Kidnapping Eliza Fletcher: Suspect served time on previous kidnapping charge, court records show

Cleotha Abston, 38, pleaded guilty to the particularly aggravated kidnapping charge in November 2001. According to court records, he was released in November 2020.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office told WREG that Abston had been convicted of kidnapping a local attorney in 2000.

Abston is currently facing the same charges of particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the kidnapping of Eliza “Liza” Fletcher.

According to Shelby County Jail Records, three additional charges have been filed for Abston since his arrest Saturday. Those charges include identity theft, property theft $1,000 or less, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit or debit card $1,000 or less, data shows.

It is not known whether the additional charges, added Monday, are related to Fletcher’s kidnapping. CNN has contacted the Shelby County District Attorney and the Memphis Police about the additional charges.

Missing teacher Eliza "Liza"  fletcher

Fletcher, 34, a mother of two, was jogging around 4 a.m. Friday when a black GMC Terrain SUV passed her, according to surveillance footage obtained from the incident. A man was then seen to get out of the vehicle and “aggressively” ran towards Fletcher, forcing her into the passenger side of the SUV. Once both individuals were inside the SUV, the vehicle remained in a parking lot for about four minutes before pulling away, according to the images cited in an affidavit obtained by CNN.

The affidavit states that police have “find physical evidence that she suffered serious injuries.”

Abston was arrested on Saturday after police found the GMC Terrain in a parking lot near his residence, according to the affidavit. The vehicle had the same recognizable damage and partial license plate identification seen in the surveillance footage of Fletcher’s kidnapping.

Abston tried to flee after US Marshals found him nearby, the affidavit said.

The suspect is being held in Shelby County Jail on $500,000 bail and will appear in court on Tuesday, according to prison records. It is not clear whether he has a lawyer.

DNA recovered from a pair of sandals found near where authorities believe Fletcher was kidnapped helped investigators identify and arrest Abston, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance footage captured from a local theater the day before Fletcher’s disappearance shows Abston wearing the same pair of Champion flip flops that authorities say were found at the crime scene, according to the affidavit.

Additional CCTV footage, which matched statements from Abston’s employer, confirmed that the vehicle in question belonged to a woman associated with Abston’s home address.

Cleotha Abston

Cell phone records also put Abston on the site during the Friday morning abduction of Fletcher, the affidavit said.

Fletcher’s damaged phone was found near where she was kidnapped, CrimeStoppers Executive Director Buddy Chapman said, according to a press release obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ.

According to the affidavit, a witness said she saw Abston at his brother’s house after the kidnapping. Both the witness and his brother said Abston behaved strangely as he cleaned the interior of his SUV and washed his clothes in the sink.

Photos released by police show Fletcher running near the University of Memphis. She was last seen wearing a pink jogging top and purple running shorts, police said in a warning.

Fletcher is white, six feet tall, with brown hair and green eyes, police said. She weighs 137 pounds.

Her family is offering a $50,000 reward through CrimeStoppers for information leading to an arrest in the case, WHBQ reported.

“We look forward to Eliza’s safe return and hope that this award will help police to arrest those who committed this crime,” her family said in a statement from Chapman.

In a message on Twitter, St Mary’s Episcopal School said Fletcher is a junior kindergarten teacher.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet it assists the Memphis Police Department in the investigation.

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