Memphis/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 11, 2024
Dating App Despair: Cleotha Abston Faces the Verdict on Rape and Kidnap Charges in Memphis TrialSource: Unsplash/Wesley Tingey

As the high-profile rape trial of Cleotha Abston moves into its final stage, the courtroom braced for a decisive day of closing arguments on Thursday. Abston, accused of raping Alicia Franklin in 2021, has been at the center of a legal storm, additionally charged with the kidnapping and murder of Memphis school teacher Eliza Fletcher a year later.

In a clear sign that the trial was nearing its end, Abston declined to testify in his own defense on Wednesday, according to FOX13 Memphis. The defendant faces serious charges including rape, kidnapping, and unlawful possession of a weapon, allegations he has denied by entering a plea of not guilty.

On day two of testimony, a more detailed picture of the events in question was painted by various witnesses. Among those who took the stand was Abston's ex-girlfriend, who confirmed the two lived together and shared two vehicles, including a white Dodge Charger—alleged to be the site of the sexual assault. A friend of the alleged victim also testified, describing Franklin as "disheveled" upon meeting her at Regional One hospital following the incident.

The prosecution and defense have presented sharply contrasting narratives. Prosecutors claim that Abston used a firearm to threaten Franklin's life and forced her into the aforementioned vehicle where the rape is said to have occurred, WREG reports. Abston's legal team, however, countered this by painting the interaction as a fallout from a consensual sexual encounter, rooted in a dispute over money.

In earlier stages of the trial, Memphis Police Officers shared their experiences from the night of the alleged crime, stating that Franklin described the encounter with Abston as non-consensual after meeting on a dating app and agreeing to meet in person. Despite the severity of the allegations, Abston's defense has remained unwavering in their argument for his innocence, suggesting that the sex was consensual.

The emotional weight of this trial cannot be understated. Franklin has testified that she met Abston on the dating app Plenty of Fish, with an understanding that their evening would include dinner and sex with a financial transaction involved. However, she claims that upon arrival, she was met with a weapon and brutality, not the expected commercial exchange, FOX13 Memphis revealed.

The trial has garnered attention not just for the crimes alleged but also for what it represents—a broader examination of consent, violence, and the intersections of the justice system and digital dating platforms. With the final arguments laid out, the jury now bears the weight of this complex, emotion-laden case as they prepare to deliberate the fate of Cleotha Abston.