintenance worker.

Instead of taking her out to dinner, the lawsuit says, he “pulled a gun on her … threatened to kill her … forced her into the back seat (of his car). . . . . raped her and took money from her…” and then left her in an empty apartment after the attack, telling her not to move until he heard his car drive away.

Franklin immediately sought medical attention for the rape and trauma she suffered and contacted authorities to report the crime. As a result of a medical forensic examination, a sexual assault kit was collected, including DNA evidence of the suspect.

Immediately after the examination, Franklin took the officers assigned to the case to the crime scene, where they “did not take physical evidence directly from the crime scene,” the suit says.

Cleotha Henderson’s DNA is linked to the 2021 rape

Franklin provided other evidence to officers, including the name “Cleo” as he had known her, her phone number, a description of the vehicle and her social media information.

The lawsuit says that “within days of the rape of Alicia Franklin, MPD already knew or strongly suspected that Cleotha Abston (Henderson) was the man who had raped her on September 21, 2021, because MPD had included a photo of Cleotha Abston (Henderson) in a suspicious lineup, … and MPD was already or should have been familiar with him because of his criminal history and known risk that he might commit other violent crimes.”

The woman’s rape kit sat on a shelf and had not been tested until this year.

Data from the DNA violation was finally entered into the TBI system on September 5, days after Fletcher’s abduction, and came back as a match to Henderson.

“MPD already had enough information to suspect that Cloetha Abston (Henderson) was the man who had raped Alicia Franklin, but MPD officers made no attempt to arrest him,” the lawsuit continues.

Months after the alleged rape, Franklin called the Memphis Police Department for an update on her case and was told there was no updated information to give her.

The kit’s DNA profile came back as a match to Henderson 11 months later, as authorities investigated Henderson for Fletcher’s murder.

The lawsuit argues that police could have prevented Fletcher’s kidnapping and murder if Henderson had been charged with the alleged rape many months earlier.

Henderson is now charged with that violation.

The apartment complex where police say the rape occurred is the same one where Henderson was arrested after Fletcher’s murder, and where police said the car used in her kidnapping was found.

Franklin’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional and physical distress.

Action News 5 reached out to the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department for comment.

Both entities said that, as usual, they would not comment on pending litigation.

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