Advocates ask Gov. Lee for independent investigation of Cleotha Henderson cases

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL) sent a letter on Wednesday to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti requesting that they appoint a special investigator to look at the various justice system failures that enabled Cleotha Henderson to kidnap and murder Eliza Fletcher.

“What happened to Eliza Fletcher was an unspeakable tragedy, but also a preventable one,” said FAMM Policy Associate Matthew Charles. “Before politicians use this event to advance counterproductive sentencing policies, we need an independent investigation into all aspects of this case and to make sure people are held accountable. The only way to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again is to understand exactly how and why it occurred this time.”

The letter points out that Henderson received more than 1,000 days of early release credit, despite committing 53 disciplinary infractions while serving time for a previous conviction. The groups also note that investigative leads and a rape kit tied to an earlier crime allegedly committed by Henderson were never followed up on.

“When law enforcement fails to investigate serious crimes, the result is devastating. I know this firsthand,” said Meghan Ybos, Executive Director of PERL. “At 16, I reported a stranger rape to authorities, but they never bothered to investigate my claims or send my rape kit for testing. Over the next nine years, the man who raped me went on to rape at least six more women and girls, including a 12-year-old girl two days after me.

“Now, the Eliza Fletcher case has shown that the police failure to investigate rape cases can have deadly consequences. That is why we need an independent review of the investigative failures that led to Ms. Fletcher’s tragic death. Her legacy should be honored by improving police and TBI investigations and making prisons more conducive to rehabilitative purposes. We should not allow this heartfelt tragedy to be exploited by new punitive sentencing measures that will not make anyone safer.”

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