Who is Cleotha Abston? Man charged with kidnapping in Eliza Fletcher's disappearance
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: A man has reportedly been charged in connection with the kidnapping of missing billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher.
The Memphis Police Department arrested and charged 38-year-old Cleotha Abston with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence following Fletcher's mysterious disappearance on Friday, September 2. Memphis police revealed early Sunday, September 4, how the 34-year-old teacher was out on a routine, early morning jog near the University of Memphis on Friday when she was "abducted and forced into" a mid-sized, dark SUV. Authorities have since located the vehicle and are continuing to search for Fletcher.
"The investigation into the abduction of Eliza Fletcher is still active and ongoing. Investigators are continuing the search and following all leads," the police department tweeted on Saturday, September 3. Later in the day, authorities said the vehicle had been located, but the kindergarten teacher had not yet been found. "The vehicle of interest has been located and a male who was occupying the vehicle has been detained. Eliza Fletcher has not been located," they said.
UPDATE: the vehicle of interest has been located and a male who was occupying the vehicle has been detained. Eliza Fletcher has not been located. This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 3, 2022
In another update, the department wrote, "UPDATE: The individual who was detained has been officially charged in connection with the abduction of Eliza Fletcher. At this point in the investigation, Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence." However, Fletcher was not located.
Eliza Fletcher has not been located at this time. MPD Investigators and officers, along with our local and federal partners, continue searching for Mrs. Fletcher.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 4, 2022
Memphis police arrested another man on Sunday, but it was not in connection with the abduction. "Mario Abston, 36, was charged w/ Possession of a Controlled Substance w/ Intent to Manufacture & Sell Fentanyl, Possession of a Controlled Substance w/ Intent to Manufacture and Sell Heroin, & Convicted Felon in Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Dangerous Felony," the Memphis Police Department said in a statement. It is unclear if Cleotha and Mario are related, but both were booked into the Shelby County Jail early Sunday, per the New York Post.
Mario Abston, 36, was charged w/ Possession of a Controlled Substance w/ Intent to Manufacture & Sell Fentanyl, Possession of a Controlled Substance w/ Intent to Manufacture and Sell Heroin, & Convicted Felon in Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Dangerous Felony.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 4, 2022
There were unverified claims at the time of publication that Cleotha Abston was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping a man at gunpoint in Memphis. An October 2001 article by the Memphis Flyer reported how Cleotha “Pookie” Abston was convicted of abducting a Memphis lawyer, Kemper Durant, at gunpoint and placing him in the trunk of his car before forcing the victim to withdraw money from ATMs. Pookie reportedly received 20 years in 2001 at age 17, but it is unclear if it is the same person who is charged in Fletcher's disappearance.
Police described Fletcher as a White woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She stands about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighs around 137 pounds. The Memphis-based educator was wearing a pink athletic top and purple running shorts and tied her hair up with a matching headband.
Fletcher's family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to her return. “It’s just a matter of waiting and hoping and praying,” her father-in-law Richard Fletcher Jr told The Post. He said he visited his son, Richard Fletcher III, and they talked “about his wife [being] missing and how hard it is and how unexpected it is and how hard it is to cope with something that seems so random.” It's worth noting that Eliza Fletcher's grandfather was hardware tycoon Joseph Orgill III, who founded the private family business, Orgill Inc. The company employs about 5,500 people and does $3 billion in sales annually, per its website. The investigation continues.
If you or anyone you know has information related to the abduction, you are urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.