The abductor of a Memphis school teacher appeared in court hours after police identify the woman’s body. Eliza Fletcher was forcibly abducted while out on an early morning jog near the University of Memphis on Sept. 2.
ABC News reports that surveillance video of the abduction shows a man “matching the description of a suspect charged in the kidnapping, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.”
According to an affidavit, “a male exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively toward the victim, and then forced the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle. During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle.”
Fletcher was reported missing at 7 AM by her husband, Richard Fletcher when she did not return home from her run. The fletchers have two small children who will now grow up without their mother. Eliza is also the granddaughter of Joseph Orgill III, a Memphis businessman who founded a billion-dollar hardware company. It was first suspected that her abduction may be related to family money.
Her family offered a $50,000 reward for any information in Fletcher’s kidnapping.
“Liza has touched the hearts of many people, and it shows,” said her uncle Mike Keeney, who spoke for the family during a livestream on Facebook on Sept. 3. “We want to thank the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, TBI, FBI, and all of the other law enforcement agencies who are working tirelessly to find Liza. The family has met with the police and we have shared with them all the information we know.”
The Memphis Police Department confirmed on Sept. 6 that a body found near the crime scene had been identified as Eliza Fletcher. Reports claim that Fletcher was “seriously injured” during the abduction.
Cleotha Abston was arrested in connection to Fletcher’s abduction on Sept. 3. His DNA was found on items near Fletcher’s last known whereabouts.
His two witnesses, including Abston’s brother, told police the suspect showed up at their home at 7:50 AM and was “acting very strangely.” He cleaned the inside of the vehicle he was driving and washed his clothes.
Abston had been initially charged with kidnapping and tampering with evidence. After Fletcher was identified, the charges of murder, premeditated murder, and murder in perpetration of kidnapping were added.
Represented by a court-appointed attorney Abston appeared in court on Sept. 6.
Abston has served 20 years for violently kidnapping Memphis-based prosecutor Kemper Durand at gunpoint on May 25, 2000. He was 16 years old at the time. In addition to aggravated kidnapping, Abston was charged with aggravated robbery.
Durand advocated for Abston to remain in prison on multiple occasions but passed away in 2013.
Abston was released in November 2020. The repeat offender is being held on a $500,000 bond.