Memphis teacher kidnapping and murder timeline
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Eliza Fletcher, a Memphis kindergarten teacher and 34-year-old mother known as Liza to those close to her, was removed on Friday when she was out for a morning run.
Memphis Police (MPD) held a press conference on Tuesday to address the suspect, who is now charged with first degree murder, and the status of the case.
Here is a timeline of events surrounding his disappearance:
September 2 at 4 a.m.
Fletcher, an avid runner who qualified for the Boston Marathon, goes for a run around 4 a.m. She is taking her usual route near the University of Memphis, according to authorities.
As she ran down a stretch of Central Avenue around 4:20 a.m., she was “removed and forced into” a dark colored GMC Terrain.
According to an affidavit, investigators reviewed CCTV in the vicinity of 3876 Central Ave., which showed the GMC Terrain “passing by and then waiting for the victim to pass.”
Police said a surveillance camera captured the same car in the area of the abduction 24 minutes before Eliza Fletcher was abducted.
A spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department told Fox News Digital that they located the dark-colored GMC Terrain, which had previously been identified as a vehicle of interest, and added that the male occupant of the car “has been arrested for further investigation”. (Memphis Police Department)
A man, later identified as Cleotha Abston, 38, then “aggressively ran” towards Fletcher and forced her into the passenger side of the SUV, according to court documents.
Police also said there “appeared to be a struggle” when Fletcher was pulled into the car.
Court documents say the GMC Terrain sat in a nearby parking lot for four minutes with Eliza Fletcher inside before driving off.
Eliza Fletcher (Memphis Police Department)
September 2 at 6:45 a.m.
Court documents say a resident was riding a bicycle on Central Avenue and “found the victim’s cell phone and a pair of Champion sandals on the street in the same area.”
The resident gave these items to one of Eliza Fletcher’s family members, who then turned them over to the police.
The Champion slide sandals were sent to a lab for DNA testing by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
September 2 at 7:45 a.m.
MPD receives two phone calls — one from Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher III, who reported her missing after she failed to return from her run – and one from the University of Memphis.
Police find some of Fletcher’s belongings at the Central Avenue scene. They are also told that a man approached Fletcher and forced her into a dark SUV after a struggle.
September 2, afternoon
The MPD said at a Friday afternoon news conference that the department was unaware of any connection between Fletcher’s kidnapping and reports since the start of the semester that someone had harassed members of the University of Memphis women’s cross country team as they ran in the area. .
DNA samples from Champion slide sandals have found a link to Cleotha Abston, who has been named a person of interest in the Eliza Fletcher kidnapping case.
Using this information, investigators were able to obtain CCTV from a Malco Theaters location on North Germantown Parkway that allegedly showed Abston wearing the Champion slide sandals.
Investigators also obtained cellphone records for Abston, which placed him near 3876 Central Ave. when Eliza Fletcher was forced into the GMC Terrain, according to court records.
Later, authorities took a white Jeep Grand Wagoneer outside Fletcher’s house, according to FOX 13 Memphis.
At 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, members of the US Marshals Service located the GMC Terrain in a parking lot in the 5700 block of Waterstone Oak Way, where Abston lives, according to police, who then said a man matching the suspect’s description had been spotted.
He attempted to flee the area, but authorities arrested him.
Liza Fletcher and kidnapping suspect Cleotha Abston (Memphis PD/TBI/Shelby County Jail)
Police say two people, including Abston’s brother Mario, told officers they saw the suspect cleaning the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner, adding that he was washing clothes in the sink.
Mario Abston told police his brother was acting “strange”.
After the Memphis Police Department arrested Cleotha Abston, he refused to tell investigators where Eliza Fletcher is.
Police also claim that Eliza Fletcher “was seriously injured” and “leaved evidence, such as blood, in the vehicle which the accused cleaned up.”
Law enforcement officials were seen throughout Memphis on Sunday and conducted searches at “various” locations looking for Eliza Fletcher, according to a Memphis Police Department spokesperson.
Eliza Fletcher is portrayed as a white woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She is about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs about 137 pounds. She wore a pink sports top and purple running shorts, her hair up and a matching headband.
Her family is offering a $50,000 reward for any information leading to her location.
Anyone with information related to the abduction is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH (2274).
Accused killer Cleotha Abston-Henderson appears before a judge around 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, when prosecutors said they updated her charges to include murder, premeditated murder and murder in the commission of kidnapping. He wears a green jumpsuit issued by the prison, a white undershirt and a face mask.
Abston-Henderson’s court appearance comes just minutes after the Memphis Police Department confirmed that the body found near the crime scene on Sunday night had been positively identified as the missing teacher and the young mother Eliza Fletcher.
Ahead of Tuesday’s new allegations, Abston-Henderson was charged with in charge of in particular aggravated kidnapping and tampering/fabrication of evidence. Late Sunday, officials added three more charges against Abston-Henderson: identity theft, theft of property of $1,000 or less and unlawful possession of a credit or debit card of $1,000 or less, according to the archives.
Bail was previously listed as being set at $510,000. It was not immediately clear whether the bail amount would increase further in light of the new charge.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announces his office will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. ET Tuesday in light of the latest developments related to the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher. He will be joined by representatives from the Memphis Police Department, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US Marshals Service.