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Eliza Fletcher latest: ‘Heartbroken’ family of Memphis heiress speak out as Cleotha Abston charged with murder

Man appears in court charged with murder of heiress Eliza Fletcher

The “heartbroken” family of murdered Memphis heiress Eliza Fletcher have issued a statement saying they are devastated by her “senseless loss”.

“Liza was such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church Congregation and everyone who knew her,” the statement, shared by Newstalk 989read.

Ms Fletcher, 34-year-old mother of two and granddaughter of billionaire Joseph Orgill III, was snatched while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus and forced into an SUV at 4am on Friday.

Her body was recovered on Monday, four days after her abduction from a vacant duplex after a series of searches over the Labor Day weekend.

Police have charged Cleotha Abston with the kidnapping and killing of the business heiress. He was jailed on Saturday in connection with his abduction after police detected his DNA on a pair of sandals found near where Fletcher had last been seen.

“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,” the family statement said.

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Everything we know about the kidnapping of Memphis teacher as body found

The desperate search for missing Memphis teacher and business heiress Eliza Fletcher reached a tragic conclusion as police discovered a body shortly after a suspect was arrested in her kidnapping.

Eliza Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother-of-two, was snatched while on an early morning jog near the University of Memphis campus on Friday (2 September).

The following day, 38-year-old Cleotha Abston, a convicted kidnapper who was released from prison in 2020 after serving 19 years, was arrested on suspicion of her abduction.

On Monday afternoon, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) announced it had found a body later confirmed to be Ms Fletcher. Abston was subsequently hit with new murder charges.

Here’s everything we know about the case.

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Eliza Fletcher’s school says it is ‘heartbroken’ over murder of ‘beloved teacher’

St Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis issued a statement to say it was “heartbroken” after its teacher Eliza Fletcher’s death was confirmed on Tuesday morning.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of our beloved teacher, colleague, and friend Liza Fletcher,” the school said on Twitter.

“Our hearts are with the Fletcher, Orgill, and Wellford families.”

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Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing of Memphis heiress

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” family of Eliza Fletcher said in a statement.

Rachel Sharp has the full story.

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Police reveal new details on how they located Eliza Fletcher’s body

Police have released new details about how they located Eliza Fletcher’s body in an amended affidavit filed on Tuesday.

According to the affidavit, officers from Memphis Police Department, and federal and state partners searching for Ms Fletcher noticed vehicle tracks in tall grass leading to a vacant apartment at at 1666 Victor St at 5.07pm on Monday.

A search and rescue officer smelled an “odor of decay” and spotted a set of footprints in the rear driveway of the premises. He then saw an “unresponsive female” lying on the ground.

The person, who matched a description of Ms Fletcher, was pronounced dead by the medical examiner shortly afterwards, according to the court document.

Police found a pair of purple Lululemon running shorts that were consistent with a pair Ms Fletcher was wearing when she disappeared discarded in a trash bag nearby.

Surveillance footage showed Mr Abston’s black GMC Terrain nearby between 5.48am and 5.52am, the affidavit states.

Eliza Fletcher’s purple Lululemon running shorts were found discarded in a trash bag close to where her body was found, police say

(Memphis Police Department/AP)

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Tucker Carlson blames suspect’s early release for Fletcher’s killing

Tucker Carlson slammed the authorities for the early release of Cleotha Abston, the man charged with the killing of Eliza Fletcher, as he highlighted what he claimed was a lax law and order situation in Memphis.

“Cleotha Abston was a predator,” began Carlson in his Fox News show. “In 2000, he was convicted of kidnapping a local attorney at gunpoint downtown and forcing him into the trunk of his own car,” he said.

“…But like most life long criminals, Cleotha Abston was never fully punished for what he did.

“He was released years before the end of his prison sentence. Nor was he in any way sense reformed by his experience behind bars,” Carlson said.

