Eliza Fletcher (34) went missing on Friday, September 2. She went for a jog in Memphis, TN at around 4.20am.
Police say she left her home on Carr Avenue and was abducted on Central Avenue, near the University of Memphis campus.
It is believed that Eliza was forced into a dark colored SUV, driven by an unknown person.
Police released this statement:
At approximately 7:45 am, officers were dispatched to assist the University of Memphis police regarding a missing person that occurred in the area of Central and Zach Curlin.
Upon arriving on the scene, officers were advised that a female was jogging in the area at approximately 4:20 am when an unknown individual approached her. The female was reportedly forced into an SUV and taken from the scene. The suspect was possibly in a dark color SUV traveling westbound on Central.
Police found some of Eliza’s person items abandoned. Her phone was found smashed on the ground and her water bottle was found near it. The belongings were found on Central Avenue.
The school where Eliza teaches has released a statement:
Eliza teaches Junior Kindergarten and has two children. She is married to Richard ‘Richie’ Fletcher III.
Police were seen removing items such as a computer and lawn shears from Eliza’s home Friday evening. They also towed a white SUV from the home.
Fletcher’s family is offering a $50,000 award for information that leads police to the suspects. They also released a short statement, “We look forward to Eliza’s safe return and hope that this award will help police capture those who committed this crime.”
Eliza Fletcher is the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph ‘Joe’ Orgill III who died in 2018.
Fletcher’s mother, Adele, is Orgill’s daughter. Their hardware wholesale family business, Orgill Inc., does $3 billion in annual sales, according to the company’s website.
The description of the company on the website calls Orgill ‘the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor with annual sales of $3 billion.’ The company is privately owned.
More than 5,500 people are employed by the company.
On Saturday, September 3rd, police announced that they had found the vehicle involved in the suspected abduction. A male that was occupying the vehicle was detained.
It seems as though the vehicle crashed into an ATF vehicle at an apartment complex approximately 8 miles from where Eliza was taken, The Lakes at Ridgeway.
Eliza’s family also put out a video to the public pleading for information leading to her whereabouts.
Just after 4am on September 4, Memphis Police announced that Cleotha Abston had been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping in Eliza’s case. A Mario Abston also now faces other charges.
The arrest affidavit was released Sunday.
Police said a man was riding his bike down Central Avenue at 6:45 a.m. when he found Fletcher’s cell phone and a pair of Champion brand slides. The items were later turned over to Memphis Police for testing and analysis.
Police said surveillance footage showed a man violently and quickly approach Fletcher before forcing her into the passenger side of a GMC Terrain with passenger-side tail light damage.
According to police records, the vehicle sat in the parking lot for 4 minutes before driving away. Records also state the GMC Terrain in question was seen 24 minutes before the abduction in surveillance footage.
The TBI performed a DNA tests on the slides and found that they belonged to Cleotha Abston after his information matched that in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database.
Investigators managed to recover the surveillance footage showing Abston wearing the same slides days prior to the abduction. In addition, investigators were able to find Abston’s cell phone number and were able to determine his phone was in the vicinity of the abduction, approximately the same time it happened.
When authorities arrived at Abston’s last known address, they found the GMC Terrain in question, with passenger-side tail light damage backed into a parking space.
When Abston saw authorities, he was standing in a doorway and immediately tried to run, but he was eventually captured by the US Marshals.
Investigators also interviewed a woman who said after the abduction, Abston was behaving in an odd manner. The witness advised investigators Abston was in a strange mood and vigourously cleaning the interior of his car with carpet cleaner as well as washing his clothes in the house’s sink.
After his arrest, Abston refused to provide Fletcher’s location.
According to police records, “As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing toward the victim, then forcing the victim into the vehicle, where she was confined and removed and continues to be 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.”
The search for Eliza also continued with police towing a dumpster from Cleotha’s brother’s apartment complex and searching other areas around Memphis.
Cleotha Abston had his bond set at $500,000 on Sunday, he’d need to post $50,000 in order to be released from jail.
On September 5, a body was found during the search for Eliza.
CLIPS USED IN THE PODCAST