MEMPHIS (TCD) -- A 34-year-old teacher who was allegedly kidnapped while on a run was reportedly found dead this week after a days-long search for her.
On Sept. 2, at 7:45 a.m., the Memphis Police Department was called to assist the University of Memphis Police Department for assistance in locating a missing person, Eliza "Liza" Fletcher. According to Memphis Police, Fletcher was jogging in the area of Central and Zach Curlin at approximately 4:20 a.m. when an "unknown individual approached her" and "forced" her into an SUV.
Two days later, on Sept. 4, investigators arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Abston on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence, though Fletcher remained missing. Cleotha's brother, Mario Abston, was reportedly arrested on drug charges during the investigation, but he is "not believed to be connected to Fletcher's abduction."
Inmate records show Abston also faces charges of identity theft, tampering with/fabricating evidence, theft of property, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of credit/debit card.
On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Memphis Police announced they found Fletcher's body on the 1600 block of Victor Street and charged Abston with first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping in addition to the other criminal counts he faces.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and other law enforcement officials spoke in a press conference Tuesday and said Fletcher's remains were located in an abandoned duplex in South Memphis. WREG-TV reports Abston was allegedly seen cleaning out his black SUV in an area close to where Fletcher was found.
Davis said during the press conference that detectives "have not gotten very much information" from Abston during questioning.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports Fletcher worked as a junior kindergarten teacher at St. Mary's Episcopal School and used to teach at Promise Academy in Nashville. She and her husband Richard Fletcher III have two children. He reported her missing after she did not come back from her run a few hours after she left.
According to the affidavit cited by the Commercial Appeal, Fletcher was running on the University of Memphis campus when a black GMC Terrain allegedly drove past her and stopped, waiting for her to pass.
The affidavit reportedly says, "A male exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively toward the victim, and then forced the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger's side of the vehicle. During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle."
According to WREG, Fletcher's grandfather, Joseph "Joe" Orgill III, owned a major hardware distribution empire.
Fletcher's family said in a statement, "We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was a such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her.
Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her. We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. We are grateful beyond measure to local, state and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.
We hope that everyone, including media representatives, understand the need for the family to grieve in privacy without outside intrusion during this painful time."