Suspected Eliza Fletcher kidnapper Cleotha Abston stalked her for 24 minutes before abduction
WARNING: This article contains information about a kidnapping that some people may find triggering or upsetting. Discretion is advised.
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a Tennessee-based teacher whose grandfather Joseph Orgill III co-ran the Memphis-based hardware distributor Orgill Inc, was abducted in the early hours of Friday morning, September 2, 2022, while jogging near the University of Memphis campus, The Sun reports. While Fletcher’s total net worth is unclear, she is the heiress to the Orgill Inc fortune. As of 2020, the business is worth over $3.2 billion and ranks at 143 on the Forbes list of America’s largest private companies.
The violent felon accused of abducting the billionaire heiress had stalked the area she went missing from while jogging for almost 30 minutes before her abduction. Cleotha Abston, 38, was accused of rape as a young teen and previously served 20 years for violently kidnapping a prosecutor, according to court records. He has a juvenile record dating back to when he was just 12, with charges including aggravated assault with a weapon and rape according to court records obtained by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He was still only 16 when he kidnapped Memphis-based prosecutor Kemper Durand at gunpoint in the early hours of May 25, 2000, reports from the time show. Durand had testified that only luck had saved him from being killed that day.
Authorities arrested Abston, 38, on Sunday before charging him with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher's disappearance on September 2. Officers have footage of the vehicle used in the kidnapping, a black 2013 GMC terrain, in the same area 24 minutes before the mother-of-two was abducted at 4.20 am in Memphis, Tennessee.
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
Surveillance footage obtained by police, which has not been released, shows a man running 'aggressively' towards Fletcher, 34, and forcing her into the passenger side of the vehicle. The pair struggled, and the car then sat in the parking lot for four minutes with Fletcher inside before driving off to an unknown location.
Fletcher, who teaches pre-kindergarten, was reported missing at around 7 am, and upon examining the scene, police officers discovered Fletcher’s shattered cellphone and abandoned water bottle. Abston also had new charges filed against him that include identity theft, theft of property, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of credit/debit card of $1000 or less.
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
Abston's bail has been set at $500,000, and it is understood that he is refusing to cooperate with police and tell them the location of the missing mother. Police believe that Fletcher suffered "serious injury" at the hands of Abston and that blood was left in the vehicle. His brother, Mario Abston, 36, was also arrested on Saturday after offices searched his home when his brother was spotted acting "suspiciously" by neighbors.
Officers found a semi-automatic handgun, a scale with a bag of heroin and fentanyl, and he was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of controlled substances.
Abston told police that his brother had been cleaning the interior of his GMC Terrain with floor cleaner, as well as washing his clothes in the sink of the house.
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
Officers removed a dumpster close to Abston's brothers' low-income apartment complex named Longview Gardens over the weekend. Authorities went to Abston's last known address and found the same black SUV with the damaged taillight. The affidavit said Abston was standing in the doorway when police arrived and that he began to flee, but was soon apprehended.
Abston still has not said where Fletcher is or what he did to her. The affidavit said evidence, including blood, found in Abston's car led them to believe Fletcher suffered a "serious injury".
"The investigation into the abduction of Eliza Fletcher is still active and ongoing. Investigators are continuing the search and following all leads," police said in a statement on Sunday after announcing Abston's arrest. Police were also seen searching dumpsters outside of a McDonald's restaurant in Memphis on Saturday evening as they searched for the kindergarten teacher.
This remains to be an active and ongoing investigation.— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 4, 2022
We continue to ask for assistance from the community. If anyone has any information concerning this investigation, they should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.