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Public defender's office will continue to represent man charged with Eliza Fletcher's murder

The judge found no conflict of interest after the office asked for a review because they had previously represented him in an earlier case.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cleotha Henderson (aka Abston), the man charged with the murder of Memphis mother Eliza Fletcher, made his third court appearance Thursday.

The Shelby County Judge said he found no conflict of interest with public defender's office representing Henderson. The public defender had asked for a review out of an abundance of caution, because it had previously represented Henderson in a 2000 kidnapping case. They said the previous attorney would not be involved in the current case.

The judge reiterated no bond would be set for Henderson so far.

Henderson first appeared in court Tuesday on kidnapping and tampering with evidence charges in Fletcher’s disappearance. A first-degree murder charge was added Tuesday after investigators identified Fletcher’s body, which was found Monday night in South Memphis.

In court Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, the judge said Henderson was the suspect’s “true and legal” name,” despite earlier records showing him as Cleotha Abston, and he would now be referred to as Henderson in the official court record. The judge revoked a previous bond of $510,000, and Henderson was held without bond.

He is due back in court for a report date on Monday, Sept. 19.

Henderson was previously convicted in 2000 of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery in Shelby County, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). He received a 24-year sentence and was released in November 2020.

RELATED: Missing Memphis mother found dead: What we know about Eliza Fletcher's murder

Credit: Shelby County Jail
Memphis police have arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Henderson, aka Abston, in connection with the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher.

The abduction and murder

Memphis Police said Fletcher, a mother and St. Mary’s Episcopal School junior kindergarten teacher, was jogging about 4 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, near Central Ave. and Zach H. Curlin St. in the University of Memphis area, when Henderson is accused of abducting her in a GMC Terrain.

Credit: Memphis Police Department

According to the police affidavit, a witness told investigators they saw Henderson just a few hours after the abduction on Friday, around 7:50 a.m., at his brother's apartment in South Memphis, cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain, and washing his clothes in a sink.

RELATED: Cleotha Abston's brother arrested on drug charges after investigators execute search warrant

The affidavit said investigators connected Henderson to the GMC and cell phone records showed him in the area near Central Ave. at the time of Fletcher’s abduction.

On Saturday morning, Sept. 3, 2022, U.S. Marshals found the GMC Terrain in southeast Memphis, and detained Henderson, who they said was there at the time.

Sunday, Sept. 4, the 38-year-old was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence as the search for Fletcher continued. According to the police affidavit, Henderson declined to provide investigators with the location of the victim.

Monday, Sept. 5, new charges were filed against Henderson for identity theft, theft of property $1,000 or less, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of credit/debit card $1,000 or less, for an unrelated theft the day before the kidnapping.

Monday evening, investigators located a body in South Memphis, not far from where the GMC was found. They confirmed it was Fletcher the next morning.

RELATED: Shelby County D.A.: Eliza Fletcher's murder believed to be 'random attack by stranger'

RELATED: Community rallies for Eliza Fletcher, taking to the streets Friday morning

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