The abduction of Eliza Fletcher


What started as a normal Friday morning became a national tragedy when a random attacker abducted Eliza Fletcher, a Memphis kindergarten teacher, on Sept. 2.  

Fletcher left her house around 4 a.m. that morning for her daily run and proceeded to take her usual route around the University of Memphis. While she was running down Central Avenue around 4:20 a.m., Fletcher’s abductor kidnapped her and forced her into a dark colored vehicle before driving off. A few hours later, Fletcher’s cellphone and a pair of Champion slides were found lying in the street where she was last seen by a resident of the area, both of which they turned over to the police. After Fletcher did not come home from her run, her husband, Richard Fletcher III, reported her missing.  

“It is believed and supported by the facts and physical evidence that she suffered serious injury. Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence, e.g., blood, in the vehicle that the defendant cleaned,” court records said.  

The police were able to link the DNA on the shoes to Cleotha Abston, which allowed them to name him as a person of interest in the case. They were also able to obtain footage from a video surveillance camera at Malco Theatres on North Germantown Parkway, which verified the slides belonged to Abston. Police also used Abston’s cellphone records to confirm that he was at Central Avenue during Fletcher’s kidnapping. On Saturday, Sept. 3, police used this collection of information to take Abston into custody; however, he refused to tell officials where Fletcher was located.  

“We have no reason to think this is anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” Steve Mulroy, the Shelby County district attorney, said.  

After days of searching, authorities found a body near the crime scene late at night on Sunday the 4th, which they later identified as Fletcher. Abston was then charged with first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping among other charges. Abston is currently being tried and has yet to receive a verdict. 

“We want to start by thanking everyone for their prayers and outpouring of support. Liza has touched the hearts of many people, and it shows,” Fletcher’s family said in a statement. 

A recent lawsuit against the Memphis police alleges that Fletcher’s murder could have been avoided if the police had properly investigated a past rape allegation against Abston. Alicia Franklin, the woman who filed the allegation, says that Abston raped her last year after meeting up with him for a date. She immediately reported the incident to the police and completed a forensic medical examination. Franklin took officers to the crime scene, but they failed to take any physical evidence from the area. She also gave law enforcement Abston’s name, phone number, social media, and a description of his car. While Franklin did look at a photo lineup of suspects, she was not able to identify Abston due to the photograph being several years old. Franklin claims that she did not receive any news of the status of the case for months and argues that if the case had been properly investigated and dealt with in a faster manner, Abston would have been arrested, preventing Fletcher’s murder. 

“[Abston] should and could have been arrested and indicted for the aggravated rape of Alicia Franklin many months earlier, most likely in the year 2021 … and the abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher would not have occurred,” Franklin said in the lawsuit.  

The world continues to mourn the loss of an amazing soul with funerals and memorials around the country. For more information about Abston’s ongoing trial, look here