In the wake of a man charged with kidnapping in the disappearance of a Memphis school teacher in West Tennessee, police said Monday they found a body near where the woman was taken.
Cleotha Abston, 38, was charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping in the disappearance last week of Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a 34-year-old woman who Memphis police say was abducted while jogging on Friday.
Abston’s arrest announced on Sunday came after police from the Memphis Police Department said DNA on a pair of slides linked him to her.
Here’s what we know so far about the case:
Previously reported:Man charged with kidnapping in disappearance of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher
What’s new in the case?
Police said Monday they found a body found near the area where Fletcher disappeared last week.
Officers discovered the body around 5 p.m. in a residential area about five miles from the University of Memphis campus, where she was taken.
“The identity of this person and the cause of death are not confirmed at this time”, the police wrote on Twitteradding that the incident was still under investigation.
Who is Eliza Fletcher?
Fletcher’s abduction last week sparked a full-scale search involving local, state and federal authorities.
She is 5ft 6in, weighs 137lbs and has brown hair, wore purple shorts and a pink sports bra, police said.
Fletcher is a mother of two and a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis.
She is also the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgil III, a noted philanthropist who helped run the family-owned Memphis-based hardware supply company Orgill Inc.
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When did Fletcher disappear?
On Friday, the woman’s husband, Richard Fletcher, informed police that his wife had not returned from her run by 7 a.m., and a man on a bicycle, who was taking the same route as Fletcher was running, found the Eliza Fletcher’s cell phone and a pair of brand Champion slips down the street.
Police reviewed surveillance footage from the nearby Earthquake Research and Information Center on the University of Memphis campus and said the video showed a black GMC Terrain passing and waiting for Fletcher go ahead.
“A man exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively towards the victim, then forced victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger side of the vehicle,” the affidavit reads. “During this kidnapping, there seems to have been a struggle.”
Police said the SUV was parked for about four minutes before the vehicle drove off.
After reviewing the footage, investigators said about 24 minutes before the abduction, surveillance footage captured the same vehicle in the area.
Police said they believe Fletcher was seriously injured due to the violence of the abduction.
Who is Cleotha Abston?
The slides were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing, which was later found to match Abston in a national DNA database from a previous conviction.
Abston was released from prison in November 2020 after serving two decades for kidnapping. In this case, he kidnapped a lawyer from Memphis, who spent time working for the Innocence Project. Abston was sentenced to 24 years in this case.
So far, police say Abston has not said Fletcher’s whereabouts.
Police said detectives began investigating what Abston had been up to in the previous days and after Fletcher disappeared they found footage of him wearing the same slides at the Memphis movie theater on Thursday.
During the investigation, police also discovered that the Land was registered in the name of a woman, who is not named as she has not been charged with a crime.
Police interviewed the owner of Majesty’s cleaning service, where Abston worked, and verified that he was driving the Terrain and also provided investigators with his cell phone number. This number was used to determine Abston’s whereabouts at the time of Fletcher’s abduction, confirming that he was in the area at the time.
What led to Abston’s arrest?
On Saturday, U.S. Marshals found the vehicle parked at the address listed on an incident report from Thursday. As well as confirming the car from the license plate, surveillance footage also showed the car had “noticeable damage” to the passenger side taillight, which was also visible to apartment complex marshals.
When law enforcement officials tried to arrest Abston, who was on the ground at the time, they said he tried to flee but was eventually caught.
Another woman interviewed by police said she saw Abston outside the home of her brother, Mario Abston. She told investigators that Cleotha Abston did not live there, but “she saw Cleotha Abston cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and said it was behaving oddly.”
Both Abston’s wife and brother told investigators they saw Abston cleaning his clothes in the sink in the house.
Mario Abston was also arrested Sunday on unrelated drug charges, but has not been charged in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance. Police said he was not suspected of involvement in Fletcher’s kidnapping.
Is there a reward?
Fletcher’s family is offering a $50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information about his disappearance.
His family released a video statement on Saturday afternoon urging anyone with information about the case to contact police.
“The family has met with the police and we have shared with them all the information we know. More than anything, we want to see Liza return home safely,” Fletcher’s uncle Mike Keeney said.
Contributor: Lucas Finton and Astrid Kayembe, The Commercial Appeal
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.