Who is Michael Keeney? Eliza Fletcher's uncle emerges as common link between her abduction and Cleotha Abston's past

Who is Michael Keeney? Eliza Fletcher's uncle emerges as common link between her abduction and Cleotha Abston's past
Eliza Fletcher's (left inset) uncle, Michael Keeney, is the common link between her kidnapping and Cleotha Abston's (right inset) past kidnapping history (Instagram/@lizawfletcher, Lewis Thomason website, Shelby County Sheriff)

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Eliza Fletcher, a 34-year-old elementary school teacher was abducted by Cleotha Abston, who has been previously jailed for kidnapping a lawyer. Abston appeared in court on September 6 for Fletcher's abduction defending himself against the charges of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence. However, a former FBI investigator has linked this abduction to Fletcher's uncle whose former coworker was kidnapped by none other than Abston himself.

Jennifer Coffindaffer, in a conversation with NewsNation, linked the kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher to that of Memphis Attorney Kemper Durand, who worked in the same law firm as Fletcher's uncle, Michael Keeney. She said, "I think this is a very significant clue, and I'm sure certainly that the FBI, the US Marshalls and the TBI is looking closely at this relationship." In 2000, Cleotha Abston pleaded guilty to the kidnapping of Durand and he was charged with 24 years in prison, but he got out in 20 years. Coffindaffer reflected on Abston's early release from prison saying, "Any time someone is let out early and the goes on to commit another violent crime, yes, I think society’s let down.  think we are all let down by his early release." To little surprise, Abston has a lengthy rap sheet that began when he was merely 12, which included charges of theft, aggravated assault, and rape. 


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Abston was 18 at the time of that kidnapping when he, along with an accomplice, kidnapped Durand. They threw him into his own trunk and forced him to withdraw money at a gas station ATM. Durand died in 2013, and his LinkedIn shows that he worked at Thomason Hendrix law firm, which is the same as Michael Keeney's law firm. As per Commercial Appeal, Durand was rescued by a nearby Memphis Housing Authority guard who heard his cry for help. In his victim statement, Durand wrote, "It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped."

Kemper-B.-Durand (yale1961.org)
Kemper B. Durand (yale1961.org)

Abston attacking Fletcher, another person related to Michael Keeney comes as a surprise. But who is Eliza Fletcher's uncle?

Who is Michael Keeney?

Keeney is a lawyer at the Memphis office of the 'Lewis Thomason Law Firm' which was formerly known as Thomason Hendrix law firm prior to its merger with Lewis King law firm. According to the firm's website, he practices in the area of civil litigation and handled matters in state and federal courts. He has been defined as an active member of the community with extensive trial experience, as well as experience in handling appellate matters. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Central Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis and is also on the Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority Board of Commissioners.

Michael E. Keeney (Lewis Thomson website)
Michael E. Keeney is a Rule 31-listed mediator in general civil mediation for the Supreme Court of Tennessee. (Lewis Thomson website)

Keeney joined the law firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey Johnson & Mitchell, PLLC, as an associate in 1993 which kicked his career into hyper speed. He later served as a partner and managing partner. He is a Rule 31-listed mediator in general civil mediation for the Supreme Court of Tennessee and has also been a hearing officer for the disciplinary board of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory has given Keeney the highest rating, AV Preeminent, and he has been named Best Lawyers in America since 2008. According to Tennessee State Museum, he also serves on the Board of Directors for Orgill, Inc.

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