What are charges against Cleotha Abston? Eliza Fletcher murder suspect unable to pay $500K bond or afford attorney
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: The 4-day-long search came to an end when the police found a body on Tuesday, September 6, and identified it to be Eliza Fletcher. She had gone missing on Friday, September 2, after going for a jog at 4.20 am. She was violently abducted by Cleotha Abston who was later arrested and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with Evidence. Fletcher was identified just hours before Abston's court appearance and he later claimed that he cannot make his bond and cannot afford an attorney.
After the identification of the Orgill Inc heiress, the 38-year-old kidnapper was slammed with additional charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, according to the Memphis Police Department (MPD). Abston made his first court appearance at 201 Poplar, Walter L Bailey, Jr Criminal Justice Center on Tuesday for the kidnapping and tampering with evidence charges. During his court proceeding, he claimed that he cannot make his $500,000 bond and cannot afford an attorney.
Abston will be returning to court on Wednesday morning, September 7, for the charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping. Fletcher was a member of the Second Presbyterian Church who remembered their member and tweeted, "We're grieving the loss of dear church member, Liza Fletcher. Please pray for her family & the Memphis community. We're seeking shelter in the Father of mercies & the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection & will at the Great Day heal us & our world."
We're grieving the loss of dear church member, Liza Fletcher. Please pray for her family & the Memphis community. We're seeking shelter in the Father of mercies & the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection & will at the Great Day heal us & our world. pic.twitter.com/0YW9PAClZ7— Second Presbyterian (@2PCMemphis) September 6, 2022
Murder Charges Read During Suspect Arraignment
The judge read out the charges in the case to Abston which included first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and tampering with evidence. According to reporters, such as WATN-TV's Brad Broder, newly elected Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy and prosecutor Paul Hagerman were in the courtroom. It is being said that the judge acknowledged the "extraordinary nature and attention of this case." Dakarai Turner, a reporter, and investigator shared an image from inside the court before Abston entered for the hearing tweeting, "In the court this morning where Cleotha Abston is making a first appearance on kidnapping and evidence tampering charges, just after authorities confirm #ElizaFletcher’s body found in South Memphis. Newly sworn-in DA @SteveMulroy901is in attendance, is as Fletcher’s family."
In the court this morning where Cleotha Abston is making a first appearance on kidnapping and evidence tampering charges, just after authorities confirm #ElizaFletcher’s body found in South Memphis.— Dakarai Turner (@Dakarai_Turner) September 6, 2022
Newly sworn-in DA @SteveMulroy901 is in attendance, is as Fletcher’s family. pic.twitter.com/eOSRyposih
The prosecutors will reportedly push for no bond in this case when Abston returns to court Wednesday morning at 9 am for the additional charges he was slammed with after the identification of Fletcher's body. After announcing his inability to make his bond and get an attorney, the judge stated that a Shelby County public defender will be appointed to represent him in this case. Abston remains uncooperative with investigators, leaving the cause of Fletcher's death a mystery.
Suspect to be Arraigned on Murder Charges
DA Steve Mulroy explained that the suspect, Cleotha Abston, was arraigned on September 6 on kidnapping charges and will be arraigned on new murder charges on September 7. Fletcher's body was found within walking distance from Longview Gardens apartments, where Abston allegedly cleaned a GMC Terrain hours after Fletcher’s abduction as per the footage, and which is where his brother, Mario lives.
DA Steve Mulroy offered his condolences to the family and said, "Repeat violent offenders deserve a strong response and that’s what they’ll get from this district attorney’s office." Fletcher's family also released a statement saying, "We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was a such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her." They continued, "We are grateful beyond measure to local, state and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime."
Surrounded by Shelby Co., Sheriff, DA Steve Mulroy, FBI, ATF and US Mashals, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis addresses media, thankful for “hundreds of tips” that came in. #ElizaFletcher pic.twitter.com/P0aQhtrMuO— Dakarai Turner (@Dakarai_Turner) September 6, 2022
Police Glad to Get 'Dangerous Predator' Off the Streets
Abston was previously sentenced to 24 years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in 2000 but was eligible for release after 85 percent of that sentence was served. Abston is a threat to the streets and the same was hinted at by a former FBI investigator, Jennifer Coffindaffer, who said Fletcher's murder might be connected to a previous kidnapping in which Abston was actively involved. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to the aggravated kidnapping and robbery of lawyer Kemper Durand as he took him away at gunpoint.
He was sentenced to 24 years and 11 years in prison respectively but reportedly served only 20 years. Abston appeared in court wearing a mask and green issued prison uniform, looking toward the family of the victim before stating his inability of affording a lawyer. During the press conference, Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said, "Today is a very sad day in the city of Memphis. While the outcome of this investigation is not what we hoped for, we are nonetheless pleased to remove this dangerous predator off the streets of Memphis."