Man accused of killing Memphis mom Eliza Fletcher charged with previous armed abduction, rape

The violent murder of Memphis mom Eliza Fletcher as she went on a morning jog has captivated the nation, and now her suspected murderer, 38-year-old Cleotha Henderson, has been indicted for allegedly kidnapping and raping a second, unrelated victim a year before Fletcher’s death.

According to court documents obtained by Fox News Digital, “Cleotha Abston AKA Cleotha Henderson On Sept. 21, 2021, in Shelby County, Tennessee, and before the finding of this indictment, did unlawfully and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly sexually penetrate [the victim] by use of force or coercion, while armed with a weapon.”

Memphis police took the earlier, unnamed victim’s sexual assault report on Sept. 21, 2021, and submitted a sexual assault kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) two days later, the Associated Press reports.

It was, according to a statement from the Memphis Police Department, a simple delay that prevented police from arresting Henderson before Fletcher was murdered a year later.

“An official CODIS (national DNA database) hit was not received until after the unfortunate event that occurred on September 2, 2022,” the statement read. “Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received.”

TBI confirmed on Saturday that the rape kit was submitted last Sept. 23, and said in a statement that the evidence was “put into the queue of unknown assailant kits, as no request was made for TBI analysis to be expedited, and no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission.”

The kit, along with 19 others, was eventually dusted off on June 24 and, according to TBI, the initial report of the results came on August 29,  four days before Fletcher was abducted and murdered.

The 2021 match to Henderson’s DNA wasn’t received until September 5, and Henderson was indicted in the case on September 8.

Henderson was arrested for kidnapping and killing Fletcher “less than 18 hours after receiving key evidence, which was critical in his subsequent apprehension” because a “rush” was put on the DNA, the TBI explained. Apparently, no such rush was put on the earlier victim’s evidence.

“Because we rarely know the facts of the case when processing evidence, TBI relies on submitting agencies to identify cases that would benefit their investigation from our rush analysis,” the TBI statement explained.

Henderson has spent more than half his life behind Tennessee bars.

He was convicted of kidnapping yet another victim, prominent local lawyer Kemper Durand, at gunpoint and forcing him to withdraw cash from several Memphis ATMs.

“The suspect was 16 at the time, and already had been charged as a juvenile five times for aggravated assault and was found responsible for another rape case when he was just 14,” Fox News Digital reports.

“If he had not been released early due to sentence-reduction credits,” the news outlet states, “he would have been behind bars during both the attacks on Fletcher and the other woman.”


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Melissa Fine


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