Body found in Memphis identified as abducted jogger Eliza Fletcher

A body found in a Memphis neighborhood Monday was confirmed to be a woman from Tennessee who was abducted late last week, the police said Tuesday. Eliza Fletcher, 34, was seen on surveillance video being forced into an SUV while jogging near the University of Memphis early Friday morning.

The suspect arrested in the case, Cleotha Abston, 38, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree murder in the commission of a kidnapping, police said. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis told reporters it was possible others would be charged in the case, but as of Tuesday morning no one else has.

Davis said it was too early for investigators to determine how and where Fletcher died. Abston did not provide much information to investigators, Davis said.

Steven Mulroy, the prosecutor for Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said Abston will be arraigned for murder on Wednesday.

“We have no reason to believe this was anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” Mulroy told reporters.

Abston appeared before a judge earlier Tuesday on charges of removal, tampering with evidence, theft, identity theft and fraudulent use of a credit card. Relatives of Fletcher and more than 20 members of the media were in the courtroom.

Abston received a $510,000 bond. Abston said he couldn’t afford bail and couldn’t afford a lawyer. General Sessions Judge Louis Montesi appointed a public defender to represent Abston.

american marshals arrested Abston on Saturday after police detected his DNA on a pair of sandals found near where Fletcher was last seen, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police also linked the vehicle they believe was used in the kidnapping to a person at a home where Abston was staying.

Late Monday, the police tweeted that a body had been found but that person’s identity and cause of death were unconfirmed. A large police presence was reported in the area where authorities said they found the body just after 5 p.m. Memphis police had searched several locations with dogs, ATVs and a helicopter throughout the Labor Day long weekend.

Fletcher, a schoolteacher, is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a Memphis businessman and philanthropist. The family offered a $50,000 reward for information about the case.

In a statement released Tuesday, the family said they were “infinitely grateful” to authorities for locating Fletcher and arresting a suspect.

“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss,” the family said. “Liza was such a joy to so many… Now is the time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much about her.”

Abston previously kidnapped a prominent Memphis lawyer in 2000, sales call reported. When he was just 16, Abston forced Kemper Durand into the trunk of his own car at gunpoint. After several hours, Abston took Durand away and forced him to a Mapco gas station to withdraw cash from an ATM.

At the station, an armed guard from the Memphis Housing Authority entered and Durand screamed for help. Abston fled but was found and arrested. He pleaded guilty in 2001 to particularly aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery, according to court records. He received a 24-year sentence.

Durand, in a victim impact statement, wrote: “I was very lucky to be able to escape from the custody of Cleotha Abston. … It is very likely that I would have been killed if I hadn’t escaped me,” the Commercial Appeal said. reported.

Durand died in 2013, seven years before Abston was released in November 2020 at the age of 36. In the two years since his release, there have been no other documented charges against Abston in Shelby County before his arrest on Saturday, the Commercial Appeal reported.

During Tuesday morning’s press conference, Mulroy appeared to reference Abston’s criminal history, saying: “Any type of violence, of course, is unacceptable, but violent repeat offenders especially deserve a strong response, and c is what they will get from this District Attorney’s Office.”

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