Advocacy Groups Ask Governor Lee To Appoint Independent Investigator Regarding Memphis Teacher’s Murder

Image Credit: Memphis Police Department & Andre Porter (imagN Images) / CC

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Advocacy groups are asking Governor Bill Lee to appoint an independent investigator to look into the possible failures of state agencies that may have led to the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher earlier this year.

Cleotha Abston Henderson, the man who has been charged with grabbing the 34-year-old teacher as she was jogging early in the morning of September 2nd near the University of Memphis, has also been connected to a 2021 abduction after results of a backlogged DNA kit were received.

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A new law that went into effect earlier this year would have prevented both crimes by keeping Henderson in jail. Before being released early in 2020, Henderson had served 22 years out of a 24-year sentence, and was not under supervision or parole at the time of his attack on Fletcher.

Both House Speaker Cameron Sexton and the Senate’s Lt. Governor Randy McNally sponsored a bill earlier this year to require that violent criminals serve 100% of their prison sentences. The aim of the new legislation is to keep the most dangerous criminals from reoffending by keeping them behind bars.

Governor Bill Lee allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

The Truth in Sentencing law provides certainty to victims of violent crimes that the criminals who victimized them will remain incarcerated for the entirety of their sentence and will not be eligible for early release.

Those found guilty of the following offenses will now serve 100% of their sentence.

  • Attempted first degree murder
  • Second degree murder
  • Vehicular homicide resulting from the driver’s intoxication
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Especially aggravated kidnapping
  • Especially aggravated robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Especially aggravated burglary

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In a letter addressed to Governor Lee and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and released to The Commercial Appeal, Meaghan Ybos – executive director for People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL) – and Matthew Charles – a policy associate for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) – ask for an investigator who does not work for Tennessee law enforcement “so that the public can be assured that the investigation is independent and will not be influenced by interests whose failures might have contributed to allowing this tragedy to occur.”

“Ultimately, the failure to test the 2021 rape kit in a timely manner and to arrest and charge Mr. Abston allowed him to roam free until he allegedly killed Ms. Fletcher,” the letter read. “We think an investigation into this grave lapse must take place if state leaders truly want to prevent future tragedies.”

Ybos, herself a victim of rape when she was 16-years-old, is involved in a civil case that alleges that Memphis Police Department has mishandled thousands of rape kits over the years. Ybos’s case went unsolved for 9 years when the man who raped her at knifepoint was finally arrested in 2012.

Alicia Franklin who is suing the City of Memphis for the handling of her alleged 2021 abduction and rape by Henderson, provided MPD with Henderson’s name, contact info and social media handles. She had met Henderson through a dating app. He was never arrested for the rape, and a rape kit that was taken and sent to TBI for testing was not sent with a “rush” designation, nor was any suspect information included on the submission.

Henderson is now facing aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful carrying of a weapon charges in that 2021 case, and first-degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping charges in regards to Fletcher.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at paula@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

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