A woman in Memphis has filed a lawsuit against police, accusing them of failing to investigate her rape case — which she said then allowed the suspect to go on and allegedly abduct and kill Eliza Fletcher a year later.
Alicia Franklin sued the city of Memphis on Tuesday, accusing the Memphis Police Department of failing to follow up on leads in her case even though she completed a rape kit and provided the first name, phone number, social media information, and a description of the car driven by Cleotha Abston. Abston is accused of abducting Fletcher, a teacher, while she was on her morning run and killing her on Sept. 2.
Franklin is now seeking damages for the lack of justice in her own case as well as to bring to light how police failed other women by failing to arrest Abston sooner.
According to the lawsuit, Franklin connected with the man she knew as Cleo on a dating app and met him in person at his apartment complex on Sept. 21, 2021. When she arrived, he put a gun to her neck, blindfolded her, and raped her, the lawsuit said. Abston allegedly told Franklin not to leave the apartment until she could hear his car engine rev. When she heard it, she ran away and drove herself to a hospital to seek medical attention for the rape.
Franklin reported what happened to her to police, and she completed a rape kit. Abston had been released from prison after serving 20 years for kidnapping, and he was also suspected of another recent kidnapping; his DNA would have been in a database, the lawsuit said.
On Sept. 23, 2021, Memphis police submitted Franklin’s rape kit for analysis, but they did not request to have it “rushed” to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the lawsuit said. That alone could have led to his arrest and prevented Fletcher’s death, the lawsuit said.
“The failure to rush or expedite on the DNA testing was not the only failure. They had numerous other ways of catching him right on the front end,” Gary Smith, Franklin’s attorney, told BuzzFeed News.
The other information that Franklin provided to police did lead investigators to include a photo of Abston in a lineup of suspects. Franklin reviewed it a few days after she was allegedly raped, but she was unable to identify him because the photo the police used of him was more than a decade old, the lawsuit said.
Smith said police also failed to canvass the neighborhood or check fingerprints on her phone.
“If they had taken the fingerprints, they would have known who was it immediately. They had his first name. She gave them his phone number. She gave them the dating site,” Smith said. “That’s just a few of the failures.”
The Memphis Police Department declined to comment to BuzzFeed News. “As is standard practice, we do not talk about pending litigation,” a spokesperson said.