Woman raped by Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer a year prior recalls horrific night

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis woman said an accused killer raped her one year ago. A day after filing a lawsuit against the City of Memphis over how her case was handled, the first on-camera interview with Alicia Franklin aired Wednesday morning.

FOX13 would normally not name the victim of a sexual assault, but Franklin has been very vocal about wanting her name out there to bring attention to the incident and the negligence, she claims, on part of the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department (MPD).

RELATED: Rape victim sues city for negligence over case with Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer

Franklin said on Good Morning America that she was raped by Cleotha Henderson, the same man charged with kidnapping and murdering Eliza Fletcher. According to her interview, she messaged Henderson on a dating site and he assaulted and robbed her at gunpoint the first time they met.

She believes the mishandled investigation, including delays in testing her rape kit, opened the door for Fletcher to be kidnapped and killed.

“They had more than enough evidence that night when they interviewed me to get him off the streets, but they didn’t,” Franklin said.

She said on September 21, 2021, Cleotha Henderson forced her into a vacant apartment, blindfolded her, then raped her.

She said he stole her money, then told her not to move until she heard his car drive away.

“I thought he was going to shoot me in the back of the head because I just didn’t see him letting me go,” Franklin said.

Her interview echoed the lawsuit she filed Tuesday against the City of Memphis, questioning why her rape kit wasn’t tested until this summer, with results coming in days after police said Henderson abducted and murdered Eliza Fletcher.

RELATED: New details surrounding the death of Eliza Fletcher released

She said she thinks of the assault every day.

“I have always been paranoid since then,” Franklin said. “I’m always on edge, I don’t trust people. I’m always looking over my shoulder.”

Franklin’s attorneys claim after the rape, she gave investigators information including Henderson’s nickname, a description of his car, his phone number and dating app profile.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims law enforcement could have prevented Henderson’s future crimes, including Fletcher’s murder, had the Memphis Police Department investigated Franklin’s case “adequately and with due diligence.”

RELATED: New charges filed against man accused of abducting Memphis mother near UofM

Gary Smith, one of Franklin’s attorneys, told FOX113 that authorities knew who they were looking for shortly after she was attacked.

“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,” he said. “They said ‘We’ll give you a more recent photo to show you,’ which they never did,”

The lawsuit states MPD “failed to honor Franklin’s courage” by not taking reasonable steps to catch her attacker.

The City of Memphis said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Henderson is due back in court next week.