MEMPHIS, Tenn. — September 2 marks a tragic anniversary. It’s been one year since Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped on her morning jog.
A massive search for Fletcher followed. Police quickly retraced her steps and found critical surveillance video of the moment she was approached on her run by a man who forced her into his SUV.
The next day, law enforcement announced they found the car seen in the security footage, and the man driving it. Cleotha Abston Henderson was taken into custody. Police say he refused to cooperate.
“While the outcome of this investigation is not what we hoped for,” Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said at a podium days later and delivered the terrible news.
They found Fletcher’s body near an abandoned home a few miles from where she was abducted.
“The victim was a beloved member of the community, and I can’t tell you how many different people came up and mentioned some sort of connection,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.
Mulroy had just been sworn in. He was only on the job for a couple of days as this unfolded.
“It was a real baptism-by-fire experience for a new DA on the job in the first week. I’m just really grateful I had a supportive and experienced staff that could help me through,” he said.
That experienced staff quickly learned what we now know about Abston Henderson.
He had only been a free man since 2020. He had spent two decades behind bars for abducting a Memphis attorney at gunpoint in May 2001. Abston Henderson’s criminal record, however, began when he was just 11 years old.
In July, prosecutors announced they would be seeking the death penalty. Weeks later, his attorney withdrew from the case due to a conflict of interest, but the motion didn’t state what that conflict was.
Because Abston Henderson could face the death penalty, he was appointed two new attorneys in August. They will now have to pour through the state’s discovery and that will take time.
“Cases as complicated as this, it isn’t unusual that it takes several years before they go to trial,” Mulroy said.
Especially now that the new attorneys are just getting started on this case. As of now, a trial date has yet to be set. We asked DA Mulroy if a plea deal could happen.
“There’s always that possibility. Certainly, yeah,” he said.
It’s a possibility, but there is no indication it will happen at this point. It’s also unclear if Abston Henderson is still not cooperating.
Through the Tennessee Public Records Act, WREG Investigators learned he has no disciplinary record while he’s been at 201, and no one other than his attorney and attorney’s staff has visited him.
Since his arrest, Abston Henderson was also charged with another rape that occurred in September 2021. Investigators say he wasn’t charged in that crime until after Fletcher was killed. The rape kit was not expedited, so the state lab says it didn’t finish processing it until after Fletcher’s body was found.
Now a year later, many gathered to finish Eliza’s run. People across the city and country are still outraged and still heartbroken.
Fletcher was just 34 years old. She was a loving wife, a devoted mother, and a junior kindergarten teacher. Her friends tell us she was giving, loving, and always smiling. She had a pure heart.