Amended lawsuit claims Cleotha Henderson avoided rape charge for months despite evidence

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The woman who said Cleotha Henderson raped her last year has filed an amended lawsuit against the city of Memphis.

Henderson is the man charged in the murder and kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher last month.

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The lawsuit claims Memphis Police interviewed the then girlfriend of Henderson shortly after the alleged rape of Alicia Franklin.

It said that investigators were given Henderson’s full name, two cars he had access to and where he moved to after the pair broke up.

One of the cars matched the description of the car in the Eliza Fletcher kidnapping.

The lawsuit claims Memphis Police had plenty of information on Henderson as a suspect in the rape of Franklin and he should and could have been arrested before the kidnapping and murder of Fletcher.

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The first lawsuit said it all started on September 21, 2021, through a dating app, where Franklin planned to meet the man she knew as ‘Cleo’. It then goes on to say he held her at gunpoint and took her to an abandoned Hickory Hill apartment.

That’s where she said she was raped and later that day, she said she went to Memphis Police to get a rape kit done.

“She provided them a first name, she gave them his phone number, she gave them the dating app site, which the police dept has special access to identify participants in,” said her attorney Gary Smith.

Smith said this was not the only information that Memphis Police failed to follow up on.

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He said, according to his client, this rape happened in the same neighborhood where Henderson’s last address is listed, on Waterstone Oak Way.

“Typical investigation of a crime scene, whether it be rape or murder or some other crime, one of the primary investigative techniques is to canvas the neighborhood, they did not do that, and there he was, basically next door,” said Smith.

And, he said according to Franklin, she was brought in to look at a photo lineup, which he says was also botched.

“It is apparent that very, very early on, the police knew who he was because they gave her a photo lineup with 10 photos which included an old picture of him that was roughly 20+ years old which made it difficult to identify him and they said ‘we’ll give you a more recent photo to show you’, which they never did,” Smith said.

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The lawsuit said although the rape kit was submitted to the TBI in a timely manner, it wasn’t removed from storage until June 24 of this year and the initial report was completed on August 29.

Then, it says a TBI scientist entered the data into CODIS on September 5th, just days after Eliza Fletcher’s abduction.

Fletcher was abducted on Friday, September 2nd, and by the 3rd, Henderson was named as a suspect when his DNA was found on a slipper at the abduction site near the University of Memphis campus.

Smith said, in that case, Fletcher’s DNA was turned around in less than 24 hours, and it’s been a struggle for Franklin to cope with.

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“Since this came to light, Eliza Fletcher’s death, she can’t eat, she can’t sleep, it’s just tormented her.”

He said, based on comments Henderson allegedly made to Franklin and comments she relayed to investigators, were clear indicators that Memphis Police were potentially dealing with a serial rapist, but still, they did not bring him in.

“She tried to fend him off by claiming that she was pregnant and he responded, and I’m going to clean up what he said, but he said ‘that is what all of y’all always say’, a clear implication that there were other rape victims who tried to use that defense mechanism and he did not believe it,” said Smith.

The victim said she told police everything she knew about the man, giving them his social media pages, a description of his car, and even his phone number.