The man accused of kidnapping and killing Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was arraigned Thursday for aggravated rape charges in a separate 2021 incident after DNA evidence from the Fletcher investigation linked him to the crime.
Cleotha Henderson, 38, was indicted last week on charges of aggravated rape, kidnapping and unlawful possession of a weapon for a September 21, 2021, incident involving a different woman.
Henderson appeared in a Shelby County courtroom Thursday morning for his arraignment on the charges. He was escorted into the courtroom by a Shelby County Sheriff’s Department deputy and stood next to his lawyer, a Shelby County public defender.
The judge issued Henderson a total bond of $1,425,000 for the charges in this case, though he is being held on no bond for the charges related to Fletcher.
Henderson’s attorney entered a plea of not guilty for the three charges and requested the case go to trial.
The Shelby County judge also mentioned Henderson’s prior conviction, nearly two decades ago, for aggravated kidnapping. Court records show that Henderson pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2001 and was released in November 2020.
Because he is a convicted felon, Henderson could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on either the aggravated rape or the kidnapping charge, the judge said Thursday morning.
Henderson’s next hearing in this case has been set for Friday, November 4.
The charges come nearly two weeks after Fletcher, 34, went out for an early morning run in a neighborhood near the University of Memphis and failed to return home. Her disappearance sparked an intense hunt – buoyed by surveillance video police said showed her being forced into an SUV – which led to Henderson’s arrest near his Memphis home last Saturday.
Fletcher’s body was found near a vacant duplex last week, authorities said.
She was the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgill III, who died in 2018 at the age of 80. Tennessee-based Orgill has annual sales of $3 billion, according to the company.