The abduction of Eliza Fletcher: Internet sleuths jump into action as dumpster rumor emerges
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: There was quite a police presence outside of a McDonald's restaurant on Saturday evening, September 3, in connection with the abduction of billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher amid reports that investigators may have found her clothes inside a dumpster there.
A flurry of law enforcement activity was seen at the McDonald's parking lot and outside a southeast Memphis apartment complex on Saturday as investigators tried to find clues after Fletcher was kidnapped and forced into a vehicle while jogging on early Friday morning, September 2. Photos from both locations showed yellow tape at the crime scenes, and while police are yet to publicly comment on the law enforcement activity, they did announce a major development as the probe escalated.
“UPDATE: the vehicle of interest has been located and a male who was occupying the vehicle has been detained," Memphis police tweeted. "Eliza Fletcher has not been located. This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.” They later identified the suspect as 38-year-old Cleotha Abston and said he had officially been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
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.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 4, 2022
Photos showed a damaged vehicle being towed from the area around the apartment complex. The SUV reportedly crashed into an ATF vehicle, ABC24 reported.
#Elizafletcher scene were the vehicle police were looking for had a wreck with another vehicle. Residents tell me it wrecked with an ATF vehicle. One person is detained and police are investigating around an apartment in the complex in South East Memphis. @ABC24Memphis pic.twitter.com/nIRTnzr8cw— Ian Ripple (@Ripple1026) September 3, 2022
Police, on Friday, searched a park near the site where the wealthy heiress was abducted and forced into a vehicle. Authorities said 34-year-old Fletcher was last seen at about 4.20 am on Friday when she was jogging in Memphis and a man approached her and forced her into a mid-sized dark-colored SUV following a brief struggle.
A woman who apparently lives in an apartment complex near where the SUV was found shared photos showing crime scene tape around the grounds and a pond. “…It’s yellow tape EVERYWHERE… now it’s 2 tow trucks and ambulance over here," she wrote. The said apartment complex is called 'Lakes at Ridgeway' and is situated 15-20 minutes from the scene of the abduction, social media comments indicated.
There was a major law enforcement presence at the Memphis apartment complex as well, including what appeared to be SWAT teams with armored vehicles.
One witness shared photos showing yellow crime scene tape near a Family Dollar and McDonald’s restaurant, claiming an employee at the latter told her that clothes were found in a dumpster. However, this has not been confirmed by the authorities at the time of publication.
“Now there is a large police presence at this shopping center a few miles from the apartment complex where a vehicle matching the description was towed," ABC24 journalist Ian Ripple tweeted, alongside photos from that scene. "Can’t confirm a relation to #ElizaFletcher investigation. Some of these officers were also searching Overton Park last night.”
Now there is a large police presence at this shopping center a few miles from the apartment complex where a vehicle matching the description was towdd. Can't confirm a relation to #ElizaFletcher investigation. Some of these officers were also searching Overton Park last night. pic.twitter.com/uKOR8eDbVK— Ian Ripple (@Ripple1026) September 4, 2022
Prior to the law enforcement activity at the apartment and McDonald's police were focusing on the Fletcher home. Ripple reported how investigators were removing items from her home. “Police are towing this vehicle from the home in the investigation of Eliza Fletcher’s abduction. We also saw a computer and lawn shears tagged as evidence and removed from the home,” he tweeted, adding that various items were marked as evidence and that a $50,000 reward was being offered for information on Fletcher's whereabouts.
Police are towing this vehicle from the home in the investigation of Eliza Fletcher's abduction. We also saw a computer and lawn shears tagged as evidence and removed from the home. @ABC24Memphis https://t.co/CUPs4BTuks pic.twitter.com/ngNMfjFUCZ— Ian Ripple (@Ripple1026) September 3, 2022
The University of Memphis police confirmed in a safety alert that Fletcher was kidnapped. They wrote that she regularly “runs on Central Avenue" and was “reported missing after not returning home” at 7 am. The alert added how her “cell phone and water bottle were discovered in front of a house in the 3800 block of Central that is owned by the University.” According to Action News 5, the phone was smashed. The safety alert noted how a “male approached her at approximately 4:30 am in the middle of Central Avenue and appeared to leave with her in an unknown vehicle following a brief struggle.” Police confirmed this after obtaining surveillance video that captured the abduction.