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]