What is CODIS? How DNA database helped catch Eliza Fletcher suspect Cleotha Abston within 48 hours

What is CODIS? How DNA database helped catch Eliza Fletcher suspect Cleotha Abston within 48 hours
Cleotha Absten is charged with aggravated kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher (Instagram-@lizawfletcher/ Memphis Police Department)

MEMPHIS, TEXAS: Previously convicted felon Cleotha Abston was arrested on Saturday, September 3, by US Marshalls for the abduction and murder of Tennessee heiress Eliza Fletcher.

According to an arrest affidavit, Abston was apprehended after DNA detected on a pair of sandals found close to where Eliza Fletcher was last seen was confirmed to be his. Police believe the vehicle used in the kidnapping belonged to a person at the residence where Abston was staying. The same car was spotted in surveillance footage of the kidnapping. Eyewitnesses also claimed that they saw Abston washing the insides of the car.


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Thirty four-year-old Fletcher was kidnapped on September 2 at around 4 am when she had gone jogging near the University of Memphis. Her body was found on Monday, September 5, almost 36 hours after Abston was arrested for aggravated kidnapping. After Fletcher's body was recovered, Abston was slammed with additional charges of identity theft, theft of property and fraudulent use of a credit card. Once the body was confirmed to be Fletcher's, authorities announced in a statement that additional charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping were also being levied against Abston.


Investigators were helped in the case by a DNA database called CODIS, which stands for Combined DNA Index System; it helped investigators arrest Abston a mere 48 hours after she went missing during her morning jog. “It is a tremendous help to be able to link [a] suspect to [the] victim as quickly as possible,” said Brad Garrett, former FBI agent and ABC News contributor.

In Memphis, a pair of champion slide sandals was left behind at the spot where Eliza Fletcher went missing Friday morning. Investigators collected DNA from those sandals, ran it through CODIS, and that’s what led law enforcement to arrest Abston on Sunday morning. “It’s pretty impressive how quickly they’ve been able to do this,” said Garrett. DNA samples are put into CODIS following a specific felony offense and from criminal investigations. Once a sample comes into the lab, it gets a number and DNA profile, and then they can see if there’s a match.

In Tennessee alone, CODIS has received as many as 30,000 samples a year. And its reach extends beyond Tennessee. It can access state and federal agencies coast to coast.

Citizens tweeted regarding Fletcher's heartbreaking kidnapping and murder. @CamineSabia said, "Allowing animal Cleotha Abston out of prison resulted in the death of Eliza Fletcher. This is what "criminal justice reform" leads to".


Baylor University where Eliza graduated from extended their condolesences.


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