Black rape victim ‘attacked by Eliza Fletcher’s accused killer’ files lawsuit against Memphis
Memphis woman Alicia Franklin says she was raped by Cleotha Abston, who authorities say kidnapped and murdered billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher on Sept. 2.
A Memphis woman allegedly raped by Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer last year has filed a lawsuit against the city’s police, accusing them of negligence for failing to properly investigate her case.
The indictment, filed by Alicia Franklin on Sept. 20, says Memphis police may have prevented the kidnapping and death of the billionaire heiress had she adequately investigated her September 2021 attack.
Franklin, 22, says she was raped by Cleotha Abston, who authorities say kidnapped and murdered billionaire heiress Fletcher on Sept. 2 while she was running early in the morning.
Cleotha Abston should and could have been arrested and charged for the aggravated rape of Alicia Franklin many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021, says the lawsuit filed in the Shelby County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit states that if authorities had intervened when Franklin reported her attack, “the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have occurred.”
A lawsuit filed by Franklin says Memphis police may have prevented Fletcher’s kidnapping and death had they adequately investigated Franklin’s attack
The indictment says police failed to collect necessary physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from the site of Franklin’s attack
After a four-day search in September, Eliza Fletcher’s body was discovered near a dilapidated house, just yards from where police last saw the vehicle she was forced into.
Franklin’s lawsuit names the city of Memphis as the sole defendant and demands an unspecified amount of compensation for pain and suffering and other damages.
“I just don’t think it was a priority,” Franklin said on Sunday. “I was just your average black girl in the city of Memphis, you know.”
Franklin said she wanted her name and face to be revealed to help other women avoid similar situations.
The suit, filed by Memphis attorneys Jeffrey S. Rosenblum and Gary K. Smith, says police have failed to collect necessary physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from the site of Franklin’s assault.
They also claim that the police have not pursued Abston enough, who has now been charged with Fletcher’s death.
“As is customary, we don’t talk about pending lawsuits,” city spokesman Dan Springer wrote in an email to the Daily Memphis.
When the DNA results came back from the state crime lab days later, he was charged with the rape of Franklin.
In the case of Fletcher’s kidnapping, Abston was identified as a suspect in just 18 hours, after a sandal left at the crime scene was returned with a match to his DNA.
But Abston’s mother, Virgie Abston, insists her son is innocent, claiming that the convicted felon is a “nice,” “good person” and is being “retraced” for a violent crime.
The mother came from her low-income apartment complex in north Memphis and told DailyMail.com that she is assisting Abston, who has declared her innocence from prison.
“I talked to him and he said he didn’t,” she recalls of their conversation. ‘He said [to me]”They’re trying to put me in something, Mom.”
“I believe him,” she continued. ‘I don’t believe he did it. If it comes out of his mouth, I believe it.’
“He’s just a good person, nice, amiable,” she added, contesting the images of her son as a monster alleged in the lawsuit.
Abston was charged with the rape of Franklin just days after being charged with the murder of Fletcher as police finally received the results of the rape kit a year later
The suspect’s mother, Virgie Abston, 65, told DailyMail.com that she is with her son, who she says has declared his innocence to her from prison.
“I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of the head,” Franklin said of her 2021 attack
“MPD already had enough information to suspect that Cleotha Abston was the man who raped Alicia Franklin, but MPD agents did not try to arrest him,” the indictment says.
Franklin’s lawyers also filed a second lawsuit against the building owners of the apartment where Franklin was raped for failing to maintain proper security.
According to police reports, the rape took place on September 21, 2021, in a vacant apartment at 5783 Waterstone Oak Way, which Abston is said to live next door.
Franklin says she met a man she only knew as “Cleo” through the online dating app Plenty Of Fish, and agreed to meet him at a large apartment complex in southeast Memphis.
His invitation had originally been to meet for dinner at Olive Garden, but when Franklin said her car was running on a spare tire and she didn’t want to drive that far, they agreed to meet in what he said was his apartment. .
But when she arrived, she said Abston held a gun to her neck and led her to one of the apartments, which appeared to be empty and under renovation.
There he blindfolded her with a T-shirt and led her to a white Dodge Charger, where he attacked her and then took her to the apartment. It was a terrifying ordeal she hadn’t expected to survive.
“I really thought he was going to shoot me in the back of the head,” she told the Daily Memphian.
Abston was identified as a suspect in Fletcher’s murder in just 18 hours after a sandal left at the crime scene was returned with a match to his DNA
Benefactor Justaphine McGhee Crime scene where Eliza Fletcher’s body was found after an intensive search
‘Can you please let me go? Please, let me go,” she recalled, begging her attacker.
After the attack, the attacker rummaged through her bag, touched her keys and cell phone, stole some money and left her.
According to a police incident report, the apartment is located at 5783 Waterstone Oak Way, a few doors from where Abston appears to live, and where he was arrested a year later for the murder of Fletcher.
Franklin also says she gave police her attacker’s phone number.
Police did present Franklin with a set of photos, but she said she couldn’t confidently identify Abston because the photo of him they had with it was old and showed him a dreadlock haircut he no longer wore.
Memphis police officers then indicated to Alicia Franklin that they would be given another (and more recent) photo of a suspect to have her assessed…
The lawsuit also alleges that “MPD had access to more up-to-date photos of Cleotha Abston through the Tennessee Department of Correction.”
“They never showed me an updated photo. I called two or three months later and said, ‘Hey, you know, (the detective) said she would, you know, try to do another photo lineup with updated photos and… I haven’t heard from them. her,” Franklin recalled.
“And then they said, ‘Oh well, she’s since been promoted, so she’s no longer the detective on your case,’ said the victim.
The indictment states that police did not “rush” Franklin’s rape kit at the time of her attack, but requested that it be rushed after Fletcher’s death, which led them to Abston within hours.
But the suit states that the police didn’t even need the rape kit to find Abston, because they got more than enough information from Franklin.
“MPD already knew that Alicia Franklin had given MPD the first name ‘Cleo’ of the suspect who raped her, a phone number for him, social media information about him and a description of the car he had driven,” the suit says. .
Abston previously served 20 years in prison for a kidnapping he committed at the age of 16.