Eliza Fletcher Abduction: The Suspect Charged Was Previously Convicted Of Another Kidnapping

Photo of Eliza Fletcher
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News & Politics
Sarah Guy

The search continues to locate Eliza Fletcher, a Memphis kindergarten teacher, after her apparent abduction last week. With a suspect now in custody, here's what we know about the ongoing investigation at this time.

Day Of Disappearance

Photo of Eliza Fletcher jogging
youtube | ABC News

On September 2 at 4:00 AM, Fletcher left her home to go for a routine run. That morning, she traveled down her normal route near the University of Memphis.

Around 4:20 AM, while running down a stretch of Central Avenue, the 34-year-old mom was "abducted and forced into a mid-sized, dark-colored SUV."

Contacting The Police

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By 8:00 AM that same morning, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) had received two phone calls surrounding her disappearance. One was from her husband, Richard Fletcher III, who stated that she had not returned from her run, and another was from the University of Memphis.

Investigation Begins

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After being alerted of Fletcher's disappearance, officials began to retrace her steps that same day. Once they arrived at Central Avenue, they found some of her belongings. Additionally, they also located a pair of Champion slide sandals.

During the search efforts, police were informed that a male had approached her before she was forced into the dark SUV, which was later identified as a GMC Terrain. They also learned that a struggle had taken place.

Surveillance Footage Emerges

Photo of grainy surveillance footage of Eliza Fletcher abduction
youtube | ABC News

The next day, law enforcement officials stated that they had located the vehicle in question. However, they had not been able to locate Fletcher.

Tennessee authorities were able to obtain footage of the attack as well. In the video, a man could be seen waiting for her to run past his vehicle. He then began moving “aggressively toward the victim" before forcing her into the passenger's side of the vehicle.

Suspect Identified

Photo of Cleotha Abston
youtube | ABC News

Police later identified and arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Abston, a previously convicted kidnapper, after analyzing DNA left on the recovered sandals. Prior to being linked to Fletcher's abduction, Abston had been sentenced to 24 years and 11 years in prison, respectively, for especially aggravated kidnapping and robbery in 2001. At this time, it remains unclear whether he served his full sentences and if the periods of time ran concurrently.

After reviewing the footage, authorities stated that the vehicle had remained stationary in a parking lot for nearly four minutes after the struggle. It then left the scene. An affidavit revealed that the physical evidence, along with witness statements, have led investigators to believe that Eliza "suffered serious injury" and there could be evidence of blood.

Authorities later interviewed a woman who had seen Abston in the time following Fletcher's disappearance. According to her account, he had been vigorously cleaning his vehicle with carpet cleaner and washing his clothes in the sink. She also stated that he had been in a strange mood. Abston is expected to appear in court on Tuesday, September 6, and is currently being held on a $500,000 bond on charges of tampering with evidence and especially aggravated kidnapping

The investigation is still active and Fletcher's whereabouts are unknown at this time.

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