With a suspect in the kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher behind bars, law enforcement concentrated efforts on the search for the missing 34-year-old kindergarten teacher, while a neighbor opened up about the suspect’s odd behavior.
Overnight, a bond was set for suspect Cleotha Abston at $500,000, according to jail records.
Late Sunday afternoon, police returned to an apartment complex in south Memphis where the brother of the suspect lives. As a police helicopter hovered overhead, investigators confirmed to WREG they were looking for someone — but did not confirm their search was related to Fletcher’s disappearance.
Neighbors of Abston’s brother told Daily Mail that the suspect was a “weird pervert” who offered women money to have sex and often ogled them.
“When women were around, he would sit in the truck and stare,” a neighbor, April, said. “He was a weird pervert. He watched me come on the porch, then came up the stairs behind me and said, ‘I will give you $100 to f**k.'”
“He approached at least two other girls here with the same line, offering money for sex.”
— Jordan James (@JordanJamesTV) September 4, 2022
Fletcher was last seen out jogging early Friday morning; her husband, Ritchie Fletcher, reported her missing when she failed to return home.
Violent Abduction Caught on Camera, Suspect Seen for Over 20 Minutes in Area
On Saturday, police located the GMC Terrain believed to have been used in Fletcher’s violent abduction while on her early morning jog Friday and took a man into custody. Early Sunday, they identified that man as Abston, 38, and said they had charged him with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Fletcher, they said, likely “suffered serious injury.”
The affidavit for his arrest says that surveillance footage showed the black SUV passing by the camera and then stopping at about 4:30 a.m., apparently waiting for Fletcher, who regularly jogged through the area. The footage showed a man get out of the vehicle, “aggressively” running toward Fletcher, and struggling with her before forcing her into the passenger side.
The vehicle remained where it was for four minutes after Fletcher was forced inside, then drove away, the affidavit said.
— Ian Ripple (@Ripple1026) September 4, 2022
The affidavit also said that the surveillance footage showed the vehicle with damage to the back passenger-side taillight in the area for 24 minutes before Fletcher was abducted, It gave investigators a clear but partial view of the license plate.
According to the affidavit, a citizen on a bike found Fletcher’s cell phone and a pair of sandals and turned them over to Fletcher’s family, who in turn gave them to investigators.
DNA found on the sandals matched with Abston, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. With Abston now a person of interest, investigators found surveillance footage from a day earlier showing him wearing the sandals. Further, detectives found that a GMC Terrain was registered to a person who lived with Abston. Finally, investigators obtained his phone number — and records put his phone in the area where Fletcher was abducted at the time of the kidnapping.
US Marshals located the Terrain Saturday morning. When police approached Abston he tried to flee but was quickly captured.
Investigators Haul Away Dumpster from Brother’s Apartment Complex
Police also arrested Abston’s brother, Mario Abston, on unrelated charges. Mario Abston reportedly told police that Abston was at his house home over the weekend acting very strange, as CrimeOnline previously reported. The suspect reportedly spent a lot of time cleaning out his SUV, Mario Abston said, and washing his clothes in his brother’s sink.
But Cleotha Abston, police said, refused to talk about Eliza Fletcher or say where she might be.
On Sunday morning, investigators hauled away the dumpster outside the brother’s apartment. Later Sunday, they set up a command post at the Park Hill Community Center in south Memphis, while officers blocked the entrances to Martin Luther King Jr Riverside Park, just a few miles from the command center. Investigators brought boats and ATVs to the park.
Investigators were also seen in the vicinity of Mario Abston’s home in south Memphis.
— melissa moon (@MMoon_WREG3) September 4, 2022
Later Sunday afternoon, police were seen along the shoulder of Interstate 240 at the Getwell exit, not far from the Memphis airport. A police helicopter hovered over the area, but it wasn’t clear if this police presence was related to the search for Fletcher. Police neither confirmed nor denied.
Cleotha Abston was convicted of kidnapping a Memphis attorney when he was 16 years old and served his full sentence. He was released in 2020.
He is due to be arraigned on the kidnapping and tampering charges on September 6.
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[Featured image: Ritchie and Liza Fletcher with their children/Facebook]