Cleotha Henderson’s Alleged Victim Sues Memphis

The 2021 alleged victim of Cleotha Henderson’s abduction and sexual assault is suing the City of Memphis, claiming that the Memphis Police Department did not conduct a thorough investigation into the sexual assault.

On Tuesday, the lady filed a lawsuit in Memphis Circuit Court, claiming she has sustained “physical and emotional injuries” that necessitate continuing medical and mental health care. She is requesting compensation for losses.

Cleotha Henderson's Alleged Victim Sues Memphis
Cleotha Henderson’s Alleged Victim Sues Memphis

Henderson, alias “Abston,” who police believe kidnapped and murdered Eliza Fletcher in 2021, was indicted on charges of sexual assault and kidnapping on September 8.

The indictment was handed down after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation analyzed the DNA from the rape kit that had been stolen on September 21, 2021, as part of a standard testing procedure in late June. A CODIS hit was returned for Henderson on September 5, two days following his arrest in connection with Fletcher’s kidnapping, after the kit was returned on August 30.

According to the complaint, Henderson was known as “Cleo” to the plaintiff before they met via a dating app.

He was arrested in the same apartment complex where he went on a date with her in early September. Henderson threatened the lady with death after she met him outside an apartment complex, blindfolded her, and raped her in a car parked behind the complex after they had a sexual encounter.

The lawsuit further asserts that police did not collect any tangible evidence from the scene of the crime.

The lawsuit claims that once the woman had finished her forensic medical exam, she was taken to the crime scene by investigators from the Memphis Police Department who were working the investigation. MPD officers who processed the site did not remove any tangible evidence.

The woman gave authorities the name “Cleo,” his phone number, a description of the vehicle he drove, and information about his social media accounts; but, The Commercial Appeal has not identified her since it does not identify victims of sexual assault.

In a “lineup” arrangement, MPD gave the woman “visual information and/or images of many potential suspects.” According to the petition, Henderson was identified as one of the males displayed, and despite having probable cause to arrest him, authorities did not do anything.

The woman “could not identify her attacker from images she was shown at the time,” according to the lawsuit. ” Overhearing the police, [she] speculated, “maybe we need to show her a younger photograph – this photo (probably of Cleo Abston) is 10 to 12 years old.””

The police promised the woman a more recent photo, but either never found one or failed to inform her that they had found one.

The lawsuit further claims that TBI should have been used to expedite the delivery of the rape kit.

The lawsuit claims that “the Memphis Police Department submitted the sexual assault kit taken from [the woman] to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (or “TBI”) but did not request that the sexual assault kit be processed on a ‘rush’ or expedited basis, as it could have been, particularly given the risk of harm Cleotha Abston likely presented to [the woman] and the community at large.”

According to the complaint, Eliza Fletcher’s abduction and murder could have been prevented if Cleotha Abston had been arrested and indicted for aggravated rape “many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021, based on all of the information set forth in the preceding paragraphs of this Complaint.” Henderson was identified in a national DNA database, providing additional probable cause for an arrest.

A complaint was filed against the City of Memphis, claiming that the city was negligent and reckless “by the actions of the MPD officers who worked on the investigation of [the woman’s] case.”

A representative for the Memphis Police Department declined to comment, citing the department’s policy of not discussing pending litigation.

The woman, who has relocated to Mississippi, sued The Lakes at Ridgeway on the same day. Claiming that the lack of security at the community enabled Henderson to sexually abuse her in a vacant apartment, the lady is seeking $2 million in damages from the complex.

At her court filing, she implied that her rape was not the only violent act committed in the residence.

According to the complaint, Henderson was able to commit the crime because the apartment he used to tempt the victim away from her car was unoccupied and easily accessible. According to what we now know and believe, this wasn’t Henderson’s first time using this empty residence for illicit purposes.

In the court documents, she also claimed that Henderson had made “lewd and indecent comments” to other women at the complex, and that the property management had done nothing to order him to leave.

Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two and a teacher, went missing on the University of Memphis campus on September 2 while out on an early morning jog. A search party located her body three days later in the backyard of a deserted home. On September 4, Henderson was arrested, and on September 5, he was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

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