As authorities in Memphis released new details in the kidnapping of a jogger Eliza Fletcher, the suspect in the fatal kidnapping, appeared in court on Wednesday to face murder charges.
The suspect, Cleotha Abston Henderson, 38, appeared in Shelby County Criminal Court to face charges of first degree murder, premeditated murder and first degree commission of kidnapping. A judge ordered him held without bond, pending a bail hearing.
Henderson did not enter a plea in the case.
Attorney Jennifer Case of the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office advised the court that although Henderson confirmed that he wanted his office to defend him, she filed a motion raising questions about that representation, which did not were not made public in court.
Judge Louis J. Montesi Jr. ordered the defendant to return to court Thursday while he works to resolve his representation issue.
“In light of Ms. Case’s issues, which I will not address until I can resolve them by tomorrow and see another lawyer for you if necessary,” Montesi told Henderson, who appeared before the court handcuffed and under heavy surveillance.
Montesi also said he would call defendant Cleotha Henderson based on the defendant’s statement confirming her real name. Police and prosecutors were previously calling suspect Cleotha Abston.
This was the second court appearance for Henderson. On Tuesday, he was arraigned on charges of particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence related to Fletcher’s disappearance, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said. Henderson was also charged over the weekend with charges unrelated to the Fletcher kidnapping, including identity theft, theft of property worth $1,000 or less and use fraudulent credit card.
The murder charges were filed against him after police on Tuesday identified a body discovered in the back of a vacant South Memphis duplex under Fletcher’s name. The remains were found by police several miles from where the married mother-of-two was abducted early Friday while jogging.
Details of new Memphis joggers revealed
A new complaint affidavit filed by investigators in the case, and released Tuesday evening, details how police discovered Fletcher’s remains during a four-day search.
Members of several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were going door to door on Monday afternoon looking for Fletcher in a residential area in south Memphis when officers noticed fresh tire tracks in a area of tall grass adjacent to the driveway of a vacant residence. , according to the affidavit.
“Officers moved and headed to the back of the location,” where they were drawn down a set of steps just north of the back driveway, according to the affidavit. “Immediately to the right of the steps, (an officer) located an unconscious female lying on the ground and notified members of his search party.”
The remains matched Fletcher’s description, according to the affidavit.
Further forensic analysis confirmed the remains were those of Fletcher, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, other investigators near where the body was found discovered an abandoned garbage bag, according to the affidavit. The bag was found near the residence of Henderson’s brother, where witnesses told investigators the suspect was seen several hours after Friday’s abduction ‘acting very strangely’ and allegedly cleaned the inside of a black GMC Terrain that surveillance video showed was used in the kidnapping, the affidavit says.
“The bag contained purple Lululemon running shorts that matched the one Eliza Fletcher was last seen in,” according to the affidavit.
An earlier affidavit filed in the case described surveillance video that captured the kidnapping as it happened.
“A man exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively towards the victim, then forced victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger side of the vehicle. During this abduction, there appears to have been a struggle,” reads the affidavit.
Citing the video, investigators said the SUV sat in a parking lot with the victim inside for about four minutes before driving off, according to the affidavit.
U.S. Marshals arrested Henderson on Saturday after learning that the registered owner of the GMC Terrain lived in the same residence as Henderson, according to the affidavit. As the US Marshals Service moved in to make the arrests, Henderson allegedly tried to flee in the SUV but was quickly arrested.
During questioning, Henderson, who works at a dry cleaner, refused to tell investigators anything about Fletcher’s whereabouts, according to the affidavit. On Tuesday, Davis said, “We didn’t get a lot of information from this person (Henderson).”
Complete Fletcher’s Race
Friends and strangers laid flowers and balloons at makeshift memorials at the spot where police said Fletcher was kidnapped and at the vacant home where her body was found.
Danielle Heineman, an avid runner in Memphis, said she was hosting a 10-mile race Friday called “Let’s Finish Liza’s Run.”
Heineman told ABC affiliate station WATN in Memphis that the response to his Facebook post announcing the race was overwhelming. She said the original plan was to start the race near Fletcher’s house to where she was abducted and back.
“However, this has exploded since my original Facebook post,” Heineman said, adding that she has now changed the start location of the race out of respect for the Fletcher family’s request for confidentiality “so as not to have crowd near her home”.
Memphis resident Chris Rudy, who is also a runner, stopped by the memorial at the site where Fletcher was kidnapped, telling WATN that she used to run in the area as a student. She said she was “shaken” by Fletcher’s fatal kidnapping.
“I think I can speak for all the women in Memphis right now,” Rudy said, “it’s just heartbreaking, heartbreaking and no one deserves this.”
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