Body found in Memphis is kidnapped teacher, suspect faces murder charges, police say CNN (2023)


ABodyFound this week in Memphis is that of a teacher who was kidnapped while jogging there last week and asuspiciousis accused of murder, policeIt isMars.

Eliza "Liza" Fletcher, 34, has been identified as the person found dead Monday in the back of an empty rowhouse in the Tennessee town, about 12 miles from where she lied on surveillance video.forced into an SUV on Fridaythe Memphis Police Department said.

Suspect arrested over the weekendKleotha Abston, 38, will be charged Wednesday with first-degree murder, as well as kidnapping and other charges he previously faced, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.

"Losing someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in itself, but it is unimaginable that it would come about through a senseless act of violence," Mulroy said, offering his condolences to Fletcher's family on Tuesday. Press conference.

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

Live Updates: Fall Eliza Fletcher

It is too soon to determine "the place and method of death," Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said at the same news conference.

Fletcher, a kindergarten teacher atEpiscopal College of Santa Mariain Memphis, I was jogging in a neighborhood near the University of Memphis around 4 a.m. Friday when a man chased her and forced her into a black pickup truck, authorities said.

Her husband reported her missing that morning, sparking an intense manhunt over the weekend that led to Abston's arrest.jail near his home in Memphis on Saturdayafter investigators uncovered clues, including surveillance video of the abduction, authorities said in court documents.

Fletcher was the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgill III, whodied in 2018 at the age of 80. Respectivelythe companyTennessee-based Orgill has annual sales of $3 billion.

Body found in Memphis is kidnapped teacher, suspect faces murder charges, police say CNN (1)

Eliza "Liza" Fletcher

Suspect goes on trial for kidnapping

Abston was arraigned in a Memphis court Tuesday morning on the charges filed against him before Fletcher's body was identified: aggravated kidnapping and falsifying evidence.

He was wearing a prison uniform and a mask that covered his mouth. She spoke only to answer questions from a judge and said he had no lawyer and no money to post bail.

Shelby County Judge Louis J. Montesi Jr. appointed a public defender to represent Abston.

Five of Fletcher's relatives were on trial. Before the hearing began, Montesi asked her to avoid any emotional outbursts or reactions during the prosecution.

Abston was being held in the county jail Tuesday on the initial charge on $510,000 bail. He will be charged Wednesday with first-degree murder, first-degree murder and murder in connection with a kidnapping, District Attorney Mulroy said Tuesday.

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

Body found in Memphis is kidnapped teacher, suspect faces murder charges, police say CNN (2)

Kleotha Abston

The proof of the case

Fletcher's husband told police Friday morning that she had not returned from her morning run, authorities said in an affidavit filed Sunday.

Someone found his phone on Central Avenue that morning and gave it to one of Fletcher's relatives, who turned it over to investigators, according to the affidavit.

Police then found surveillance video from the area, which the affidavit says shows a black GMC Terrain driving by. According to the affidavit, the footage shows a man getting out of the van and "aggressively" running towards her before forcing her into the passenger seat of the vehicle.

Missing teacher Eliza "Liza" Fletcher Memphis Police Department A suspect has been charged with the kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher, but the Memphis teacher is still missing, police say

The SUV stopped in a parking lot about four minutes after the two people were inside and then drove away, according to the statement.

Police also analyzed a pair of sandals found at the scene near the victim's cell phone. The DNA found on the shoes matches Abston's DNA, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance footage taken by a local theater the day before Fletcher's disappearance showed that Abston, according to the affidavit, was wearing the same pair of Champion sandals that authorities believe are the same pair found at the scene.

Searching Abston's home, police discovered that she lived in a house whose utilities were registered to a woman who owns a GMC property, according to the court document.

Investigators then questioned Abston's employer, who said he was driving a GMC Terrain and verified his phone number. According to the affidavit, investigators reviewed Abston's cell phone records, which show that he was near the abduction site during Fletcher's kidnapping.

On Saturday morning, members of a US Marshals task force found a GMC lot near where Abston lived, and it had the same discernible damage and partial license plate information seen in the pictures. watchdog for Fletcher's kidnapping, according to the affidavit.

The task force saw him standing in front of the house and arrested him Saturday, according to the court document.

Body found in Memphis is kidnapped teacher, suspect faces murder charges, police say CNN (4)

Cleotha Abston, right, will be arraigned in court on Tuesday.

Police also collected details from witnesses who said they found Abston after the abduction.

A witness said he saw Abton at his brother's home in Memphis after the abduction, according to the affidavit. The witness and Abston's brother said Abston behaved strangely as he cleaned the interior of his truck and washed his clothes in the sink, according to the affidavit.

On Monday, investigators, responding to information from an FBI team analyzing cellphone data, found Fletcher's body shortly after 5 p.m., according to an amended affidavit filed Tuesday.

Investigators, using cell phone data, zeroed in on an area near an intersection less than a kilometer from the brother's home. The team picked up an unpleasant odor in an area near a vacant home, saw vehicle tracks in the grass near the driveway and ultimately found a body on the property, according to the affidavit.

"Crime scene investigations determined that the female matches the description of the missing person, Eliza Fletcher," the affidavit reads.

That property was located in the 1600 block of Victor Street, authorities said. This is approximately 800 meters from the address given by the authorities to his brother's house, 12 km from the alleged abduction site and approximately 24 km from Abston's house.

A little over an hour after the body was found and about three-tenths of a mile away, a detective found a garbage bag with matching shorts that Fletcher was wearing when she was abducted.

Memphis School Community: 'Heartbroken at loss'

Employees of the school where Fletcher workedIt isAs of Tuesday, they are "heartbroken at the loss of our beloved teacher, colleague and friend."

Missing teacher Eliza "Liza" Fletcher Memphis Police Department Memphis police find unidentified body three days after a teacher was violently kidnapped

“This morning our faculty and staff began their day in the chapel. We lit candles to remember Liza, who was a shining light in our community,” according to St. Mary's Episcopal School.

"Liza recorded the song we sing every week at Early Childhood Chapel: 'This little light of mine, I'll let it shine,'" the post reads.

“We continue to draw strength from our school reading of Charlie Mackesy's The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. 'We don't know about tomorrow,' said the horse, 'all we need to know is that we love each other,'" the post read.

Abston was serving time in a previous kidnapping case

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

The charges include identity theft, theft of property valued at $1,000 or less and fraudulent use/unlawful possession of a credit or debit card valued at $1,000 or less, according to Shelby County Jail records.

Those allegations relate to a theft report filed Thursday by a woman who reported that someone was using her Cash App and Wisely Card at gas stations without her knowledge.

CNN has reached out to the Shelby County District Attorney and the Memphis Police Department regarding the allegations in Thursday's burglary report.

Court records also show Abston was already serving a sentence for aggravated kidnapping more than 20 years ago. In November 2001, Abston pleaded guilty to the charges and was released in November 2020, court records show.

Abston was convicted of kidnapping a local lawyer in 2000, the Shelby County district attorney's office told the local agency.WIFE.

Anne Clifford, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Jennifer Henderson, Tina Burnside, Hannah Sarisohn, Jennifer Feldman y AnneClaire Stapleton de CNN contribuyeron a este informe.


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