Eliza Fletcher: Body found in search confirmed to be the missing Memphis heiress
The body found during the search for Eliza Fletcher has been identified as the missing Memphis business heiress, according to local reports.
Multiple sources told Fox13 that investigators had identified the remains found Monday afternoon less than a mile from the home of her alleged kidnapper’s brother — the suspect was found within hours of her kidnapping. There, his vehicle and clothes were cleaned up.
Law enforcement officials have yet to confirm the latest developments, and the cause of death remains unclear.
The grim development comes on the same day the man accused of kidnapping the 34-year-old mother of two will make his first court appearance.
Cleotha Abston, a 38-year-old convicted kidnapper who was released from prison less than two years ago for the 2001 kidnapping of a Memphis lawyer, was arrested Saturday and charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping and evidence tampering.
On Monday, he was charged with new charges of identity theft, theft of property under $1,000 and fraudulent use of a credit card. The charges are not related to Ms Fletcher’s violent kidnapping.
A three-day search for the missing kindergarten teacher and granddaughter of the Ogier hardware empire reached a A tragic turning point.
The Memphis Police Department (MPD) announced the discovery around 5 p.m. local time, but said the identity of the remains and cause of death had not been confirmed. They provided no other details about the discovery.
Law enforcement officers searched the area around Mr Abston’s brother’s home throughout the day and found they had confiscated a litter box and removed bags of evidence from the home.
Ms Fletcher was caught on routine morning jog near University of London Memphis Campus Friday.
Around 4:20 a.m., surveillance footage captured a black 2013 GMC Terrain SUV driving past her as she passed through the area.
The SUV came to a stop and saw a man get out of the car, who then “aggressively” ran towards the joggers.
A fierce fight broke out and the man forced Ms Fletcher onto the passenger side of the vehicle.
Police said video footage showed the car then parked in the parking lot for about four minutes, with the two driving in the car for about four minutes.
Ms Fletcher’s family reported her missing when she failed to get home after a run. The jogger’s cell phone and water bottle were found at the kidnapping scene.
Investigators also found a pair of Champion skates – believed to belong to Mr Abston – left over from the fight.
Surveillance footage captured the same SUV stalking the area where Ms Fletcher was taken 24 minutes before the kidnapping unfolded.
The net closed Mr Abston when investigators found DNA on the slide matched that of the 38-year-old man, according to an affidavit.
Surveillance footage also appeared to show the suspect wearing the same shoes a few days earlier, and cellphone data placed him at the kidnapping scene, the testimony said.
U.S. Marshals later found an SUV in a parking lot near the Abston home on Saturday with the same taillights and some of the license plate markings seen on surveillance video, according to an affidavit.
When police found Mr Abston nearby, he tried to flee but was arrested at the scene – about 24 hours after the teacher was kidnapped.
On Sunday, Memphis police announced that he had been charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping and evidence tampering.
According to the affidavit, a witness and the suspect’s brother Mario Abston found Abston cleaning out his car and doing laundry in the sink in the hours after the kidnapping. .
Witnesses also said they saw him behaving strangely in the house.
Even after it was cleaned, authorities were able to find evidence from inside the car, leading them to believe Ms Fletcher suffered “serious injuries”.
However, according to the affidavit, Mr Abston refused to cooperate with the police investigation or to give up on Ms Fletcher’s whereabouts.
Before his first court appearance, his bail was set at $500,000.
No motivation was given, and it was unclear whether the victim was targeted or attacked randomly.
However, Mr Abston had a previous conviction for kidnapping and was released less than two years ago after serving 20 years in prison.
In very similar circumstances to Ms Fletcher’s kidnapping, Mr Abston tied a Memphis lawyer to his car during the early morning attack.
On 24 May 2000, around 2 am, Mr Abston and an accomplice approached Kemper Durand in his car, got out of the car and forced the lawyer into the trunk of his car. They then drove the victim around for hours before taking him to an ATM where they robbed him.
The victim was rescued when she shouted for help to passersby, prompting the attackers to flee.
Mr Abston pleaded guilty to particularly aggravated kidnapping in 2001 and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
He was released in November 2020 after serving 19 years in prison.
His brother Mario was also arrested and charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, one count of fentanyl with intent to distribute and felony possession of a firearm after police searched his home Saturday.
Ms. Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late local businessman and philanthropist Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, who founded Orgill, a Memphis hardware supply company.
The private, family-owned business, now worth $3.2 billion, is described on the company’s website as “the world’s largest independently owned hard-line distributor, offering more than 75,000 products and industries to retailers in North America and more than 60 countries around the world. channel – leading retail service”.
Her family offered $50,000 for her return and pleaded for help finding her during an emotional news conference Saturday.