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Woman files lawsuit against Memphis claiming botched rape investigation could have stopped accused Eliza Fletcher killer

‘I’m angry. Not a day goes by that I didn’t think about this,’ Ms Franklin said

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 22 September 2022 21:07 BST
Related video: Man charged over kidnapping of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher

A woman is suing the city of Memphis and its police department, claiming they botched a rape investigation that could have led to the arrest of the individual suspected of abducting and killing schoolteacher Eliza Fletcher.

Gary Smith, the lawyer of the plaintiff, Alicia Franklin,22, told The Daily Beast that police were aware of the man accused of killing Ms Fletcher.

“They knew who it was, they did nothing, and as a result, Eliza Fletcher winds up murdered when [the suspect] should have been in jail,” he said. “If they had done their job, she’d be alive.”

Ms Franklin claims that she met Cleotha "Cleo" Abston a year ago on a dating app and made plans to meet at an apartment complex where he worked prior to getting dinner together.

She claims in the lawsuit that Mr Abston held her at gunpoint, blindfolded her and threatened to kill her before walking her to his car. He then allegedly forced her into the backseat of the car and raped her. She says in the lawsuit that she told him she was pregnant at the time, to which he allegedly responded "all you b****** say that."

At the time of the alleged rape, Mr Abston had just been released from prison after serving 20 years for kidnapping and aggravated robbery in 2001. This prior arrest would have ensured that his DNA was part of an FBI database.

Ms Franklin said she reported the attack to police immediately, providing them with Mr Abston's identifying information and completed a rape kit.

The lawsuit claims that the rape kit was not completed for nine months, with a final report not issued until a month after its completion. The DNA collected from the kit was entered into the national law enforcement database on 5 September, which was three days after Ms Fletcher was abducted.

"They had more than enough evidence that night when they interviewed me to get him off the streets. But they didn’t," Ms Franklin told Good Morning America. "I’m angry. Not a day goes by that I didn’t think about this."

Ms Fletcher's body was eventually found in an abandoned house near where she was abducted. Surveillance footage later showed a man forcing Ms Fletcher into his car. Police later used DNA evidence from items found at the scene to link it to Mr Abston. He was then arrested and charged.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told a Fox News affiliate that it generally takes between 33 and 49 weeks for a rape kit to be tested. The Tennesseean reports that the lab in Jackson, Tennessee, receives on average 350 sexual assault requests each month, which contributes to the long wait times.

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