Eliza Fletcher’s Accused Killer Enters Not Guilty Plea

The man accused of kidnapping and killing Memphis jogger Elia Fletcher last September appeared in court Friday to face more charges and enter a not guilty plea.

Cleotha Abston-Henderson was arrested two days before Fletcher’s body was found outside an abandoned home on September 5 on charges of murder and kidnapping, as CrimeOnline previously reported.

Chief prosecutor Paul Hagerman told WREG that he is now facing aggravated rape, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and identity theft charges. He was formally indicted by a Shelby County grand jury on January 25.

Fletcher disappeared while out for a jog on the morning of September 2, prompting a city-wide search that quickly narrowed down to Abston-Henderson. But it also brought attention to an earlier rape allegedly perpetrated by the same suspect. In that case, almost a year earlier than Fletcher’s abduction and murder, the victim says that police botched the investigation, leaving Abston-Henderson on the streets.

The rape kit for that case was not tested for months, and it returned a hit for Abston-Henderson on September 5, 2022.

The judge cautioned Fletcher’s family that the case would not be a quick one.

“The court system can sometimes move at a snail’s pace. I want to apologize because I wish we could do things a lot more efficiently,” Judge Lee Coffee said.

Abston-Henderson is due back in court on March 30.

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[Featured image: Eliza Fletcher/St Mary’s Episcopal School]