City admits MPD did not search for fingerprints after 2021 rape

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 2:25 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2022 at 10:22 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis has responded to a lawsuit filed by Alicia Franklin, the woman who says she was raped by the same man accused of kidnapping and killing Eliza Fletcher while she was jogging.

The lawsuit says Memphis police failed to properly investigate her September 2021 rape case and that allowed suspect, Cleotha Henderson, to remain free.

In the response, the city admits it did not fingerprint the location where Franklin says she was raped and admits to not interrogating Henderson until September 3, 2022, three days before Eliza Fletcher’s body was identified.

The responses of the City of Memphis to Franklin’s first set of requests for admissions was filed in Shelby County Circuit Court December 26.

“From the front end of the report of this rape, they knew who the suspect was, they knew where he was, they had his phone number, they knew his criminal record,” said Franklin’s attorney Gary Smith.

According to the documents, the city admits Franklin gave police Cleotha Henderson’s cell phone number and went back to the scene of the attack with police the next day.

They also admit police did not dust for fingerprints there or on Franklin’s purse or cell phone.

The city says that’s because Franklin wanted her phone back, adding police told her it would not be collected for evidence if it was returned.

One of Franklin’s attorneys Gary Smith says that’s just one of the failures by Memphis police in this investigation.

“It’s pretty obvious that when she told them that he handled her purse, went through, handled her cell phone, looked for numbers in her cell phone, you dust for fingerprints,” said Smith. “They didn’t do that.”

Officers interviewed the mother of one of Henderson’s children two weeks after Franklin’s assault. The woman lived next door to the scene of the attack.

The city admits that she told police Henderson had access to her vehicles, one of them a white Dodge Charger, the vehicle Franklin claims she was sexually assaulted in.

“They knew within just a few short days of the car that it which the rape occurred was tied to him. And for a year they never even bother to question him,” said Smith. “They didn’t call him in. They didn’t go out to him. For a year they did nothing.”

Franklin says she met Henderson on the Plenty of Fish 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.

The city denies having Henderson’s dating app profile, saying Franklin told police he had blocked her on the app and was unable to access his posts.

The city says this prohibited police from serving a warrant for his account information.

The city says Franklin was never able to give the full name of the attacker, just that he was known as “CJ.”

Memphis Police provided Franklin with a photo lineup of possible suspects on October 5. The city admits Henderson was included in that lineup and says police used a picture of him from the Tennessee Driver’s Service Bureau and claims officers did not know how old the picture was.

The city denies officers told Franklin they would get a more recent picture of Henderson but admits officers could have accessed the Tennessee Department of Correction’s database and searched for a picture of Henderson.

Franklin alleges police had enough reason shortly after her rape to arrest Henderson, but the city denies that.

City attorneys did object to certain requests, including anything having to do with Henderson being “a danger to the community” and any speculation about what happened to Eliza Fletcher.

Earlier this month, the City of Memphis asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Smith says they will be filing a response to the city’s motion to dismiss Franklin’s lawsuit in the coming days.

The city of Memphis does not comment on pending litigation.

Franklin’s sexual assault kit sat on a shelf at the TBI lab in Jackson for nearly a year and was entered into a national database three days after Fletcher’s body was found.

According to a motion filed in Shelby County Circuit Court by Attorney Tannera Gibson, if the lawsuit cannot be dismissed, the city wants “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous allegations” removed from it.

A hearing on this lawsuit has not been announced.

You can read the full response by the city here:

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