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New details emerge in ‘violent’ Eliza Fletcher kidnapping

Missing Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was forced into a black SUV in a “violent” manner — and a pair of sandals left at the scene helped cops locate her alleged abductor, according to police documents obtained by The Post Sunday.

Fletcher, 34, was abducted on her regular 4 am jog Friday after being stalked by Cleotha Abston, who’d waited for her to run past him, the police affidavit alleged. She had run from her home in the fancy Central Gardens neighborhood to a nice area near the University of Memphis campus.

Court records show Abston, 38, is a previously convicted kidnapper: he pleaded guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping and robbery in 2001. He was sentenced to 24 years and 11 years in prison respectively, although it is unclear how long he remained incarcerated and if he served his sentences concurrently.

Tennessee authorities obtained surveillance footage of the kidnapping, which allegedly showed Abston running “aggressively toward the victim, and then forcing the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle,” the documents said.

“During the abduction, there appeared to be a struggle,” according to the affidavit, which cited “noticeable damage to the back-passenger taillight area” of the GMC Terrain.

Police said after Fletcher — who is still missing — was forced into the black SUV, “the vehicle then sat in the parking lot with the victim inside for approximately four minutes before it drove off.”

Eliza Fletcher.
Eliza Fletcher has not yet been located.
Instagram/Liza Fletcher

It is unclear what happened during that time.

“As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing towards the victim, then forcing the victim into the car, where she was confined and removed and continues to be missing, it is believed and supported by the facts and physical evidence that she suffered serious injury,” the affidavit said.

“Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence of blood in the car the defendant cleaned,” it continued.

Cleotha Abston.
Cleotha Abston was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence
Tennessee Department of Corrections

According to the document, at 6:45 am, good Samaritan Miles Fortas was riding his bike when he found Fletcher’s cell phone and a pair of Champion slide sandals in the area where the mother of two was kidnapped. Fortas, unaware of what had occurred, gave the items to the Fletcher family, who then turned them over to the authorities.

“DNA found on the shoes matched DNA for Cleotha Abston” that was already in a police database, according to the affidavit.

Authorities said they found footage of Abston wearing Champion slides the day before the alleged kidnapping. They also said his cell phone pinged near the site of the Friday kidnapping.

The car apparently belongs to a local cleaning service that employs Abston.

Officers arrested him after finding him standing in the doorway of his home.

Eliza Fletcher jogging.

Eliza Fletcher was abducted during her regular 4 am jog.


Investigators believe Liza's abductors were in this vehicle.

Investigators believe Liza’s abductors were in this vehicle.


Suspect vehicle.

The vehicle sat in a parking lot with Eliza Fletcher inside for approximately four minutes before it drove off, according to the police.


“He attempted to flee but was taken into custody,” the police document said.

A witness said she saw Abston “cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner” just before 8 am Friday morning and reported to the police that “he was behaving oddly.” He was also spotted washing his clothes in a sink.

Police have yet to find Fletcher, and are continuing to ask for the public’s help in locating her. Abston would not tell the authorities where she is.

Abston previously pleaded guilty to kidnapping local attorney Kemper Durand around 2 am on May 25, 2000, walking up behind him with a gun and forcing him to get into the trunk of a car, local paper The Memphis Flyer reported at the time. Abston was a minor when he kidnapped Durand and brought him to an ATM to withdraw money.

Fletcher, an elementary school teacher, is the granddaughter of a hardware company billionaire. She is married with two young boys.

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