Judge revokes bond for man charged in kidnapping, murder of Eliza Fletcher

Cleotha Henderson in court
Cleotha Henderson in court(Action News 5)
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 4:56 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:26 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sadness and devastation strike as Memphis, the Mid-South and people all across the country grapple with the discovery of the body of a Memphis wife, teacher and mother of two.

Police found 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher’s body Monday night and the man accused of killing her faced the judge for the second day in a row Wednesday. This time, for murder charges.

Abston was originally charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with/fabricating evidence in this case. That is until investigators located and identified Fletcher’s body.

On Tuesday, additional charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping were brought against Abston.

Upon entering, Judge Louis Montesi asked the defendant how he would like to be referred to.

The defendant, who up until this point has been referred to as Cleotha Abston, said he’d prefer to go by Cleotha Henderson.

The name Henderson has appeared in parenthesis next to “Cleotha Abston” in court documents, and on Tuesday’s arraignment, for his charges of aggravated kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and fraud, Henderson said the name in parenthesis is his true last name.

He says he changed it to Abston when he was released from prison in 2020.

Wednesday, Judge Montesi said from this point Cleotha shall be referred to as “Cleotha Henderson.”

However, before the arraignment could begin, Henderson’s defense counsel, Jennifer Case with the public defender’s office, said a motion was filed, which contains a “legal issue” regarding Henderson’s legal representation.

“Until this issue is resolved, there can’t be any hearings regarding this case,” Case said in the courtroom.

Judge Montesi responded with, “In order for me to resolve that issue, I need certain records from various courts.”

With that, Montesi pushed Henderson’s arraignment to a later date.

“The motion is under seal,” said Shelby County D.A. Steve Mulroy. “There are limits as to what we can discuss publicly, so I can’t really go into any more detail other than what the judge already said on the record.”

This is Abston’s second kidnapping offense. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison at the age of 16 for a kidnapping back in May 2000 but only spent 20 years behind bars.

Mulroy said his early release is tragic.

“We’ll only be able to speculate as to what other things he may not have done had he served his full term, but clearly this is very tragic,” the D.A. said.

As for Henderson’s original $500,000 bond, Judge Montesi revoked it pending a bond hearing.

Court is set for Henderson’s arraignment Thursday at 9 a.m., and while Mulroy wouldn’t specify as to what sentence his office is looking for, he did tell us the sentence could be one of three things.

“First-degree murder, under the law, has three different penalties: life imprisonment, life imprisonment without parole, and the death penalty. We have charged first-degree murder,” Mulroy said.

As of now, there is no new information on the time and place of Fletcher’s death, nor is there anything to suggest that her kidnapping and death was anything but a random attack from a stranger.

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