Memphis, TN – Police have located a body in the area where they have been searching for a 34-year-old woman who was forcibly kidnapped while out jogging early Friday morning.
The Memphis Police Department (MPD) said in a tweet that investigators came across the “deceased party” in the 1600-block of Victor Street at 5:07 p.m. on Sept. 5.
“The identity of this person and the cause of death is unconfirmed at this time,” the MPD said. “The investigation is ongoing.”
Police 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 a man using floor cleaner to remove blood from inside a GMC Terrain, WNYW reported.
The man, later identified as 38-year-old convicted felon Cleotha Abston, was also reportedly acting strangely and was seen washing his clothes in a sink, according to the witness.
Abston 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 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher was forcibly kidnapped while out on a 4 a.m. run on Sept. 2, NBC News reported.
The kidnapping was captured by a security camera, according to court documents.
At 5:07 pm, officers in the 1600 block of Victor located a deceased party. The identity of this person and the cause of death is unconfirmed at this time. The investigation is ongoing.
Once additional information is available, we will provide an update. pic.twitter.com/LwnCdCYz1z
— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 6, 2022
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 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
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.
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.
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
He 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 believe Fletcher “suffered serious injury” in the attack, NBC News reported.
The family of Fletcher, a kindergarten teacher and mother of two, has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to her safe return home.
The location of the body found by police on Monday night was approximately seven-and-one-half miles away from where she was kidnapped, according to CNN.
Abston’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, WNYW reported.
The suspect 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.