“Abston was well known in his apartment complex as of last week for his sexual aggression and his perversity. He terrified his neighbours, but no one from any part of the justice system seems to have intervened.”

Cleotha Abston on Saturday, 2 September 2022

(PA)

Remembering Memphis as “one of the richest, best organized cities in the country” about 100 years ago, Carlson said, it was now the “most dangerous city in the United States”.

“Last year, it recorded a total of 342 murders. Now, how many is that? Well, by comparison, San Antonio, Texas, which has more than twice the population, recorded fewer than half as many murders,” he said as he attacked Joe Biden voters for allegedly dismissing the crime on racial grounds.

“In the hours after Eliza Fletcher’s disappearance, Biden voters on social media seemed to dismiss the crime on racial grounds. ‘Why are we paying so much attention to the kidnapping of an attractive, privileged White woman? That’s racist’,” he said.

“Others seem to blame Fletcher for the atrocity committed against her. ‘Why was she jogging at that hour, anyway? In Memphis? Come on.’“An American citizen should be able to live or walk anywhere in America without being raped or murdered for it, period. That is the baseline requirement for civilization. It’s called order,” he added.

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Lengthy criminal record of Cleotha Abston

Cleotha Abston, the suspect charged with the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher, had been on the wrong side of the law since he was 11 years of age, reported CBS affiliated WREG News.

Though he had a “good relationship with his family”, Abston had a rough childhood, say court documents, adding that he was first arrested for theft in 1995.

In the subsequent years, he was arrested for several felony offenses including burglary, theft, aggravated assault, violation of curfew, truancy, rape and evading arrest, reported the outlet.

Cleotha Abston appears in Judge Louis Montesi courtroom for his arraignment on Tuesday, 6 September 2022 in Memphis

(PA)

According to his file, he had no suicidal gestures, medical problems or mental illness but was listed as “100 per cent violent”.

Abston was only 16 at the time when he pleaded guilty for kidnapping in 2000 and ended up serving two decades in prison.

His victim said he was “extremely lucky he was able to escape” that night as he feared he “would have been killed” had he not slipped.

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Previous kidnapping victim of Cleotha Abston believed he was going to be killed

A man kidnapped and held at gunpoint by Cleotha Abston believed that he would have killed him if he had the chance – two decades before the suspect allegedly abducted and murdered Memphis business heiress Eliza Fletcher.

Memphis attorney Kemper Durand said in a 2003 victim impact statement that he was “lucky” to escape from Abston, now 38, during the violent kidnapping back in 2000.

Rachel Sharp has the full story.

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Abston informs court he cannot afford $510,000 bond and attorney

Cleotha Abston, a convicted kidnapper charged with the kidnapping and first-degree murder of Tennessee heiress Eliza Fletcher, informed the court that he cannot afford a $510,000 bond or attorney.

Prosecutors have sought more time to adjust the bond after Abston’s charges were upgraded from kidnapping to include first-degree murder.

According to the police, the sandals they recovered near Fletcher’s water bottle and cell phone after her abduction had DNA which matched that of Abston.

He was also seen wearing them the night before his abduction, it said. The arrest affidavit from the police also claimed that his cell phone was found in the same area where Fletcher was abducted.

Court records show that Abston, 38, was previously charged with aggravated kidnapping in June 2000 and served 20 years in prison before being released in 2020.

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Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Memphis police confirmed on Tuesday morning that a body found during an “intensive” city-wide search was positively identified as missing mother of two Eliza Fletcher.

Cleotha Abston has been charged with her murder and abduction.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

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Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students and playing with her dog, as alleged killer is charged

Video has surfaced of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee kindergarten teacher who was kidnapped and killed last week, recording a song for her students.

In the clip, Fletcher, a junior teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal school in Memphis, sings “This Little Light of Mine” and tells students about her dog.

The video, which has been viewed more than 530,000 times on Twitter, comes from Fletcher’s YouTube channel.

Read the details in this report from Josh Marcus:

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