A woman says Memphis police failed to investigate her rape. The suspect is now charged with the murder of Eliza Fletcher.

A woman who said she was raped last year by the man accused of murdering Eliza Fletcher says Memphis police failed to properly investigate her case and if they did, Fletcher would be alive.

In a lawsuit against the city of Memphis, Alicia Franklin said she met Cleotha Abston on a dating app last year and they talked for about a month before meeting in person on September 21, 2021, at The Lakes at Ridgeway apartments.

Franklin said in the suit that she and Abston, whom she knew as ‘Cleo’, had planned to go out to dinner but when she arrived he pulled a gun on her and forced her inside in a vacant apartment.

Abston, who told Franklin he was a maintenance worker at the resort, blindfolded her with his T-shirt and threatened to kill her, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in County Circuit Court. Shelby.

The lawsuit says Abston drove Franklin through the apartment and out the back door of her vehicle, where she says he raped her in the backseat.

Abston was charged with aggravated rape earlier this month in the 2021 incident and has pleaded not guilty.

Learn more about the disappearance and death of Eliza Fletcher

Franklin said in the lawsuit that she tried to arrest Abston by telling him she was pregnant but he seemed “unresponsive,” the lawsuit says.

The woman said Abston then stole money from her and made her wait inside the apartment until he left, according to the court document.

Franklin said she immediately sought medical attention and reported it to Memphis police. The lawsuit says she submitted to a forensic examination, where a sexual assault kit was put together that included DNA evidence.

Cleotha Abston appears in a courtroom for her arraignment in Memphis, Tennessee on September 6.Mark Weber/Daily Memphian via AP File

She took officers to the scene, but the lawsuit says police “did not take any physical evidence directly from the crime scene itself.” To help investigators, Franklin gave them the name “Cleo”, her phone number, a description of her vehicle and her social media, including the dating app they met on, according to the lawsuit.

A few days after the attack, Franklin was asked to look at a series of photos of potential suspects. The lawsuit says police included an old photo of Abston in the list, but Franklin could not identify his attacker.

For months, Franklin received no updates on his case. According to the lawsuit, Memphis police sent the sexual assault kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) but did not request that it be processed on an expedited basis.

The Memphis Police Department declined to comment Wednesday, citing ongoing litigation. The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Eliza Fletcher
Elisa Fletcher.Memphis Police Department

The sexual assault kit remained untouched until June, according to the lawsuit. The DNA was not determined to match Abston until September 5, three days after Abston was accused of forcing Fletcher into her SUV while out for an early morning jog.

Abston, 38, was arrested the next day after police found the SUV in a parking lot near his residence, according to an affidavit. He was arrested on multiple counts, including first degree murder and kidnapping.

Fletcher’s body was found Sept. 5 in a vacant duplex apartment. The cause and manner of death have not been released.

Franklin’s lawsuit states that Abston “should and could have been arrested and charged with the aggravated rape of Alicia Franklin several months earlier, most likely in 2021…and the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have did not take place”.

The TBI said it rarely knows the details of a case and relies on local law enforcement to submit any relevant information. It expedites a case only at the request of local law enforcement, the TBI said in an emailed statement.

Franklin’s case “has been placed in the unknown assailant kit queue, as no requests were made for expedited TBI analysis, and no suspicious information or DNA standards were included. in the submission,” the agency said in its statement. Franklin’s kit was removed in June for review along with 19 other kits.

The agency said during the investigation into Fletcher’s kidnapping that it was tipped off by Memphis police about a possible connection to Franklin’s assault.

Franklin told NBC affiliate WMC-TV of Memphis that she didn’t want to be in the spotlight, but felt sharing her story could “help a lot of women come forward.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

A spokesperson for Fletcher’s family could not immediately be reached.


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