MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Another alleged victim of Cleotha Abston-Henderson is speaking out about what happened to her, as well as how the murder of Eliza Fletcher might’ve been prevented.
Alicia Franklin blames the Memphis Police Department (MPD) for not following up on her 2021 rape case and, as reported by News 2’s sister station, WREG, is suing the department.
WREG doesn’t normally don’t name the victims of sexual assault, but Franklin says she wants to go public to hold MPD accountable after the fallout from her rape investigation.
She has since moved away from Memphis.
In September 2021, Franklin decided to meet up with a guy she’d been talking to on a dating app. They were going to go to dinner. First, they met at what he said was his residence at the Lakes at Ridgeway Apartments.
However, as soon as she got inside what she thought was his unit, his tone changed. He put a gun to her neck and a black T-shirt over her head, she says.
“He was like, ‘Don’t move, or I’m going to kill you,’” Franklin said.
She says the empty unit looked like it was being renovated. It had concrete floors. He reportedly forced her outside through a back door, into a vehicle, and sexually assaulted her multiple times.
“That’s when he raped me,” she said. “I begged and pleaded. I was like, ‘Please let me go. I’m pregnant.’ He didn’t care at all. He said that he raped people on a daily basis.”
She thought she was going to die at the Hickory Hill apartments. Instead, he was the one who fled.
After that, she got out as quickly as she could, even leaving her purse behind as she went to police.
She submitted testing for DNA, then brought officers back to the scene where she located her purse. She gave them all the information she could, including the first name “Cleo,” his phone number, and where she met him.
Police took an incident report within three hours of the attack. She says she spoke with the detective again the next day and did a photo lineup. She thought she could identify her attacker, but couldn’t be sure.
They promised to get better pictures, including a more updated photo of Abston-Henderson for a photo lineup, but she says she never heard from them again after that. As far as she knows, they made no efforts at all to find the suspect.
In fact, she says she never knew anything else about her alleged attacker until Abston-Henderson was arrested in connection with Fletcher’s death.
“I broke down because I was like, wow,” Franklin said.
That’s when police told her the rape kit test results took nearly a year; they came back in August with a match to Abston-Henderson.
But in that time, police say he committed at least one other crime: kidnapping and killing Fletcher.
“Had they done their job, had they evaluated this DNA kit, they would’ve confirmed Cleotha Abston-Henderson was the man who raped our client and he would’ve been off the streets before he was able to hurt anyone else,” attorney Jeff Rosenblum said.
The pattern of missed opportunities to arrest a suspect explains why Franklin is now suing MPD.
“There’s a young woman who’s dead because the police didn’t do what they should’ve done,” Rosenblum said.
He described his client as “a hard-working person in our community that didn’t have the ability to pick up the phone and call the chief of police or the mayor or the governor.”
Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say they processed the evidence immediately in the Fletcher case because of a rush request from MPD.
Franklin’s lab work was still being processed when Fletcher was killed nearly a year later.
MPD has not responded to a request for comment.