Memphis responds to lawsuit by victim allegedly raped by Eliza Fletcher's accused killer, year before slaying

Memphis responds to lawsuit by victim allegedly raped by Eliza Fletcher's accused killer, year before slaying

The City of Memphis admitted this week the police department didn’t take fingerprints at the scene of an alleged rape by Eliza Fletcher’s suspected killer a year before her death, according to a report.

Items included the victim's purse and cellphone, which she had told investigators her alleged rapist had touched.

The department responded on Monday in a court document to a lawsuit filed by Alicia Franklin, who said she was raped by Cleotha Abston (aka Henderson) in September 2021, but the Memphis Police Department didn’t properly investigate her attack, allowing him to stay out of jail.

Abston was charged earlier this year with abducting and murdering Fletcher in Memphis while she was out on an early morning jog in September.

ELIZA FLETCHER MURDER SUSPECT ALLEGEDLY CONNECTED TO 2021 RAPE; POLICE DIDN'T REQUEST ‘EXPEDITED’ DNA REVIEW

Eliza Fletcher smiling for a selfie, cleotha henderson in court
Eliza Fletcher in an undated photograph; Accused killer Cleotha Abston in Memphis court

Later that same month, he was charged with aggravated kidnapping and rape in Franklin's case.

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Franklin says she met Abston, who she only knew by his first name, on a dating app and the two agreed to meet up at an apartment building where he said he worked maintenance before heading out for dinner before her alleged rape, according to WMC-TV.

Her rape kit sat on a shelf of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for a year and was only sent to a national database after Fletcher’s body was found, according to WMC.

Deputy speaks with Cleotha Henderson in court
Cleotha Henderson, 38, aka Cleotha Abston who is now charged with the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher in Memphis earlier this month, appeared in court Monday morning September, 19, 2022 before Judge Montesi.

Franklin said she took investigators to the scene of the alleged attack immediately and gave them information such as his phone number, the name he gave her and the type of car he drove but said they didn’t take any evidence from the scene.

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The city, which has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, admitted it didn’t collect fingerprints at the scene but said Franklin was only able to give "CJ" as the suspect’s name.

The city has also requested "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous allegations" be removed from the lawsuit if it isn’t dismissed.

Cleotha Henderson mugshot
Booking photo shows Cleotha Henderson, who has been in prison for more than half his life.

A public information officer with the Memphis Police Department told Fox News Digital in September that probable cause to make "any" arrest didn't exist until the DNA hit was received.

A spokesperson for TBI told Fox News that the Memphis Police Department didn't request an expedited analysis of the sexual assault kit from the September 2021 alleged rape, and "no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission."

Because the analysis wasn't expedited and was placed into the "queue of unknown assailant kits," a forensic scientist with the TBI began its review of the sexual assault kit on June 24, and finished an "initial report" on Aug. 29. Afterward, the unknown male DNA profile was entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, which resulted in a positive match of Abston on Sept. 5. The TBI then reported its findings to the Memphis Police Department.

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The TBI spokesperson told Fox News that when it receives an expedited request for analysis on a sexual assault kit, it usually takes five business days to process "depending on the amount of evidence submitted."

The Memphis Police Department didn't immediately to Fox News Digital's request for comment on Friday.

Fox News' Adam Sabes contributed to this report.