2021 Sexual Assault Victim Sues MPD For Botching Case That Would Have Put Eliza Fletcher’s Killer Behind Bars

Image Credit: Thomas R Machnitzki / CC

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

A woman, who the Memphis Police Department says was abducted and sexually assaulted by Cleotha Abston Henderson in 2021, is suing the City of Memphis and is accusing the Police Department for inadequately investigating her sexual assault case.

According to a report by Commercial Appeal, the woman filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court in Memphis on Tuesday, stating that she suffered from “physical and emotional injuries” that require ongoing medical and mental health treatment.  She is seeking damages in an unspecified amount.

Cleotha Henderson a.k.a. Cleotha “Pookie” Abston was indicted on September 8th, 2022 for a 2021 sexual assault and kidnapping.

The indictment came after the TBI analyzed a rape kit that was taken September 21, 2021.  The results came back two days after Henderson had been arrested in connection to Eliza Fletcher’s abduction.

The new lawsuit details how the woman met Henderson over a dating app and knew him only as “Cleo.”

The two met for a date at the same apartment complex he was arrested at in early September. Upon meeting, Henderson forced the woman at gunpoint into an apartment, then blindfolding her and threated to kill her, eventually raping her in a car behind the apartment.

In addition, the lawsuit claims investigators did not take physical evidence from the crime scene when they arrived.

Memphis Police provided the woman with lineup photographs with one of the potential suspects being Henderson.  The court filing police had enough evidence to suspect Henderson, but they did not try to take him into custody.

The lawsuit reads that the woman was not able to identify her attacker at the time because the photo of Henderson was over a decade old.  Police said they would find a newer picture for the woman to review, but they never found one or did not inform her when they did find a picture.

The lawsuit also states that the rape kit should have been prioritized for processing with TBI, but it was not.  Further, it states that there was existing probable cause to arrest the suspect when he received a national DNA database hit, stating that, “Cleotha Abston should and could have been arrested and indicted for the aggravated rape of [the woman] many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021…and the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have occurred.”

The woman who filed the lawsuit, also filed suit against the apartment complex called “The Lakes at Ridgeway,” stating that the complex lacked the appropriate security that would have prevented Henderson from forcing her into a vacant apartment and subsequently sexually assaulting her.

The woman insinuated her rape was not the first crime to have occurred at the apartment complex.

The lawsuit read, “…the apartment that Henderson used to lure Plaintiff away from her car was vacant and was accessible for Henderson to use for criminal activity… Upon further information and belief, this was not the first time Henderson had used this vacant apartment for criminal activity.”

In the court filing, the woman also asserted that Henderson had harassed other women at the complex making “lewd and inappropriate comments” to them, but property managers did nothing and never asked Henderson to leave.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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