Memphis, TN – Police have confirmed that the body discovered during the search for Eliza Fletcher on Monday night is that of the kidnapped kindergarten teacher.
Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two, was forcibly abducted while out on a 4 a.m. run on Sept. 2, NBC News reported.
The Memphis Police Department (MPD) said in a tweet that they located a “deceased Party” in the 1600-block of Victor Street at 5:07 p.m. on Monday night, but they did not publicly identify the victim as Fletcher until Tuesday morning.
“The deceased victim that was located yesterday in the 1600-block of Victor has been identified as 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher,” the MPD tweeted on Tuesday.
Her alleged killer, 38-year-old convicted felon Cleotha Abston, has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, police confirmed.
MPD Chief Cerelyn Davis said the investigation is ongoing and that it is too soon to determine where or how Fletcher was killed, CNN reported.
“While the outcome of this investigation is not what we hoped for, we are nonetheless pleased to remove this dangerous predator off the streets of Memphis,” Chief Davis said.
Shelby District Attorney Steve Mulroy said investigators do not have any reason to believe Fletcher’s murder “was anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” CNN reported.
“To lose someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in and of itself, but to have it happen in this way, with a senseless act of violence, it’s unimaginable,” Mulroy said.
Police had blocked off a large area near an abandoned elementary school building that was located less than a mile away from a home on Orleans Street where a witness previously reported having seen Abston using floor cleaner to remove blood from inside a GMC Terrain, WNYW reported.
Abston was also reportedly acting strangely and was seen washing his clothes in a sink, according to the witness.
He was arrested by U.S. Marshals on Saturday after investigators allegedly found his DNA on a pair of Champion slide sandals located at the scene where Fletcher was forcibly kidnapped while out jogging, NBC News reported.
The kidnapping was captured by a security camera, according to court documents.
The footage showed “a black GMC Terrain passing and then waiting for the victim to run by,” police said.
Investigators said a man then got out of the vehicle and chased after Fletcher, grabbing her and forcing her into the passenger side of the GMC, NBC News reported.
“During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle,” court documents said. “The Champion slides sandals were found in this area.”
The suspect vehicle remained parked with Fletcher inside for approximately four minutes before the man drove away with the kidnapped victim, NBC News reported.
The shoes and Fletcher’s cell phone were later discovered lying on the ground where the abduction occurred.
In addition to allegedly finding Abston’s DNA on the sandal, cell phone records indicated that the suspect’s phone was in the area of the kidnapping when it occurred, according to police.
So police arrested Cleotha Abston in the disappearance of Eliza Fletcher. Abston was charged in 2001 with kidnapping and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. A repeat offender. Shocker. pic.twitter.com/8SsfYpOGhu
— Joe Has Dementia (@RokerGlasses) September 4, 2022
One day before Fletcher’s kidnapping, security footage from a theater allegedly showed the suspect wearing what police said appear to be the same sandals that were recovered at the crime scene, according to CNN.
Investigators located the suspect vehicle in a parking lot near Abston’s residence on Saturday and noted it matched the partial license plate of the vehicle seen in the security footage, NBC News reported.
The suspect attempted to run away but was ultimately apprehended and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
Abston was later charged with unrelated offenses of theft of property $1,000 or less, identity theft, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit or debit card $1,000 or less, CNN reported.
His 36-year-old brother was arrested on unrelated firearms and drug offenses at the same time, but police said they do not believe Abston’s brother had anything to do with Fletcher’s kidnapping, NBC News reported.
Police said they questioned Abston, but that he refused to tell investigators whether he had any information regarding Fletcher’s whereabouts.
Based on witness statements, the violent nature of the abduction, and the amount of blood inside Abston’s vehicle, investigators said they believed Fletcher “suffered serious injury” in the attack, NBC News reported.
Fletcher’s body was discovered approximately seven-and-one-half miles away from where she was kidnapped, according to CNN.
Abston previously served more than 22 years in prison after he was convicted of kidnapping attorney Kemper Durand at gunpoint in June of 2000, the Commercial Appeal reported.
Abston was 16 years old at the time.
According to court records, Abston forced Durand into the trunk of Durand’s vehicle, then later demanded he withdraw money at an ATM located at a Mapco gas station, the Commercial Appeal reported.
But while they were inside the store, Durand saw an armed Memphis Housing Authority guard walk into the business.
The suspect took off running when the attorney yelled out to the guard for help.
Abston was ultimately convicted of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated Robbery, the Commercial Appeal reported.
He was released from prison in November of 2020.