Memphis, TN – Horrific new details regarding the kidnapping and murder of kindergarten teacher Eliza Fletcher were released in an amended affidavit filed in Shelby County criminal court on Tuesday.
Fletcher, 34, disappeared on Sept. 2 while out on her 4 a.m. run.
Her alleged killer, 38-year-old convicted felon Cleotha Abston, refused to tell investigators whether he had any information regarding Fletcher’s whereabouts when he was arrested on charges of tampering with evidence and especially aggravated kidnapping on Saturday, according to police.
Charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping were added on Tuesday, just one day after police discovered the body of the 38-year-old mother-of-two dumped behind a vacant duplex in the 1600-block of Victor Street.
Fletcher’s husband called police at approximately 7 a.m. on Sept. 2 after she failed to return from her regular 4 a.m. run, NBC News reported.
Investigators later discovered her damaged cell phone and a pair of Champion slide sandals in the street near the University of Memphis.
According to court documents, the forcible abduction was captured by a security camera.
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.
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.
Additional unrelated charges 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 were added shortly thereafter, CNN reported.
Abston’s 36-year-old brother was arrested on unrelated firearms and drug offenses at the same time, but investigators said they do not believe Abston’s brother had anything to do with Fletcher’s kidnapping or murder, NBC News reported.
According to investigators, a witness 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.
As the search for Fletcher continued on Monday, police located a “deceased party” on Victor Street at approximately 5:07 p.m., the Memphis Police Department (MPD) tweeted at the time.
The MPD confirmed on Tuesday that the deceased victim was Fletcher.
According to court documents, police spotted a set of fresh tracks near the driveway of a vacant home and “smelled an odor of decay” nearby, NBC News reported.
They discovered the schoolteacher’s body on the ground behind the house.
A garbage bag containing a pair of purple Lululemon running shorts resembling “the ones Eliza Fletcher was last seen wearing” was found lying nearby, according to the amended affidavit.
Investigators said they also located security footage from outside Abston’s brother’s apartment that showed the suspect driving up at approximately 7:57 on the day of Fletcher’s abduction, NBC News reported.
He sat in the vehicle for a while, then went inside his brother’s apartment.
Abston later walked back out to the passenger side of the vehicle, where he remained for approximately an hour, NBC News reported.
Fletcher’s family released a statement on Tuesday saying they are “heartbroken” over her death.
“Liza was such a joy to so many — her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her,” they said, according to NBC News. “Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her.”
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.
Abston was arraigned on the tampering and kidnapping charges on Tuesday and his bond was set at $510,000, NBC News reported.
The judge revoked his bond on Wednesday when he was arraigned on the murder charges.
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.
The court determined on Tuesday that the murder case will proceed using the suspect’s legal surname, which is Henderson, CNN reported.