Black woman who claims Memphis police ignored her rape case until murder of wealthy white woman complains of lack of ‘care and caution’

A black woman who accused detectives of ignoring her rape case until heiress Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped and killed by the man accused in both cases has filed legal action against the city of Memphis.

Alicia Franklin filed a lawsuit against the city a year before the date after she was allegedly held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted by Cleotha Abston-Henderson. He was arrested on September 9 after the Memphis Police Department linked his DNA to Franklin’s case days after booking the man in Fletcher’s murder.

But Franklin and her attorneys argued that investigators had Abston-Henderson’s DNA file over a decade before the fatal kidnapping of a billionaire’s white granddaughter last month. Franklin believes that the difference in women’s race and social status played a role in the outcome.

Alicia Franklin (left) and Eliza Fletcher (right) were reportedly bullied by the same man. (Photos: Facebook)

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

The complaint alleges that Franklin suffered “physical and emotional injuries that required and continue to require medical and mental health care.” It is also claimed that police failed to honor Franklin’s courage in reporting her rape, an effort many claim would have prevented the other woman’s subsequent death. Police have also failed to “take reasonable steps to apprehend her attacker who is causing her additional emotional distress” and are now seeking compensation.

Franklin gave the details of her rape to Memphis Police Department investigators the same night it happened on September 21, 2021. She took them to the crime scene and gave them the man’s first name, phone number, a description of his car, and social media information. Franklin had met the man, whom she only knew as “Cleo,” through a dating app, PlentyOfFish, she told detectives.

Detectives did not take forensic evidence from the crime scene, including fingerprints, but they did conduct a medical examination, commonly referred to as a rape kit.

Memphis police officers admitted they didn’t analyze the DNA until Abston-Henderson was arrested for Fletcher’s murder, just doors down from Franklin’s rape site. The accused rapist had told Franklin he was the caretaker of the Lakes at Ridgeway Apartments, the lawsuit obtained by the Atlanta Black Star said. They had decided to meet there before going to dinner because Franklin was driving on a makeshift tire.

You never made it to dinner.

Instead, Abston-Henderson pointed a gun at his date, forced her into an empty apartment, and pulled a black T-shirt over her head. Franklin asked the man not to rape her. She told him she was pregnant.

He “responded by saying, ‘All bitches say that,’ or similar words, indicating that he had likely raped other women before,” the lawsuit says.

Abston-Henderson was released in November 2020 after serving 20 years in prison for kidnapping and robbing a lawyer. Court documents showed the man had been suspected of other crimes after pleading guilty to the crime against the attorney in 2001. The 38-year-old accused murderer and rapist had a criminal record dating back to the age of 11, including another rape when he was 14.

Court documents show that Memphis Police detectives submitted the rape kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 23, 2021, but unlike Fletcher’s case, they did not request rushing of the DNA test. It took authorities 18 hours to identify the suspect in Flecther’s case. Abston-Henderson’s DNA profile was in TBI’s database, the lawsuit says.

Court documents show TBI removed Franklin’s rape kit from storage in late June. A first analysis report was prepared on August 29th. However, he was not included in the Combined DNA Index System until September 5, two days after Abston-Henderson allegedly killed Fletcher.

Investigators also failed to check Franklin’s purse for DNA evidence, although she told them the rapist ransacked her and stole her money. They should find a recent photo of Abton-Henderson after the victim could not confirm the picture of the suspect, which they admitted was “10 to 12 years old” and showed him with longer hair.

According to TBI, the average turnaround time for tests on a rape kit by its crime lab was “between about 33 weeks and 49 weeks.” The lawsuit alleges that the TBI depends on local police departments to notify them if a rape kit should be rushed. Franklin’s attorney said Abston-Henderson’s long prior convictions for rape, aggravated robbery and kidnapping showed police he posed a danger to the victim and the public, and that should have been enough to expedite the test.

Officials said Fletcher’s case was rushed because she was a missing person and they weren’t sure if she was dead or alive. Her body was discovered on September 6th.

Lawyers also said police could have searched the metadata from the dating app that Franklin had been communicating with the man for months. PlentyOfFish’s parent company has a dedicated portal for law enforcement inquiries, the lawsuit says.

The ad accuses the detectives of violating their duty to investigate and giving violent crimes a higher priority. It is claimed they failed to “investigate the rape of Alicia Franklin with the care and caution that a reasonable and circumspect police officer would require in the circumstances.” Black woman who claims Memphis police ignored her rape case until murder of wealthy white woman complains of lack of ‘care and caution’

James Brien

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