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Woman says Memphis police failed to properly investigate her rape

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is accused of raping a woman a year ago in addition to the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is accused of raping a woman a year ago in addition to the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, accusing police of failing to investigate thoroughly before her alleged attacker was charged with the kidnapping and murder of jogger Eliza Fletcher last month.

Alicia Franklin, 22, spoke out in an interview published in Daily Memphian on Monday, volunteered to be publicly identified, saying: ‘I feel my story could help other women.’

Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, is now accused of raping Franklin almost a year ago – but the charges were only brought after he was arrested and charged with the September 2 murder of Fletcher, who was abducted while he was on a morning run.

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has yet to answer the rape charges. He had been due to appear in court on Monday, but the hearing was postponed to September 28.

While DNA evidence from Fletcher’s abduction was tested within hours, the rape kit in Franklin’s case sat on a shelf for months, and she says police failed to take basic steps such as collecting fingerprints after she was violently assaulted.

“I just think it wasn’t a priority,” Franklin said. “I was just an average black girl in the city of Memphis, you know.”

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, saying police didn't follow up on clear leads for nearly a year until suspect Henderson allegedly killed a woman

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, saying police didn't follow up on clear leads for nearly a year until suspect Henderson allegedly killed a woman

A rape survivor in Memphis has bravely broken her silence, saying police didn’t follow up on clear leads for nearly a year until suspect Henderson allegedly killed a woman

The accused killer of Eliza Fletcher was arrested days after the preschool teacher (above) was abducted.  But the rape case against him lasted a year despite strong leads

The accused killer of Eliza Fletcher was arrested days after the preschool teacher (above) was abducted.  But the rape case against him lasted a year despite strong leads

The accused killer of Eliza Fletcher was arrested days after the preschool teacher (above) was abducted. But the rape case against him lasted a year despite strong leads

A spokesman for the Memphis Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Monday afternoon.

Fletcher, who was white, was a preschool teacher and the grandson of a wealthy businessman. Her abduction attracted national attention and a massive law enforcement response.

Franklin, who grew up in poverty and takes online courses at the university, says the police response to her own violent abduction and rape case was remarkably different.

In September 2021, Franklin says she met a man she knew only as ‘Cleo’ through the online dating app Plenty Of Fish and arranged to meet him at a large apartment complex in southeast Memphis.

His invitation had originally been to meet for dinner at the Olive Garden, but when Franklin said her car was running on a spare tire and she didn’t want to drive that far, they agreed to meet at what he said was his apartment.

But when she arrived, she says Henderson held a gun to her throat and led her into one of the apartments, which appeared to be empty and under renovation.

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has yet to answer the rape charges

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has yet to answer the rape charges

Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has yet to answer the rape charges

There, he blindfolded her with a T-shirt and led her to a white Dodge Charger, where he assaulted her and then took her back to the apartment. It was a terrifying ordeal that she did not expect to survive.

“I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of the head,” she told the Daily Memphian.

‘Can you please let me go? Please let me go,’ she recalled pleading with her attacker.

After the assault, the attacker rummaged through her purse and touched her keys and mobile phone before stealing some cash and leaving her.

But Franklin says police failed to fingerprint her phone and dropped the ball on an important clue — the address of the apartment where the attack took place.

According to a police incident report, the apartment is located at 5783 Waterstone Oak Way, just doors away from where Henderson appears to live and where he was arrested for Fletcher’s murder a year later.

Franklin also says she gave police her assailant’s phone number.

Franklin was attacked at this apartment complex last year — but police didn't make an arrest, despite suspect Henderson living doors away from the crime scene

Franklin was attacked at this apartment complex last year — but police didn't make an arrest, despite suspect Henderson living doors away from the crime scene

Franklin was attacked at this apartment complex last year — but police didn’t make an arrest, despite suspect Henderson living doors away from the crime scene

Police presented Franklin with a photo lineup, but she says she was unable to positively identify Henderson because the photo of him they included was old and showed him with dreadlocks, which he no longer wore .

‘They never showed me an updated picture. I called two or three months later and said, ‘Hey, you know, (the detective) said she was going to try to do another photo lineup with updated photos and … I haven’t heard from her,”’ Franklin recalled.

‘And then they said, ‘Oh, well, she’s actually been promoted since then, so she’s no longer a detective on your case,”’ the victim said.

A trail of evidence led to Henderson’s arrest in Fletcher’s murder days after the jogger disappeared on her morning run.

He was rebooked in the Shelby County Jail on Sept. 9 on charges related to the 2021 rape case.

Law enforcement officials have said his arraignment on those charges did not occur before the Fletcher killing because of the timing of testing his DNA in the rape case.

In the case of Fletcher’s abduction, Henderson was identified as a suspect in just 18 hours after a sandal left at the crime scene came back with a match to his DNA.

His DNA was already in police databases because of a previous felony conviction.

Henderson previously served 20 years in prison for a kidnapping he committed at the age of 16.