UNITED STATES NEWS

Judge denies change of venue motion in rape trial of man also accused of Memphis teacher’s killing

Jan 4, 2024, 3:32 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man accused of raping a woman a year before he was charged with kidnapping and killing a schoolteacher will have his fate decided by a Memphis-area jury when he goes to trial in the sexual assault case, a judge has ruled.

Shelby County Judge Lee Coffee on Wednesday denied a change of venue motion filed by Juni Ganguli, the lawyer for Cleotha Abston, news outlets reported. Ganguli argued that Abston could not get a fair trial from Shelby County jurors because of intense media publicity surrounding the 2021 rape and the 2022 killing of Eliza Fletcher.

Abston was not arrested on the rape charges before Eliza Fletcher’s killing because of a long delay in processing the sexual assault kit, authorities have said. Abston has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

Coffee has scheduled an April 8 trial for Abston on the charges of kidnapping and raping a woman in September 2021. Abston is charged with snatching Fletcher from a street near the University of Memphis during her early-morning run on Sept. 2, 2022, and forcing her into an SUV. Her body was found days later near a vacant duplex.

The April rape trial will take place before the trial in the Fletcher case. Prosecutors say they will pursue the death penalty if Abston is convicted of first-degree murder in Fletcher’s death, but no trial date has been set in that case.

Abston, who also has used the name Cleotha Henderson, was charged with the 2021 rape days after he was charged with Fletcher’s killing. After Fletcher’s death, the Legislature passed a law requiring the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to issue a quarterly report on sexual assault kit testing times.

Ganguli had asked the judge to bring in a jury from Nashville for the April rape trial. Coffee said Abston could get a fair trial with a Shelby County jury, citing the 2022 murder trial in the killing of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright as an example of a case that had heavy media attention, yet used a local jury.

The killing of Fletcher, a 34-year-old kindergarten teacher and mother of two, shocked the Memphis community and led to a flood of support for her family. Runners in Memphis and several other cities held an early-morning running event in her honor a week after she was abducted. A second run honoring Fletcher was held last year.

United States News

Associated Press

A fellow student is charged with killing a Christian college wrestler in Kentucky

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A college wrestler in Kentucky was killed by a fellow student at a private Christian university over the weekend, authorities said. Josiah Kilman, 18, was pronounced dead at a hospital after police officers were called early Saturday to Campbellsville University in central Kentucky, city police said in a news release. He […]

27 minutes ago

FILE - Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel arrives on stage before House Minority Le...

Associated Press

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel will leave post on March 8 as Trump moves to install new loyalists

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel will leave her post on March 8, having been forced out of the GOP’s national leadership as Donald Trump moves toward another presidential nomination and asserts control over the party. McDaniel announced her decision in a statement on Monday morning. “I have decided to step […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: Wall Street ticks lower ahead of another big batch of retail earnings

Wall Street pointed slightly lower early Monday ahead of a week that will be dominated by earnings reports from some of the nation’s biggest retailers. Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each ticked down about 0.1% before the bell. Earnings remain a big focus this week as a key indicator […]

5 hours ago

FILE - Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead speaks with the media, May 24, 2022, in New York. The Brooklyn...

Associated Press

Brooklyn preacher goes on trial for fraud charges prosecutors say fueled lavish lifestyle

NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn preacher with ties to New York City Mayor Eric Adams is set to go on trial Monday in Manhattan federal court over charges that he looted a parishioner’s retirement savings and tried to extort a businessman to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Lamor Miller-Whitehead, 47, a Rolls Royce-driving bishop, faces […]

9 hours ago

FILE - Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. ...

Associated Press

Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens will appear in court as judge weighs his detention

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former FBI informant charged with fabricating a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family is set to appear in a California federal court on Monday as a judge considers whether he must remain behind bars while he awaits trial. Special counsel David Weiss’ office is pressing U.S. District Judge […]

9 hours ago

Rock Creek Forest Elementary School students exit a diesel bus before attending school, Friday, Feb...

Associated Press

Demand for electric school buses finally starts to make headway

Electric school buses have been driving in California for nearly a decade but the demand for more across the country has been increasing.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Judge denies change of venue motion in rape trial of man also accused of Memphis teacher’s killing