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Cleotha Abston: Neighbors say Eliza Fletcher's abductor was 'weird pervert' who offered women money for sex

According to court records, Cleotha Abston, 38, had also pleaded guilty to the aggravated kidnapping and robbery of lawyer Kemper Durand
UPDATED SEP 12, 2022
The Memphis Police Department arrested and charged Cleotha Abston (L) in the disappearance of Eliza Fletcher (R) (Eliza Fletcher/Instagram, Tennessee Department of Corrections)
The Memphis Police Department arrested and charged Cleotha Abston (L) in the disappearance of Eliza Fletcher (R) (Eliza Fletcher/Instagram, Tennessee Department of Corrections)

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher, 34, who was forced into a black SUV in a “violent” manner while being abducted, remains missing. A pair of sandals left at the scene led the police to her alleged abducter, Cleotha Abston, who reportedly stalked her and waited for her to run past him on her morning jog before he could ambush her. She had run from her home in the Central Gardens neighborhood to an area near the University of Memphis campus. Abston has been arrested and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

According to court records, Abston, 38, pleaded guilty to the aggravated kidnapping and robbery of lawyer Kemper Durand in 2000. He was sentenced to 24 years and 11 years in prison respectively and reportedly served only 20 years. Speaking with Daily Mail, a neighbor revealed Abston had routinely offered women $100 for sex and often stalked others around the apartment complex where his brother lived.  


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After Fletcher's abduction, one Miles Fortas was riding his bike when he found Fletcher’s cell phone and a pair of Champion slide sandals in the area where the kidnapping took place. He turned them over to authorities. “DNA found on the shoes matched DNA for Cleotha Abston”, and it was already in a police database, an affidavit said. The car used during the kidnapping reportedly belongs to a local cleaning service where Abston was employed. Officers arrested him soon after. “He attempted to flee but was taken into custody,” the police document said. 

Neighbors recall Cleotha Abston's creepy behavior

One neighbor, April, said she had seen Abston at his brother's apartment almost every day in recent months. She said Abston was a "pervert" who once propositioned her for sex, and did the same to other women in the complex as well. There were times when he would sit in his black SUV staring at women. "When women were around, he would sit in the truck and stare," April said.

"He was a weird pervert," she said. "He watched me come on the porch, then came up the stairs behind me and said, 'I will give you $100 to f**k." "Do you think I'm a h** that needs your money?" she allegedly replied to him. "It ain't like that. I just want to have some fun," he said.

"He approached at least two other girls here with the same line, offering money for sex," April said, adding that Abston actually told her he had served 20 years in jail. She saw him last on Thursday, September 1, the day before Fletcher was kidnapped. 

Latoya, 35, another neighbor, said Abston propositioned her and her 20-year-old niece earlier this year. "He kept waving me over to him and was like. 'I've got $100," Latoya said. "He tried to catch my niece too, tried to get her to come into the apartment with him," she added. "As far as I know, nobody here have sex with him. He creepy, he really creepy."

The abduction of Kemper Durand

Abston approached lawyer Kemper Durand on May 25, 2000, from behind on Beale Street in Memphis. He robbed him and forced him into the trunk of his car, according to the Memphis Flyer. Abston drove Durand around for several hours, eventually taking him to an ATM and ordering him to draw cash. Abston fled after Durand spotted a housing authority officer and shouted for help.

Abston was convicted for Durand's kidnapping and robbery, and was in jail until his release in 2020, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Durand died in February 2013 aged 73. In a tribute article that was later published in the Commercial Appeal, a was quoted as saying that Durand, who would often joke about his kidnapping, argued for leniency for Abston and his accomplice, 12. Durand said he did not wish to 'wallow in' the fear he had felt. 

Abston's brother, Mario

Neighbor April said that Abston's brother Mario, an aspiring rapper who goes by the moniker Yola Bizza, was taken into custody on Saturday, September 3. Officer's searched Mario's home because Abston was there nearly every day for the last month. Mario, April said, had his own issues. 

According to online records, Mario is facing two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent, possession of a firearm and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  "They're blood brothers from the same mother," April said. April recalled how Mario's wife, Nakita Dixon, overdosed last year while in bed with him. April allegedly witnessed the aftermath. "Mario's wife died in the same bed, and Mario's definitely going through something himself," she said. 

Chilling new details emerge in Eliza Fletcher case

According to police documents obtained by the New York Post, Tennessee authorities found surveillance footage that shows Abston running “aggressively toward the victim, and then force the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle". “During the abduction, there appeared to be a struggle,” according to the affidavit, which cited “noticeable damage to the back-passenger taillight area” of the GMC Terrain.  

Police said Fletcher was forced into the black SUV, “the vehicle then sat in the parking lot with the victim inside for approximately four minutes before it drove off". What happened during that time is unclear. “As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing towards the victim, then forcing the victim into the car, 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 a serious injury,” the affidavit said. “Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence of blood in the car the defendant cleaned,” it added.

A witness said she saw Abston “cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner” just before 8 am Friday morning and reported to police that “he was behaving oddly.” He was also seen washing his clothes in a sink. The day before the kidnapping, authorities found footage of him wearing Champion slides. His cell phone had also pinged near the site of the crime.

Fletcher is an elementary school teacher and the granddaughter of a hardware company billionaire. She is married and has two young sons. Police are seeking the public's help to find her.