MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A recently tested rape kit from a case back on September 21 of 2021 has been connected to the man charged with kidnapping and killing Eliza Fletcher.
The DNA match came back the same day Fletcher’s body was found behind an abandoned house in South Memphis. According to Memphis police, a sexual assault report was taken on September 21, 2021.
The sexual assault kit was submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation two days later. WREG reached out to the TBI to find out why it took nearly a year before a match was made to Abston-Henderson.
In Eliza Fletcher’s case, it took less than a day (18 hours) to match the DNA found on a sandal left behind at the scene on Central avenue where Fletcher was abducted.
They responded in a statement that reads in part, “The TBI accepts rush DNA cases when requested by a local investigative agency, as we did in the recent Eliza Fletcher case. Our scientists identified Cleotha Abston as the suspect less than 18 hours after receiving key evidence.”
The agency said the sample they received in September of last year was not submitted as a rush case. Therefore, it was placed with the standard casework which can have an average turnaround time of 33 to 49 weeks.
The statement went on to describe how scientists pulled the recently tested kit matching Abston-Henderson for analysis nine months after it was received on June 24, 2022, and completed an initial report of the results on August 29th.
Eliza Fletcher was abducted on September 2.
The sample was then entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) which returned a match on September 5th, which was within hours of Memphis police finding Fletcher’s body on Victor Street.
That was 49 weeks after MPD submitted the rape kit to the TBI.
The match of the September 2021 assault came back to Cleotha Abston-Henderson. The results were then reported to Memphis Police.
Court documents showed he was indicted on charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and an additional gun charge in connection to the crime from one year ago.