Man accused in jogger’s death faces charges in earlier case

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The man charged with abducting and killing a Tennessee teacher this month was a suspect in a 2021 kidnapping and sexual case, but his indictment over those allegations didn’t occur until Thursday because of the timing in testing his DNA.

Cleotha Henderson was rebooked at the Shelby County Jail on Friday on charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful carrying of a weapon. Details of the newest allegations against Henderson were not immediately available.

The indictment came days after Henderson’s arrest in the death of Eliza Fletcher, a mother of two and a kindergarten teacher.

Fletcher disappeared while on a pre-dawn run near the University of Memphis campus on Sept. 2, and her remains were found Monday near an abandoned house. Henderson is being held in the Shelby County Jail without bond on the charges related to Fletcher’s death.

In the earlier case, Memphis police took a sexual assault report on Sept. 21, 2021, the department said in a statement Saturday. A sexual assault kit was submitted two days later to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the statement said.

“An official CODIS (national DNA database) hit was not received until after the unfortunate event that occurred on September 2, 2022,” the Memphis police statement said, referring to the jogger’s abduction. “Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received.”

Memphis police provided no further details, citing “an ongoing criminal prosecution.” Henderson’s public defender could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The TBI confirmed Saturday that the sexual assault kit was submitted last Sept. 23.

The evidence was “put into the queue of unknown assailant kits, as no request was made for TBI analysis to be expedited, and no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission,” the TBI statement said.

The kit eventually was pulled from evidence storage along with 19 other kits for analysis this past June 24 and an initial report of the results was completed on Aug. 29, the TBI said.

When the 2021 DNA was entered into the national database, it returned a match for Henderson on Sept. 5, which the TBI reported to Memphis police, the TBI said.

The TBI accepts “rush DNA cases” when requested to do so by local law enforcement agencies, as was done in the Fletcher case, according to the TBI. Last weekend, Henderson was identified as the suspect “less than 18 hours after receiving key evidence, which was critical in his subsequent apprehension.”

“Because we rarely know the facts of the case when processing evidence, TBI relies on submitting agencies to identify cases that would benefit their investigation from our rush analysis,” the TBI statement said.

Henderson, who also has gone by the name Cleotha Abston, is charged with kidnapping and killing Fletcher, 34. Henderson is being held in the Shelby County Jail without bond on the charges stemming from Fletcher’s death.

Henderson was arrested after police detected his DNA on sandals found near the location where Fletcher was last seen, an arrest affidavit said.

A funeral for Fletcher was held Saturday.

Henderson, 38, previously served 20 years in prison for a kidnapping he committed at age 16.

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