DNA Evidence Shows Eliza Fletcher Murder Suspect Kidnapped and Raped in 2021

The Memphis murder suspect held for the disappearance and subsequent killing of Eliza Fletcher was found to have been charged with kidnapping and rape in 2021. Cleotha Henderson, 38, who was linked to the kidnapping of Fletcher during her early morning job on September 2, is now remanded at the Shelby County Jail on additional charges.

Henderson now stands charged with aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, theft, first-degree murder, unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon, identity theft, tampering with evidence, and fraudulent use of a debit/credit card. He is held without bond, and his case for Fletcher’s death is set for September 19.

In Fletcher’s case, Henderson’s GMC Terrain was captured by surveillance cameras at about 4:20 am, where Henderson was seen forcing the runner into the vehicle. Witnesses said they saw Henderson cleaning the insides of the car and washing clothes in a sink shortly after that. Police said traces of blood were found in the vehicle after the cleaning. Fletcher’s body was found three days later behind a vacant duplex apartment, where Henderson was seen cleaning out the vehicle.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) analyzed the sexual assault kit Henderson in 2021, but the results did not return until after the kidnapping and death of Fletcher. “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. “Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received.”

The TBI said Henderson’s sexual assault kit was submitted late last year and was queued for processing, but since the suspect’s DNA standard was not included with the kit, it was not expedited until June 24 when it was tested and the result was released on August 29. When the result was entered into a national database, it revealed that Henderson was behind the 2021 kidnap and rape – before he was linked to Fletcher’s kidnap and murder.

“The Jackson Crime Lab’s average turnaround times for SAKs (sexual assault kits) ranged from approximately 33 weeks to 49 weeks between September 2021 and August 2022,” the TBI disclosed. “The length of time to work these cases is attributed to the workload of the four scientists assigned to this unit. These forensic scientists work every biological evidence submission, ranging from homicides to SAKs, to robberies, assaults, and break-ins.”