Update: teacher and heiress Eliza Fletcher’s body found

by Jacob Fuller

Lauren C. Moye and Jacob Fuller, FISM News


Memphis Police announced that they discovered the body of Eliza Fletcher at about 5:07 p.m. Monday in the “rear of a vacant duplex apartment” near the area where she was abducted while going for a run.

Officials had “no reason to think this was anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” Deputy Attorney General Steve Mulroy said.

Officials have not yet determined the place or method of Fletcher’s death at the time of publication.

Accused killer Cleotha Abston appeared before a judge Tuesday morning. Prosecutors said they had updated his charges to include first-degree murder, premeditated murder, and murder in perpetration of kidnapping.

He will be arraigned on Wednesday morning on the new charges. Investigators said they “have not gotten very much information” from the suspect.

“Any kind of violence, of course, is unacceptable, but repeat violent offenders deserve a particularly strong response,” Mulroy said.

Abston previously served 20 years in prison for kidnapping a prosecutor.

Fletcher’s family asks that the public and the media “avoid intrusive questioning and respect their privacy.”

Police charge suspected repeat offender

Memphis police have charged Cleotha Abston, 38, with the violent kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher, a teacher and an heiress to a multi-billionaire company who was forced into a car during an early morning jog on Sept. 2.

“The individual who was detained has been officially charged in connection with the abduction of Eliza Fletcher. At this point in the investigation, Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence,” said Memphis Police Department on Twitter.

Abston is currently held at Shelby County Jail with a $500,000 bond. He will go before a judge on Tuesday.

According to the affidavit, DNA testing on a pair of male Champion slide sandals found at the scene of the abduction led authorities to Abston.

Furthermore, noticeable damage on the black GMC Terrain used in the abduction allowed authorities to identify the vehicle on surveillance footage from the area on Sept. 1, the day before Fletcher’s abduction. Police gained a partial license plate from this earlier surveillance footage, which allowed the vehicle to be later linked back to Gwendolyn Brown.

Brown pays utilities on the same block that Abston lives on. Abston’s employer then later confirmed that the man regularly drives the vehicle to work.

U.S. Marshals helped locate and apprehend the male suspect on Sunday.

However, Abston “declined to provide [the] investigation with the location of the victim.” Fletcher, 34, remains missing.

Fletcher is a junior kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. The school described her as “beloved” in a tweet asking for the community to share any information on her location.

The mother of two is also an heiress to the late Joseph Orgill III, who ran the hardware company Orgill Inc., a company that has annual sales of $3 billion and was listed as the 143rd largest private company in the country for 2021 by Forbes.

In May 2000, Abston forcibly kidnapped a Memphis lawyer. He then forced the victim to withdraw cash at multiple ATMs by holding him at gunpoint. Abston was only 16 years old at the time.

The details of this earlier kidnapping were confirmed by Memphis Police to Fox News.

Fletcher’s family offered a $50,000 reward for information that led to an arrest.

The affidavit notes that Fletcher left for her morning run around 4:00 a.m. the day she disappeared. At 6:45 a.m., Miles Fortas found her cellphone and a pair of men’s Champion sandals on Central Avenue.

Authorities located surveillance footage of the violent kidnapping, which showed a black GMC Terrain pass Fletcher as she ran. A man then jumped out of the vehicle, ran towards Fletcher, and then forcibly dragged her into the vehicle.

Another placed Abston at his brother Mario Abston’s home in the GMC Terrain at about 7:50 a.m. on the morning of the kidnapping. The affidavit said this neighbor saw Abston “cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and stated that he was behaving oddly.”

Mario also said that his brother washed clothes in the sink of his home that morning and was “acting very strange.”

Police also arrested Mario during the investigation for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and for possession with the intent to sell fentanyl and heroin. Police said Mario is “currently not believed to be connected to Fletcher’s abduction.”

Fox News and New York Post reports significantly aided in the reporting of the latest update to this story.