Tennessee Governor Calls to Investigate System Defenders Who Allegedly Enabled Eliza Fletcher’s Murder

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Criminal Justice and Victim Advocacy Groups want accounts and answers after the kidnapping and murder of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher.

Lawyers say the system failed to protect her from Cleotha Abston-Hendersonthe man accused in the case.

On Friday morning, Henderson will be back in court, but not for the Fletcher case.

He faces charges of rape another case. The victim, Alicia Franklin, is sue memphis city for failing to investigate the 2021 case and subsequently failing to prevent Fletcher’s death.

A group of advocates say it’s an example of why the governor must take special steps to ensure such tragedies don’t happen again.

The University of Memphis remembers Eliza Fletcher as a former player for the UofM Tigers women’s soccer team.(University of Memphis Women’s Football Twitter)

“He was a bad apple, you know…what I mean is this guy was bent on doing bad things,” said Matthew Charles of the national criminal justice nonprofit Families Against Mandatory. Minimums (FAMM).

Charles calls the Henderson case an example of failed policies in Tennessee.

Wednesday, a letter has been sent to Governor Bill Lee of FAMM and People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL).

They want to appoint a special investigator to look into the system that allowed Henderson to kidnap and murder Fletcher when the mother of two was out early in the morning. back in September.

Court records show Henderson was detained 16 times as a juvenile on various charges, including aggravated assault and rape.

At 16, Henderson was tried as an adult for the kidnapping of a Memphis defense attorney.

In 2000, at the age of 16, Abston kidnapped Memphis defense attorney Kemper Durand (right).
In 2000, at the age of 16, Abston kidnapped Memphis defense attorney Kemper Durand (right).(Action News 5)

He served 20 of his 24-year sentence and was released early due to credits he received for serving time in prison. before his sentence and for his participation in the prison employment program.

Charles says the Tennessee Department of Correction needs to take a serious look at how it handles good credit for early release.

“The right time is a good thing because it allows those who come in to come out changed, to come out with a skill, to come out with a craft, to go back to their communities and their families,” Charles said. “But it’s up to those who deserve it, and this individual didn’t deserve 10 days.”

Henderson was released in 2020.

On September 21, 2021, nearly a year before Fletcher was kidnapped, Franklin filed her rape case the day she was assaulted.

DNA rape data was ultimately put into the BIT system almost a year later, on September 5, a day after Henderson’s DNA has been recovered during the investigation into Fletcher’s disappearance.

The rape kit returned as a match for Henderson.

Critics say that had the rape kit been tested earlier, it could have potentially prevented Fletcher’s murder.

During a two-day ad hoc legislative committee hearing on the Fletcher case, the TBI director blamed the 11-month delay in testing the rape kit on a serious backlog due to a lack of staff .

Charles says they need more answers.

“A special investigator will be able to look into it specifically and figure out what needs to be done in those agencies to prevent this from happening again,” Charles said.

Charles says it’s important to find someone outside of law enforcement to lead this investigation.

Action News 5 has contacted Governor Lee’s office for comment on the request for a special investigator.

The spokesperson simply said he received the letter.

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