Woman raped by man who murdered Eliza Fletcher says police had ‘enough evidence’ to charge him

Woman who was raped by same man who murdered Eliza Fletcher says Memphis police had ‘more than enough evidence’ to charge him ONE YEAR before he kidnapped and killed billionaire heiress while she was jogging

  •  Alicia Franklin, 22, reported being raped in September 2021 by a man she met online
  •  She immediately reported the sexual assault to Memphis police who processed a rape kit, taking DNA samples
  •  Franklin says her rape kit sat around for more than a year before police tied it to Cleotha Abston-Henderson
  •  Abston-Henderson was charged in Franklin’s rape case, but only after he was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher
  • DNA evidence that police had on file before Franklin’s rape could have resulted in his arrest before he allegedly attacked and killed Fletcher
  • Franklin has sued the city of Memphis and the police department for not doing enough to catch the suspect
  • Memphis city government and police declined to comment, citing pending litigation 

A Memphis woman who claims that she was raped by the same man charged with the kidnapping and murder of a billionaire heiress says that police had ‘more than enough evidence’ a year ago to keep the man behind bars.

Alicia Franklin, 22, in a bombshell interview, said that if sex crimes investigators had done their jobs properly, Eliza Fletcher, who was kidnapped and killed while jogging through Memphis on September 2 could still be alive.

‘They had more than enough evidence to get him off the street that night when they interviewed me to get him off the streets. But they didn’t,’ she told ABCNews.

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is now charged with raping Franklin nearly a year ago — but the charges were not filed until after he was arrested and charged with the murder of Fletcher.

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has not yet answered the rape charges. He had been due to appear in court on Monday, but the hearing was rescheduled for September 28.

Alicia Franklin, 22, says that Memphis police had 'more than enough evidence' for a year to arrest and prosecute Cleotha Abston-Henderson, who is now charged with raping her

Alicia Franklin, 22, says that Memphis police had ‘more than enough evidence’ for a year to arrest and prosecute Cleotha Abston-Henderson, who is now charged with raping her

The accused killer of Eliza Fletcher was arrested just days after the pre-school teacher (above) was abducted. But the rape case against him languished for a year despite strong leads

The accused killer of Eliza Fletcher was arrested just days after the pre-school teacher (above) was abducted. But the rape case against him languished for a year despite strong leads

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has not yet answered the rape charges

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has not yet answered the rape charges

While DNA evidence from Fletcher’s abduction was tested within hours, the rape kit in Franklin’s case sat on a shelf for months, and she says police failed to take basic steps such as gathering fingerprints after she was violently assaulted.

‘I’m angry. Not a day goes by that I didn’t think about this,’ she told Good Morning America.

‘I definitely believe she would have still been alive today,’ she said, speaking of Fletcher.

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is charged with raping a woman one year ago in addition to the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is charged with raping a woman one year ago in addition to the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

In September 2021, Franklin says she met a man she only knew as ‘Cleo’ through the online dating app Plenty Of Fish, and agreed to meet him in a large apartment complex in southeast Memphis.

His invitation had originally been to meet for dinner at Olive Garden, but when Franklin said her car was riding on a spare tire and she didn’t want to drive that far, they agreed to meet at what he said was his apartment.

But when she arrived, she says Henderson held a gun to her neck and led her inside one of the apartments, which appeared to be empty and under renovation.

There, he blindfolded her with a T shirt and led her to a white Dodge Charger, where he assaulted her, and then took her back into the apartment. It was a terrifying ordeal that she did not expect to survive.

‘I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of my head,’ she told the Daily Memphian.

She told him that she was four months pregnant, which was true, but she says that he was undeterred.

‘All you b***ches say that,’ he told her.

In a lawsuit that Franklin filed against the city and police department on Tuesday, she says that the statement indicates that he had raped other women. 

‘Can you please let me go? Please let me go,’ she recalled pleading with her attacker.

After the assault, Franklin immediately reported he crime and went to a rape crisis center when evidence was collected, she told ABCNews.

Then nothing happened for days.

‘Nobody was really talking to me,’ she told the news outlet.

The attacker rummaged through her purse, touching her keys and cell phone, before stealing some cash and leaving her.

She found a photo of her sister in her handbag, according to the lawsuit, and asked if she worked for law enforcement.

Franklin says police failed to fingerprint her phone, and dropped the ball on a vital clue — the address of the apartment where the attack occurred.

Henderson was identified as a suspect in Eliza Fletcher (pictured) in just 18 hours, after a sandal left at the crime scene came back with a match to his DNA

Henderson was identified as a suspect in Eliza Fletcher (pictured) in just 18 hours, after a sandal left at the crime scene came back with a match to his DNA

Franklin was attacked at this apartment complex last year -- but cops did not make an arrest, despite the suspect Henderson living doors away from the scene of the crime

Franklin was attacked at this apartment complex last year — but cops did not make an arrest, despite the suspect Henderson living doors away from the scene of the crime

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, saying police failed to follow clear leads for nearly a year, until the suspect Henderson allegedly killed a woman

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, saying police failed to follow clear leads for nearly a year, until the suspect Henderson allegedly killed a woman

The city of Memphis and the police department declined to comment on Franklin’s charges because of the pending lawsuit. 

According to a police incident report, the apartment is located at 5783 Waterstone Oak Way, just doors away from where Henderson appears to live, and where he was arrested for Fletcher’s murder a year later.

Franklin also says she gave police her assailant’s phone number.

Cops did present Franklin with a photo lineup, but she says she wasn’t able to confidently identify Henderson, because the photo of him they included was old, and showed him with a dreadlock hairstyle that he didn’t wear any longer.

‘They never showed me an updated picture. I called like two or three months later, and was like, ‘Hey, you know, (the detective) said that she was going to, you know, try to do another photo lineup with updated pictures and … I haven’t heard from her,” recalled Franklin.

‘And then they were like, ‘Oh, well, she’s actually been promoted since then, so she’s no longer the detective on your case,” the victim said.

She said that when she did get through to police they told her that the investigation had gone cold.

‘They said that they didn’t have enough evidence. They said this is not enough evidence to charge him for rape,’ she told the morning show.

A trail of evidence led to Henderson’s arrest in Fletcher’s murder just days after the jogger disappeared on her morning run.

He was rebooked at the Shelby County Jail on September 9 on charges related to the 2021 rape case.

Law enforcement officials have said his indictment on those allegations didn’t occur before the Fletcher killing because of the timing in testing his DNA in the rape case.

In the case of Fletcher’s abduction, Henderson was identified as a suspect in just 18 hours, after a sandal left at the crime scene came back with a match to his DNA.

His DNA was already in police databases due to a prior felony conviction.

Henderson previously served 20 years in prison for a kidnapping he committed at age 16.

‘I didn’t want to believe it because I just never thought that my case would have [been] tied to [Fletcher’s] case. I was shocked,’ she said. ‘I’m still kind of trying to process everything.’ 

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