Wednesday, September 7, 2022, Cleotha Henderson appeared in court wearing prison garb and a mask over his face for his second hearing in two days. He has been charged with the abduction and murder of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher.
On Friday, September 2, Fletcher went out for a morning jog but never returned. Upon her disappearance that morning, a widespread search ensued for the much-loved mother of two and granddaughter of hardware tycoon Joseph Orgill III.
This hunt turned up surveillance footage of Fletcher being forced into an SUV while jogging. This video resulted in Henderson’s arrest on Saturday near his Memphis home. On Monday, September 5, a body was discovered behind a vacant duplex approximately 7.5 miles away from the location of the SUV.
Henderson was arraigned and initially charged with the kidnapping of Ms. Fletcher on Tuesday, September 6. Earlier today, it was confirmed that the body found near the abduction site was indeed that of Ms. Fletcher. Shortly after the body was identified, Henderson was returned to the courtroom and charged with first-degree murder. The $500,000 bond set at his first arraignment was revoked.
Following the hearing, Steve Mulroy, Shelby County’s District Attorney, declined to answer questions posed about the punishment that would be sought for Henderson if the accused is found guilty. Mulroy stated it was “premature” to discuss the topic. In Tennessee, a first-degree murder conviction can carry a sentence of life in prison or even the death penalty.
This is not the first time Cleotha Henderson has abducted someone. Records detail that he pled guilty to aggravated kidnapping in November of 2001 and was released from prison in November 2020. He is currently facing other charges unrelated to Eliza Fletcher’s death. They include identity theft, theft of property of less than $1000, and fraudulent use of a credit/debit card under $1000.
As for the tragic death of Eliza Fletcher, her community is mourning the woman described as “a joy to everyone who knew her.” In their public statement, Ms. Fletcher’s family said, “We are grateful beyond measure to local, state, and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.”