INSTAGRAM

Body found in Memphis is that of abducted teacher and a suspect is charged with murder

Sep 6, 2022, 9:36 AM | Updated: 1:04 pm
Missing Teacher Eliza "Liza" Fletcher...
Missing Teacher Eliza "Liza" Fletcher

(CNN) — A body found this week in Memphis is that of a teacher who was abducted there while jogging last week, and a suspect is being charged with murder, police said Tuesday.

Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, 34, was identified as the person found dead Monday in the Tennessee city, roughly 7.5 miles from where surveillance video showed she was forced into an SUV early Friday, Memphis police said on Twitter.

A suspect arrested over the weekend, Cleotha Abston, 38, has now been charged with first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, in addition to kidnapping and other charges previously filed, Shelby County Court records show.

Abston made a court appearance in the case Tuesday morning.

The cause of Fletcher’s death was not immediately announced.

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

After her husband reported her missing and someone found her phone on a street Friday morning, police found surveillance video of the area, which shows a black GMC Terrain pass by her, according to a court affidavit. A man was then seen getting out of the SUV and “aggressively” running toward her before forcing her into the vehicle’s passenger seat, according to the footage cited in the affidavit.

The SUV remained in a parking lot for about four minutes after both people were inside and then drove away, the affidavit states.

Over the weekend, police arrested and charged Abston after they found the GMC Terrain in a parking lot near his residence in southeastern Memphis, the affidavit shows. He initially was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Abston was held over the weekend the Shelby County Jail with bail set at $500,000, according to jail records. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.

Abston served a prison sentenced for an aggravated kidnapping more than 20 years ago, court records show.

Fletcher was a junior kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, according to a tweet from the school.

The evidence in the case

In the affidavit filed Sunday, investigators laid out evidence they said led them to arrest Abston.

First, they analyzed a pair of sandals that were found at the abduction site, near the victim’s phone. DNA found on the shoes matched DNA for Abston, the affidavit reads.

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

Researching Abston’s residence, police found that he lived at a home whose utilities were registered in the name of a woman who owned a GMC Terrain, the affidavit reads.

Investigators then interviewed Abston’s employer, who said he drove a GMC Terrain and verified his phone number. Investigators checked Abston’s cell phone records, which showed he was near the abduction site during the time of Fletcher’s abduction, according to the affidavit.

Members of a US Marshals task force found a GMC Terrain near Abston’s residence on Saturday morning, and it had the same distinguishable damage and partial license plate information seen in the surveillance footage from Fletcher’s abduction, the affidavit reads.

Police also gathered details from witnesses who said they encountered Abston after the abduction.

One witness said she saw Abston at his brother’s Memphis home after the kidnapping, according to the affidavit. The witness and his brother said Abston was behaving oddly as he cleaned the interior of his SUV and washed his clothes in the sink, the affidavit said.

Abston served sentence in previous kidnapping case

Following Abston’s arrest Saturday, charges unrelated to Fletcher’s kidnapping also were filed against him.

The charges include identity theft, theft of property $1,000 or less and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit or debit card $1,000 or less, Shelby County jail records show.

Those charges are connected to a Thursday theft report filed by a woman who reported someone was using her Cash App card and Wisely Card at gas stations without her knowledge.

CNN has reached out to the Shelby County district attorney and Memphis police regarding the charges in the Thursday theft report.

Court records also reveal that Abston previously served a prison sentenced for an aggravated kidnapping more than 20 years ago.

In November 2001, Abston pleaded guilty to the charge and was released in November 2020, court records show.

Abston had been convicted in the kidnapping of a local attorney in 2000, the Shelby County district attorney’s office told local outlet WREG.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Instagram

The hail in Grand County compared to a silver dollar. (Courtesy: Seth Ohms)...
Michael Houck

Weather officials warn of hazardous storm with hail, lighting, and 60mph winds in southern and eastern Utah

Utah weather officials are warning southern and eastern Utah residents of half-dollar size hail and gusty winds Sunday afternoon. 
2 days ago
Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the Sat...
Josh Ellis

Sister Tracy Y. Browning becomes first Black woman to give conference talk

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, became the first Black woman to speak in a general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
3 days ago
(Andrew Adams/KSL TV)...
Andrew Adams

Fall leaves in full glory in mountains above Bountiful, Davis County

This weekend is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall colors. KSL's Andrew Adams went down a less-traveled road in Davis County Friday for a closer look.
4 days ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
4 days ago
The Sanderson sisters' "Hocus Pocus" cottage. Kathy Najimy said that she and her costars, Bette Mid...
Emmy Abbassi, CNN

Stay in the ‘Hocus Pocus’ house for only $31

The Sanderson sisters of "Hocus Pocus" fame are inviting guests to stay at their creepy cottage in the remote woods of Salem, Massachusetts, this Halloween season.
5 days ago
Brenda Brennan sits next to a boat that pushed against her apartment when Hurricane Ian passed thro...
ADRIANA GOMEZ-LICON, Associated Press

Many trapped in Florida as Ian heads toward South Carolina

Rescue crews are wading through water and using boats to rescue Florida residents stranded in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Body found in Memphis is that of abducted teacher and a suspect is charged with murder