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Eliza Fletcher missing: Kidnapping suspect Cleotha Abston abducted Memphis attorney at gunpoint decades ago

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The suspect arrested in connection with the kidnapping of missing Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was previously charged two decades ago with abducting a prominent attorney.

Cleotha Abston, 38, has been arrested and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance.

Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two and kindergarten teacher, was reportedly forced into a dark SUV early Friday while out for a run near the University of Memphis campus and has not been seen or heard from since.

Memphis police confirmed to Fox News on Sunday that Abston had previously been charged with aggravated robbery and kidnapping for the crime involving prominent Memphis attorney Kemper Durand in May 2000. Abston was 16 at the time, according to the police department.

ELIZA FLETCHER’S ABDUCTION: TIMELINE OF THE MEMPHIS TEACHER’S DISAPPEARANCE

Authorities are offering a $50,000 reward to help find the mother of two who was kidnapped while jogging early on Sept.  2, 2022.

Authorities are offering a $50,000 reward to help find the mother of two who was kidnapped while jogging early on Sept. 2, 2022.
(Memphis Police Department/TBI)

“I don’t think this was a random kidnapping,” TJ Ward, a private investigator who worked the case of the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba, told “Fox & Friends Weekend” of Fletcher’s abduction. “I think this was probably planned.”

“I believe that this was not a random abduction,” he added. “I believe that this guy knows something and hopefully the information law enforcement has obtained will lead it to Ms. Fletcher.”

Ward commended how quickly the police have worked this case, adding that the last position of cellphone pings and details from the suspect’s vehicle and computers could provide crucial details for investigators.

Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher III, was photographed outside his family’s Memphis home Saturday morning with several other people. He initially reported his wife missing Friday around 7:45 am when she never returned from her run.

A photo of Cleotha Abston

A photo of Cleotha Abston
(Tennessee Department of Corrections)

According to police reports cited in the May 31, 2000, edition of the Commercial Appeal newspaper, Abston forced Durand into the trunk of Durand’s car at gunpoint near Beale Street, “where he spent the next two hours.” Durand was able to yell for help after being brought to an ATM.

A tribute to Durand by the Lewis Thomason Law Firm referenced the ordeal and highlighted how he petitioned for a lesser sentence for the 12-year-old accomplice whom Abston had picked up along the way.

Eliza Fletcher is from a prominent Memphis family, the granddaughter of a well-known philanthropist and business owner.

Eliza Fletcher is from a prominent Memphis family, the granddaughter of a well-known philanthropist and business owner.
(Liza Fletcher/Instagram)

Durand, a former assistant US attorney working as a defense lawyer at the time of his kidnapping, died suddenly in 2013 at age 73 at home while recovering from the flu and bronchitis, according to another memorial by the Yale Class of 1961.

That memorial also referenced how Durand asked for leniency for the two found guilty of his abduction, recalling how “he just didn’t want to ‘wallow in’ the fear he faced being held by an armed kidnapper.”

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“In fact, he suggested an advertisement for Commercial Bank & Trust, owned by a friend. In it, Mr. Durand sat on the trunk of his Mercedes with the caption: ‘Why Does Kemper Durand Bank With Us? Because this prominent attorney thinks it’s better than having his assets stuffed in the trunk of a car,'” the memorial says.

Fox News’ Audrey Conklin, Adam Sabes, Stephanie Pagones and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.

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