Memphis PD: Body identified as Eliza Fletcher

Memphis police say they have detained a man who was found inside a vehicle of interest after a...
Memphis police say they have detained a man who was found inside a vehicle of interest after a woman was abducted while jogging on Friday.(Memphis Police Dept.)
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 8:46 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WSMV) - Four days after a mother of two and Memphis teacher was kidnapped, her body has been found.

Eliza Fletcher was abducted during her morning run on Friday and Memphis Police confirmed the body found on Monday afternoon in the 1600 block of Victor Street is confirmed to be that of 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher.

Eliza Fletcher, who was kidnapped last week, was found dead in Memphis. Here is the full press conference held by authorities Tuesday morning.

Police initially arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Abston Saturday for her kidnapping, but court documents showed Abston declined to divulge the location of Fletcher’s body, prior to it being discovered on Monday evening. Police announced Tuesday he was charged with first-degree murder, among other charges.

An affidavit obtained by WSMV 4 reveals many disturbing details about the moments that led up to and after Fletcher’s abduction.

The affidavit said Fletcher’s husband called police at about 7 a.m. on Friday to report Eliza hadn’t returned after her 4 a.m. run. The document showed at about 6:45 a.m. on Friday, someone who rode their bike on Central Avenue near Zach H Curlin Street found the victim’s cellphone and a pair of Champion slides sandals laying in the street in the same area. The person turned these items over to one of Fletcher’s family members, who then gave them to investigators.

Investigators said Abston’s DNA was found on sandals at the scene and cellphone records showed he was near Fletcher’s abduction site when the kidnapping happened.

Tosin Fakile reports that Memphis and Tennessee officials have continued their 4th day of searching for Eliza Fletcher who was abducted while jogging.

The affidavit says that surveillance footage showed a GMC Terrain was in that area about 24 minutes before the abduction and captured portions of the license plate. That surveillance video also showed the SUV was passing and waiting for Fletcher to run by.

In the video, a man, believed to Abston, got out of the SUV, ran aggressively towards Fletcher, and then forced her into the passenger side of the SUV. There was a struggle, according to police. The vehicle sat in a parking lot with Fletcher inside for about four minutes before driving off, police said.

Affidavit for Cleotha Abston
Affidavit for Cleotha Abston(State of Tennessee in Shelby County)
Affidavit for Cleotha Abston
Affidavit for Cleotha Abston(State of Tennessee in Shelby County)

The GMC Terrain was found by the U.S. Marshal service at the same home where they found Abston. Abston tried running away from police before he was taken into custody.

The affidavit says Abston’s brother, Mario Abston, and an unidentified woman told police they saw Cleotha at his brother’s house at about 7:50 a.m. Friday, cleaning the inside of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and washing his clothes in the sink. They also told investigators Cleotha was acting strangely. He was in court Tuesday and is expected to be in court Wednesday.

Officials said this is not the first time Abston has been charged with kidnapping. He was convicted of kidnapping a prominent Memphis lawyer back in 2000 and served about two decades behind bars.

On Tuesday, Belmont University in Nashville announced Fletcher had been a student there.

“Eliza (Wellford) Fletcher was a Belmont alumna making a tangible difference in her community, and we are all heartbroken by the news of her tragic death. Liza graduated from Belmont University in 2012 with a Master’s of Arts in Teaching education degree and was shaping young lives as a teacher in the Memphis area,” the statement says. “Though we all hoped for a different outcome following Friday’s news of her kidnapping, we are grateful for the many law enforcement teams that worked together throughout the weekend to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible. The entire Belmont community joins with many around the nation in praying for Liza’s family and friends as they begin to navigate incomprehensible grief.”