Cleotha Abston: Eliza Fetcher murder suspect charged with rape and kidnapping of another woman a year ago

Cleotha Abston was rebooked on new charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and unlawful carrying of a weapon

Cleotha Abston: Eliza Fetcher murder suspect charged with rape and kidnapping of another woman a year ago
Cleotha Abston has been accused of kidnapping and murdering billionaire heiress Eliza Fetcher (Memphis Police Department and (@BelmontUniv/Twitter)
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MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Cleotha Abston, the man accused of kidnapping and murdering billionaire heiress Eliza Fetcher, was reportedly charged with an unrelated kidnapping and rape a year earlier. This information was revealed by DNA evidence compiled from his most recent arrest. During a hearing on Thursday, September 8, the 38-year-old was handed down a second indictment with a judge denying him bail.

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The new charges appeared in the Shelby County criminal justice portal. Abston was rebooked on new charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and unlawful carrying of a weapon. According to Memphis Police, the new charges come in connection with a rape kit sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in September 2021 after an unidentified woman approached the police about the alleged crimes.

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"An official CODIS (national DNA database) hit was not received until after the unfortunate event that occurred on September 2, 2022," Memphis Police Department said in a statement, according to the Daily Mail. "Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received." Commercial Appeal reported that the rape kit was sent to the investigation bureau two days after the crime was committed. A TBI spokesperson said that the evidence against Abston was placed in a "queue of unknown assailant kits, as no request was made for TBI analysis to be expedited, and no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission."

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The abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher

Police in Tennessee found the body of Fletcher soon after she was kidnapped. The 34-year-old mother-of-two was forced into a black SUV in a “violent” manner while being abducted and a pair of sandals left at the scene led the police to her alleged abductor, Cleotha Abston, who reportedly stalked her and waited for her to run past him on her morning jog before he could ambush her.

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After Fletcher's kidnapping, 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 abduction. 

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Fletcher had run from her home in the Central Gardens neighborhood to an area near the University of Memphis campus. 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.

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Meanwhile, a former FBI investigator said Fletcher's murder might be connected to a previous kidnapping in which Abston was involved. 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 but reportedly served only 20 years.

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Authorities have yet to confirm Fletcher’s cause of death. Fletcher was an elementary school teacher and the granddaughter of a hardware company billionaire, the late Joseph Orgill III. 

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