Eliza Fletcher: How the 4-day search for a Memphis schoolteacher killed in a violent kidnapping led investigators to find her body

The shorts matched the description of what Fletcher was last wearing when her husband reported her missing on Friday after she failed to return home from a morning jog.

As investigators searched for the 34-year-old man on Monday, they spotted vehicle tracks in tall grass near a vacant duplex and smelled rotting before finding the body of an unconscious woman at the ground, according to the affidavit. Officials announced Tuesday that the body was that of Fletcher. She was found about 7.5 miles from where surveillance video shows she was abducted.

“To lose someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in itself, but for it to happen this way, with a senseless act of violence, it is unimaginable,” the county attorney said Tuesday. Shelby, Steve Mulroy, at a press conference.

The teacher’s death, which authorities say was violent, is still surrounded by questions about where and how she was killed.

As the investigation unfolds, the Fletcher community mourns the kindergarten teacher and mother of two.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of our beloved teacher, colleague and friend Liza Fletcher,” St. Mary’s Episcopal School said in a statement. Facebook post. “This morning our faculty and staff started the day at the chapel. We lit candles to remember Liza who was a shining light in our community,” the post said.
Fletcher was the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgill III, who died in 2018 at the age of 80. Based in Tennessee Orgil has annual sales of $3 billion, according to the company.

Authorities said Fletcher was jogging in a neighborhood near the University of Memphis around 4 a.m. Friday when a man chased her and forced her into an SUV.

Over the weekend, during an intense search and investigation, investigators focused on Cleotha Abston, who is now accused of kidnapping and murdering Fletcher.

Abston, 38, was arrested on Saturday after investigators uncovered evidence including surveillance video of the abduction, according to court documents.

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

Suspect faces additional charges

Abston was charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence after his arrest.

On Tuesday, prosecutors added charges of first degree murder, premeditated murder and murder in the commission of a kidnapping. Abston is expected to be arraigned on those charges on Wednesday.

Memphis police find unidentified body 3 days after violent kidnapping of teacher

During Abston’s initial court appearance on Tuesday, a judge appointed a public defender to represent him after telling the court he had no lawyer or money to post bond.

Abston was on the original charges with bond set at $510,000.

He also faces charges unrelated to Fletcher’s case, including identity theft, theft of property of $1,000 or less and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit or debit card. $1,000 or less, according to Shelby County Jail records.

These charges relate to a theft report filed last week by a woman who reported that someone was using her Cash App card and Wisely card at gas stations without her knowledge.

CNN has contacted the Shelby County District Attorney and Memphis police regarding the theft charges.

Members of law enforcement work at the scene where Eliza Fletcher was allegedly kidnapped on Friday.

Witnesses say suspect was acting weird after abduction

During the search for Fletcher, police obtained surveillance video that shows a black GMC Terrain passed by the teacher as she was jogging around 4 a.m., according to an affidavit filed Sunday.

The footage shows a man getting out of the SUV and running “aggressively” towards her before forcing her into the passenger seat of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

The SUV remained in a parking lot for about four minutes after the two people got inside and then drove off, the affidavit says.

Police also performed DNA analysis on a pair of sandals found at the abduction site, and results showed that DNA found on the shoes matched Abston’s DNA, the affidavit states.

Surveillance footage captured at a local theater the day before Fletcher disappeared showed Abston wearing what authorities believe to be the same pair of Champion slide sandals found at the crime scene, according to the affidavit.

Investigators also checked Abston’s cellphone records, which showed he was near the abduction scene at the time of Fletcher’s abduction, according to the affidavit.

In addition to the physical evidence, police said they interviewed two people who told them Abston had behaved oddly after the abduction, according to the affidavit.

After the kidnapping, Abston allegedly drove to his brother’s house, where he cleaned the interior of the SUV and washed his clothes in the sink, according to the affidavit.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Anne Clifford, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Tina Burnside, Hannah Sarisohn, Jason Hanna and Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.

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