The man accused of kidnapping and murdering a Tennessee teacher has been hit with additional charges that indicate Eliza Fletcher wasn’t his only victim.
The suspect, variously referred to as Cleotha Henderson and Cleotha Abston, was captured and charged with kidnapping Fletcher on Sunday, days after the teacher went missing during an early-morning jog in Memphis.
One day later, Fletcher’s body was discovered, and Henderson found himself facing murder charges.
The case took another major turn on Friday as police rebooked Henderson on additional kidnapping, rape and weapons charges stemming from an unrelated incident last year.
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, police said they were able to make the indictment after obtaining Henderson’s DNA.
A sexual assault kit from a September 2021 attack sat for nearly a year until Henderson’s arrest and testing.
“An official CODIS (national DNA database) hit was not received until after the unfortunate event that occurred on September 2, 2022,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.
“Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received.”
The sexual assault kit, left in a “queue of unknown assailant kits,” according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, may now prove to be critical evidence against Henderson.
The weight of evidence currently seems stacked against Fletcher’s suspected murderer, who was found to be in possession of a vehicle seen in the few video frames available of the kidnapping.
Fletcher and the unnamed 2021 victim do not appear to be the first people preyed upon by Henderson, either.
The suspected murderer and an accomplice were convicted in the kidnapping of Memphis attorney Kemper Durand in 2000, a crime committed when Henderson was just 16.
According to Durand’s obituary, the lawyer was taken at gunpoint, forced into the trunk of his own car and driven to ATM machines across Memphis. At each ATM, Henderson would pull Durand out of the trunk and force him to withdraw money.
It was during one of these stops that the sharp-eyed attorney noticed a security guard and yelled for help, allowing him to escape.
The lawyer later took the stand with damning testimony against Henderson that was tempered with an understanding view of his accomplice as someone “at the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time.”
Durand asked the judge to give this unwilling accomplice the most lenient sentence possible under the law, and the judge agreed.
Henderson was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the kidnapping. He was granted an early release, however, and walked free in 2020.
Eliza Fletcher’s alleged murderer may not get this chance again. The death penalty Henderson now potentially faces is a sentence that leaves no room for an early release.
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