Victim of alleged rapist, killer breaks silence on assault, lawsuit against City of Memphis

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 11:11 PM CDT
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VICKSBURG, Miss. (WMC) - The woman suing the City of Memphis, arguing her rape was not properly investigated, spoke out about the lawsuit and the day of her assault.

The man indicted for the rape of Alicia Franklin is the same man accused of kidnapping and murdering Memphis mother Eliza Fletcher.

Action News 5 met 22-year-old Alicia Franklin at a hotel in Vicksburg, Mississippi, about three and half hours south of Memphis, but she says she lived in Memphis when her attack happened.

She later moved fearing for her and her newborn daughter’s safety.

Franklin wants to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward and to hold those she feels mishandled her case accountable.

Wednesday marked one year since Alicia Franklin says she was raped by Cleotha Henderson, who at the time, she knew as “Cleo”.

”It was dark,” said Franklin. “It was raining. It was pouring down raining. I was trying to get out of the rain. He was trying to hug me and I was like ‘I don’t really want to hug right now in the rain. We can hug in the house.’ But once I got in that apartment, it was a whole other story.”

Franklin says she met Henderson on a dating app and they made plans to meet at the Lakes at Ridgeway Apartments where “Cleo” said he worked as a maintenance man, and then they’d head out to dinner.

”Once we got inside of that apartment unit, he put that gun to my neck he took everything from me,” said Franklin. “He took my phone. He took my purse, and he took my car keys.”

Franklin says Henderson put a t-shirt over her face and forced her into his car.

She says she told him she was pregnant. He ignored her plea.

”I was raped when I was pregnant with her,” Franklin said. “That was really traumatizing for me.”

After the attack, Franklin says she sought medical attention.

A rape kit was collected.

That same day, she says she took police back to the scene of the attack, where she claims officers never collected any physical evidence.

Franklin also says she gave officers her accused attacker’s phone number, the name she knew him by, the make and model of his car and more.

”They just walked around, they walked out the little back slide door, where the Charger was parked at,” Franklin said, “where he forced me in the car and raped me. That’s it. They didn’t fingerprint for anything, nothing like that.”

Franklin also says police presented her with a photo lineup, but she says she didn’t recognize her accused attacker.

Months went by.

Then nearly one year later, Fletcher was abducted while running on Central Avenue.

”This stuff was all over the news for three weeks, and I never knew it was him,” Franklin said.

Memphis Police found DNA evidence in the Fletcher case from a slide sandal left behind at the site of the abduction.

Police asked the TBI for expedited testing at the lab in Jackson, the same place where Memphis police send rape kits.

The DNA returned a match for Cleotha Henderson.

According to Franklin’s lawsuit, initial results from her DNA test were complete on Aug. 29, but not entered into the national database until Sept. 5, three days after Fletcher’s kidnapping and murder.

Franklin believes if her case had been processed sooner, Fletcher might still be alive.

”I started taking everything in, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m alive, and she didn’t make it’, because I know what she went through,” said Franklin.

“For the simple fact, I felt that MPD, the detectives that were supposed to help me, didn’t help me. I feel like they were trying to hide my story,” she continued. “I felt as though it was a moreso of a cover-their-backs thing. It wasn’t really about me.”

Today, Franklin is focused on her 6-month-old daughter, Caelia, and earning her degree in forensic psychology.

Her fight for justice against the City of Memphis continues.

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