New details were released this weekend in connection to Eliza Fletcher, a Tennessee teacher who hasn’t been since Friday morning.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Fletcher was jogging near the 3800 block of Central Avenue near the University of Memphis at around 4:40 a.m. Friday, when she was “abducted, and forced into a mid-sized dark-colored SUV.”
“Upon arriving on the scene, officers were advised that a female was jogging in the area at approximately 4:20 a.m. when an unknown individual approached her,” Memphis police said. “The female was reportedly forced into an SUV and taken from the scene.”
On Sunday, police arrested and charged Cleotha Abston in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance. Abston, a convicted felon, has a history of violence and was previously serving time for another kidnapping.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by WKRN, security footage showed someone in a GMC Terrain “with passenger-side tail light damage” force Fletcher into the passenger seat of the vehicle. The suspect sat in the parking lot for around four minutes before driving away, police said.
Prior to the abduction, the SUV was seen on security footage for around 24 minutes.
Police found Fletcher’s cellphone and a pair of Champion brand slides near the area she was abducted. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation performed DNA tests on the items, and Abston’s DNA was found on the slides, the affidavit states.
Security footage obtained by police reportedly showed Abson wearing the same slides on the days prior to the abduction.
In cooperation with authorities, we are asking for your help locating our beloved JK Teacher Liza Fletcher.
If you have seen Liza or have information about her location, call MPD 901-545-COPS(2677). We join the Fletcher and Wellford families in praying for Liza’s safe return. pic.twitter.com/Hf30H6tkn3
— St. Mary's Episcopal School (@StMarysMemphis) September 2, 2022
Officials tracked Abston down to a home, where they found him standing in a doorway and his SUV in the driveway, with passenger-side tail light damage. He subsequently tried to flee but was detained.
Abston’s brother, Mario, told investigators that Abston was at his house home over the weekend, “acting very strange.” The suspect reportedly spent a lot of time cleaning out his SUV, Daily Beast reports, and washing his clothes in his brother’s sink.
According to the affidavit:
“As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing towards the victim, then forcing the victim into the car, where she was confined and removed and continues to be missing, it is believed and supported by the facts and physical evidence that she suffered serious injury. Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence of blood in the car the defendant cleaned.”
Fletcher, meanwhile, remains missing.
Fletcher is a teacher at the St. Mary’s Episcopal School, according to Fox News. She’s also a dedicated runner and active in church with her husband.
“She and her husband Ritchie are both very active and great leaders in our congregation,” George Robertson, the senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, told the Commercial Appeal. “They have two little boys who have come up to me every week and give me a hug.”
Fletcher and her husband, Richard James Fletcher III, were married in 2014 in a society wedding that was covered in Memphis The City Magazine.
The FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are reportedly assisting in the search.
Fletcher is described as being 5-foot-6-inches tall and weighing 137 pounds. She has blondish-brown hair and green eyes. Her family is currently offering a $50,000 reward for her return.
Anyone with information on Fletcher’s whereabouts should “Call MPD at 901-528-CASH (2274), 901-545- COPS (2677), or TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND,” Memphis police said.
Abson is scheduled for an arraignment on Tuesday. He’s currently behind bars.
Update: 3:30 p.m.: Memphis police have blocked off the entrances to Martin Luther King Jr Riverside Park in southwest Memphis, and a large police presence is at the Pine Hill Community Center, a few miles away on the edge of Pine Hill Park, NewsTalk 989 reports.
Recap so far today in the case of Eliza Fletcher today. @JeffABrightwell is out following.
Dumpster taken from 1700 block of S Orleans this morning.
Entrances to MLK/Riverside Park were blocked
Large law enforcement presence at Pine Hill Community Center currently at 1:30. pic.twitter.com/1KGIQqPDVO
— News Talk (@NewsTalk989) September 4, 2022
Earlier, WREG reported that the dumpster that was hauled away was outside suspect Cleotha Abston’s brother’s apartment, where Abston went several hours after the abduction to wash his clothes and clean the interior of the SUV.
— Bria Jones (@BriaJonesTV) September 4, 2022
The story is developing. Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to the latest episode:
[Featured image via TBI]