Former law enforcement official admits police ‘dropped the ball’ in horrific rape and murder of Memphis woman

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Neama Rahmani claims that the Memphis Police Department “dropped the ball” investigating the kidnapping, brutal rape, and murder of Eliza Fletcher allegedly by Cleotha Henderson.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

Rahmani asserts that the Memphis Police Department didn’t properly investigate another rape in 2021 that was allegedly committed by the same suspect whom police claim killed Eliza Fletcher.

He noted to Fox News Digitial that the case went cold after the DNA sample took too long to return, but he said Memphis police officers should have at least gone to the scene to gather additional evidence.

Rahmani argues that the “tragedy could have been avoided” if the Memphis Police Department had decided to request an expedited analysis.

Despite all that, he doesn’t think a pending lawsuit will prevail.

“I think her case will be dismissed because it’s well established that a delay or even failure to investigate is not actionable in civil courts. Generally, failures to act aren’t the basis for civil liability by police officers,” Rahmani said, referring to the previous rape victim.

“The Memphis police dropped the ball. This is something that they should have pursued immediately. The rape victim who has come forward that same day, she’s provided physical evidence, she’s provided interview,” he told Fox News Digital. “Police should have investigated immediately and their failure to do so may have cost a woman her life.”

Henderson, 38, is being charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, as well as tampering with evidence in connection to the death of Fletcher, who was the mother of two and an heiress, who disappeared while jogging on the morning of Sept. 2, 2022. He was also charged with aggravated rape in a September 2021 incident involving another Memphis woman named Alicia Franklin.

Franklin sued the Memphis Police Department and asserted it didn’t properly investigate the incident. That failure ostensibly allowed Henderson to go free.

“Cleotha Abston [Henderson] should and could have been arrested and indicted for the aggravated rape… many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021,” the lawsuit contends. “And the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have occurred.”

Henderson and Franklin met on an online dating app in August of 2021 according to the lawsuit. It goes on to reveal how they met up for what was intended to be a first date.

They met outside a Memphis apartment which Henderson listed as his address. He proceeded to force Franklin into a vacant unit at gunpoint, threatening to kill her.

“He also blindfolded her with a T-shirt and threatened to kill her,” the lawsuit added. Henderson then allegedly took her to a car and “forced her into the backseat and raped her.”

After investigators sent Franklin’s rape kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations for analysis, it took nine months to complete. A match for Henderson didn’t arrive until Sept. 5, three days after Fletcher was raped and killed.

The young mother and teacher was “abducted and forced into” Henderson’s dark-colored GMC Terrain according to police. Her body was found on Sept. 5 in the “rear of a vacant duplex apartment.” The cause of death was ruled as a gunshot to the head and blunt force trauma, according to WKRN.

According to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations who spoke with Fox News Digital, the Memphis Police Department didn’t request an expedited analysis of the sexual assault kit from the September 2021 incident. The spokesperson further asserted that “no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission.”

The spokesperson pointed out that if a request for expedited analysis was made, results could have been produced within five business days.

The lawsuit also states that police “took no physical evidence directly from the crime scene itself” when the crime was reported.

When Franklin failed to identify the suspect in a lineup, she claims she overheard officers saying, “Maybe we need to show her a newer picture – this photo is 10 to 12 years old.”

If all of that isn’t bad enough, Henderson was previously convicted of the kidnapping and robbery of Memphis attorney Kemper Durand. His DNA was on file.

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, who is a spokesperson for the National Police Association and has experience working sex crimes, told Fox News Digital that the Memphis Police Department couldn’t predict that the suspect would go on to allegedly murder someone.

“We have the benefit of hindsight, it’s called hindsight bias. So, of course, I would imagine Memphis PD, had they been able to predict that this guy was going to go out and rape and murder someone else, they would have asked for it to be expedited,” Smith remarked. “But this is not the only sexual assault that I’m sure they’re dealing with.”

“We can’t look at Memphis PD and say, ‘Well, you should have known, or you should have predicted,’” she went on to state.

Smith also argued for better funding for forensic analysis labs to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.

“Any politician should be in favor of this kind of funding. And it can go, you know, like in Memphis, you know, they’re sending it to, they sent this [rape] kit to the [Tennessee Bureau of Investigations], really any police department in a town of 200,000 or more should probably have their own lab,” Smith concluded.

Henderson is being held without bond. He waived his preliminary hearings Wednesday, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office said, according to WREG.

The grand jury will now consider the charges against Henderson. If indicted, the case will move to criminal court.

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