Eliza Fletcher Murder Suspect Bond Is Revoked

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
September 7, 2022 Updated: September 7, 2022

The suspect accused of abducting and killing heiress Eliza Fletcher was charged with first-degree murder, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cleotha Abston, 38, was ordered held without bond during a hearing on Wednesday morning. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday, according to reporters inside the courtroom.

General Sessions Judge Louis Montesi had ordered him held on $510,000 bond Tuesday on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping, tampering with evidence, theft, and fraud. But his bond was revoked by the judge after the murder charges were added.

Abston told a Shelby County judge he prefers to be referred to as Cleotha Henderson. The judge said the name change to Henderson would be placed in the court record.

Authorities said they found Fletcher’s body in Memphis about a mile from where she was abducted. The identity of the body was confirmed a day after it was discovered, leading to more serious homicide charges against Abston, who has a lengthy criminal record and previously served more than 20 years in prison for a prior kidnapping conviction.

Abston was detained more than a dozen times in the late 1990s on charges including aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and rape, according to local media reports.

It was in May 2000 that Abston kidnapped a prominent local lawyer at gunpoint and forced him to withdraw money from an ATM. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

“There is evil in this world,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement on Twitter. “My heart breaks for Eliza and her family, all victims of evil.”

The mayor added that he hopes the suspect is “punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Death Penalty?

Some analysts say that Abston could face the death penalty if he’s convicted of the most serious charges.

Tennessee law allows for executions in aggravated murder cases, although they are rarely carried out in the state. When prosecutors seek the death penalty, the sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous in Tennessee.

“Definitely, this is a death penalty case,” said Pat Diaz, a retired investigator who served in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for 26 years. “The abduction, the sexual battery … his past criminal history, remember he abducted [a lawyer], put him in the trunk of the car.”

“The only mitigating factor … they’re gonna say that he had a terrible upbringing. He was involved in crime since age 11,” Diaz, who is now a private investigator, told Fox News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.