A 38-year-old man has been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping in the disappearance of a 34-year-old Memphis teacher, after DNA on two slides linked him to the woman.
However, Cleotha Abston, who was released from prison in 2020 after serving two decades for kidnapping, has not stated where Eliza “Liza” Fletcher is, and the search for her continues, according to police.
Memphis Police said in a Sunday morning tweet that Abston had been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Police did not provide any additional information about Abston or any previous connections to Fletcher.
The arrest came about 12 hours after police announced they had found the GMC Terrain used in Fletcher’s abduction while she was jogging on the University of Memphis campus early Friday morning.
Eliza Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher, notified the Memphis Police Department that his wife had not returned from her run by 7 a.m., and a man on a bike riding the same route Fletcher was running discovered Eliza Fletcher’s cellphone and a pair of Champion brand slides in the street.
Police examined surveillance video from the nearby Earthquake Research and Information Center on the University of Minnesota campus. According to police, the video shows a black GMC Terrain passing by and then waiting for Fletcher to run by.
According to police, the SUV was parked for about four minutes before driving away.
After reviewing surveillance footage, law enforcement officials discovered that “approximately twenty-four minutes before the abduction, surveillance footage captured the same vehicle in the area.”
The slides were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing, which later revealed that Abston matched a previous conviction in a national DNA database.
MPD investigators began looking into Abston’s activities in the days leading up to and following Fletcher’s disappearance and discovered footage of him wearing the same slides at the Malco Cordova Cinema on Thursday.
During the investigation, MPD discovered that the Terrain was registered to a woman who will not be identified because she has not been charged with a crime.
The owner of Majesty’s Cleaning Service, where Abston worked, was questioned by police, and she confirmed he drove the Terrain and gave investigators his cellphone number. That number was used to pinpoint Abston’s location at the time of Fletcher’s kidnapping, confirming he was in the area.
The car was discovered by US Marshals on Saturday, parked at the address listed on an incident report from Thursday. Along with confirming the car based on the license plate, surveillance footage revealed “noticeable damage” to the rear passenger-side taillight.
When law enforcement attempted to arrest Abston, who was in the Terrain at the time, he allegedly attempted to flee but was apprehended.
Another woman was interviewed, but the affidavit does not specify when or where she spoke with law enforcement. According to the woman, she saw Abston outside the home of his brother, Mario Abston.
According to police, Fletcher suffered serious injuries as a result of the abduction’s violence, with “the suspect waiting for, then rushing toward the victim, then forcing the victim into the vehicle, where she was confined and removed and remains missing…
Furthermore, it is likely and obvious from witness statements that these injuries left evidence, such as blood, in the vehicle that the Defendant cleaned.” According to court records, Abston was also convicted of aggravated kidnapping just over 22 years ago. In that case, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, which would expire in November 2020.
In that case, Abston kidnapped a Memphis lawyer who had also worked for the Innocence Project.
Fletcher’s disappearance triggered a massive search involving Memphis Police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI.
Fletcher’s family issued a video statement Saturday afternoon urging anyone with information to call Crimestoppers.