City of Memphis Won’t Comment on Lawsuit Filed by Cleotha Abston Rape Victim

The city of Memphis Friday refused to comment on the lawsuit filed against it by the woman who says she was raped by Cleotha Abston, the man accused of abducting and killing Eliza Fletcher.

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” said Arlenia Cole, the city’s media affairs manager.

Abston is also accused of raping Alicia Franklin in 2021, well before the Fletcher kidnapping and killing.

Franklin says that the Memphis Police Department (MPD) did not handle her case properly and that she believes Fletcher would still be alive if the department did its job properly.

“They had more than enough evidence that night when they interviewed me to get him off the streets, but they didn’t,” said Franklin in an interview with Good Morning America. 

Franklin says she met Abston on a dating application, and after the pair went on a date, he raped her at gunpoint.

“Every time I said something he threatened to kill me,” Franklin said. “He forced me in the car [and] he raped me.”

A sexual assault kit was administered at a rape crisis center after Franklin drove herself to the hospital. There, she was interviewed by a sex crimes detective.

According to Franklin, she gave authorities Abston’s phone number, walked them through the crime scene and described his car.

She says after that, she rarely heard from the police.

“They said they didn’t have enough evidence,” said Franklin in the interview. “[They said] this is not enough evidence to charge him for rape.”

Fletcher’s lawyers argue that the sexual assault kit should have been tested immediately and that if it had been, Abston’s DNA would have been a match.

MPD and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) have been criticized for the turnaround time on rape kits, which averages 45 weeks in TBIs Jackson, Tennessee lab, as reported by The Tennessee Star.

“The length of time to work these cases is attributed to the workload of the four scientists assigned to this unit. These forensic scientists work every biological evidence submission, ranging from homicides to SAKs, to robberies, assaults, and break-ins,” TBI spokesperson Kelli McAllister told The Star. “In 2021, that included 602 evidence submissions.  These scientists are also responsible for responding to crime scenes when necessary and testifying in every court hearing and trial associated with their casework.”

McAllister said that TBI is working to improve the turnaround time.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Courtroom” by Clyde Robinson. CC BY 2.0.


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