DNA Evidence Helped Connecting the Accused to the Eliza Fletcher Kidnapping And Homicide Case

Eliza Fletcher, a mother of two and an accomplished athlete, vanished over the past weekend, completely shocking the city of Memphis in the US. Two days after being brutally kidnapped and slain, this 34-year-old woman’s lifeless body was located. Cleotha Abston, also known as Cleotha Henderson, a 38-year-old man with an extensive criminal history was initially accused of abducting her and manipulating evidence. But, after Eliza’s body was found and, more crucially, his DNA was confirmed with the crime scene evidence, he was arrested on murder charges.

The Kidnapping Of Eliza

Besides being an excellent sprinter and officially qualified for Boston Marathon, Eliza was preschool teacher at St. Mary’s School and the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a late billionaire who managed a billion-dollar hardware manufacturer. She started her usual jogging on September 2 at around 4 a.m. Fletcher followed her usual path, which passed through Central Avenue close to the University of Memphis. A black GMC Terrain was seen on security footage traveling close to the university campus for around 25 minutes at the same time. Fletcher was grabbed and violently shoved into the GMC Terrain SUV twenty minutes into her run. Before he forced her into the passenger seat, the footage caught not only the extensive struggle between her and her abductor but also the GMC remaining in the same location for four minutes before starting its engine.

Arrest of Cleotha Henderson 

Richard Fletcher, the victim’s husband, called the police to notify them that his spouse had not returned home from her jog. Police departments quickly started searching for her all across the city. The victim’s relatives sought the community’s assistance in locating their dear one in a televised speech that was broadcast later that night. Meanwhile, that specific GMC Terrain was spotted near the 5700 block of Waterstone Oak Way, where Cleotha Henderson lived.  The suspect was seen by the witnesses cleaning the insides of the purported vehicle. According to his brother Mario, Cleotha Henderson was cleaning his garments in the household basin and acting erratically. Henderson was placed under arrest by police forces on September 3. The suspect tried to escape but was captured. He refused to provide any specifics about Fletcher’s corpse. However, on September 5, close to Victor Street and Person Avenue, where Henderson had been seen wiping his vehicle, police recovered the dead body of an unnamed woman near a vacant building. Eliza Fletcher’s kidnapping was officially connected to Henderson, who was also accused of interfering with the crime scene’s findings. Henderson was accused of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in kidnapping after it was determined that the body belonged to Eliza. But what was the main proof that pointed to Henderson as her killer? The DNA, indeed.

DNA Plays The Game

As per the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and city police, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) matched the DNA evidence gathered in the case of Eliza Fletcher. The Federal Bureau of Investigation created and administers the combined DNA index system (CODIS), a national DNA database repository for the United States. Three phases of information constitute CODIS: Local DNA Index Systems (LDIS), from which DNA profiles are generated, State DNA Index Systems (SDIS), which enables the exchange of information among laboratory facilities within states, and the National DNA Index System (NDIS), which facilitates states to counterbalance DNA data among themselves. Depending on the kind of information being searched against, the CODIS program has access to a variety of different databases. Missing persons, offenders with penalties, and forensic specimens gathered from crime scenes are some examples of these databases. Henderson’s DNA was previously known to the CODIS due to a sexual assault case in 2021. That data from a year ago matched Cleotha Henderson’s DNA. In this case, Henderson’s footwear that he abandoned at the crime site in a haste or out of struggle was helpful to collect his DNA. Naturally, the DNA results showed that, in addition to murdering poor Eliza, he had also raped another woman in 2021. In a trash can next to his house, her pink undergarment and purple pants were also retrieved. Why he kidnapped and then killed Eliza is still mysterious.

Henderson, An Experienced Criminal With Lengthy Offence Records

According to court transcripts, Henderson has an extensive juvenile criminal history that extends back to 1995, when he was just 11 years old. Even as a child, Cleotha Henderson was accused of a number of felonies per year between 1995 and 2000. Henderson was convicted guilty of rape when he was just 14 years old by the juvenile court. When he was only 16, in May 2000, he was indicted for kidnapping and armed burglary. At gunpoint, he grabbed Kemper Durand, a criminal defense attorney, and dragged him into the car’s trunk. He escorted Durand to an ATM so he could make withdrawals of money, but Durand tricked him, screamed for assistance, and failed. His charges also included fraudulent use of a debit and credit card, illegal possession of a weapon, rape, and robbery. Henderson has been sentenced to a 24-year prison term after pleading guilty to the kidnapping. In November 2020, the Tennessee Department of Correction discharged him from detention.

Conclusion

Despite Henderson being arrested, some other concern has arisen. As Fletcher’s case highlights a structural lapse on the part of the government and police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is criticized for shirking its responsibilities.  That is nothing but the obvious inability to properly test rape kits and disclose the findings. Authorities claim that DNA evidence in the Fletcher case links Henderson to her murder. The same Henderson’s DNA has also been connected to a 2021 rape. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), however, has never examined the rape kit from that crime in 2021. Nearly a year after the first kit was delivered to TBI, on September 5, 2022, a match to Henderson was discovered in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Therefore, the query emerges; why was the evidence submitted to the standby list after the kit was submitted on September 23, 2021?  It’s therefore terrifying to think that Fletcher may still be alive today if that very kit had been analyzed faster. The answer is so simple; forensic labs ought to have sufficient personnel to examine these kits, and all levels of police forces must be involved in the trail and monitoring of these kits so that nobody can misuse the loopholes.

References : 

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/suspect-memphis-jogger-eliza-fletchers-murder-lengthy-juvenile-record-rcna46710

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