Man Charged With Kidnapping Missing Memphis Teacher Eliza Fletcher

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
September 4, 2022 Updated: September 4, 2022

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—A man has been charged with kidnapping in the disappearance of a Tennessee woman who was out jogging last week when she was accosted and forced into an SUV, police said Sunday.

While Eliza Fletcher has not been found, Memphis police said in an arrest affidavit they have evidence that leads them to believe she was seriously injured in the abduction near the University of Memphis campus. Authorities have said they have surveillance video of the abduction.

U.S. Marshals arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Abston on Saturday after police found his DNA on a pair of sandals found near where Fletcher was last seen, according to the affidavit. Police also linked the vehicle they believe Fletcher was forced into to a person living at a residence where Abston was staying.

vehicle
A mid-size dark SUV police said was used in the abduction of teacher Eliza “Liza” Fletcher. (Memphis Police Department)

Abston attempted to flee when U.S. Marshals arrived at that residence but was captured, according to the affidavit. Memphis police said early Sunday morning he was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. They said that the investigation continues.

Online court records do not show if Abston has a lawyer who can comment on his behalf. An arraignment has been set for Tuesday.

A second person was also arrested but apparently on an unrelated offense since police said they didn’t believe that person was connected to the abduction.

Authorities have said Fletcher, 34, was jogging around 4 a.m. on Friday when a man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle. Fletcher was reported missing when she did not return home.

Eliza "Liza" Fletcher
Eliza “Liza” Fletcher running in the neighborhood near the University of Memphis before she was abducted. (Memphis Police Department)

Police said a witness reported seeing Abston cleaning the inside of the SUV in question a few hours after the abduction and that he was “behaving oddly.”

Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist, according to news outlets. The family has released a video statement asking for help in finding Fletcher and offered a $50,000 reward for information in the case.

“We believe someone knows what happened, and can help,” Fletcher’s uncle said in the video.