There was a heavy police presence in South Memphis for hours where roughly two miles from an apartment complex where an affidavit made public by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Cleotha Abstonwas, the 38-year-old suspect, was seen “behaving oddly” and cleaning the interior of an SUV tied to the abduction case, according to local reports.
Officers in the 1600 block of Victor located a “deceased party” at 5:07 p.m., the Memphis Police Department said in a tweet. The identity of this person and the cause of death was unconfirmed, and police said the investigation was ongoing.
This is about 1.7 miles from Cleotha Abston’s brother’s apartment where police were searching yesterday.
— Bria Jones (@BriaJonesTV) September 5, 2022
At 5:07 pm, officers in the 1600 block of Victor located a deceased party. The identity of this person and the cause of death is unconfirmed at this time. The investigation is ongoing.
Once additional information is available, we will provide an update. pic.twitter.com/LwnCdCYz1z
— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) September 6, 2022
Abston was arrested and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence, the Memphis Police Department said on Sunday. Abston, who is being held in the county jail on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, served time for a prior kidnapping of a lawyer roughly 20 years ago and was released in 2020.
Mario Abston, the 36-year-old brother of Cleotha Abston, was also detained and charged with drug and firearms offenses, but Memphis police said it was unrelated to Fletcher’s abduction.
Surveillance footage showed Fletcher, a 34-year-old who was abducted while jogging at around 4 a.m. at the University of Memphis campus, engaged in a struggle with her kidnapper before being thrown into an SUV, according to the affidavit seen by NBC News. The struggle apparently resulted in the kidnapper losing his sandals, which were left at the scene, along with the victim’s phone.
“During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle,” the affidavit said. “The Champion slides sandals were found in this area. The vehicle then sat in the parking lot with the victim inside for approximately four minutes before it drove off.”
BREAKING OVERNIGHT : Police have arrested a suspect in the kidnapping case of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher. Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence, Memphis Police announced early Sunday. pic.twitter.com/2E9r6Hcdvb
— Jordan James (@JordanJamesTV) September 4, 2022
Police were able to trace the sandals back to Abston after finding his DNA on them. Police said Fletcher “suffered serious injury” in the struggle with her kidnapper, leaving blood in the SUV that the defendant cleaned, according to the affidavit. Abston was arrested on Saturday after finding the vehicle — a GMC Terrain — at Abston’s last known address and he was arrested by U.S. Marshals after he tried to flee.
Fletcher is the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, whose namesake wholesale family business is described as “the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor with annual sales of $3 billion,” according to the company’s website. She is married to Richard “Richie” Fletcher III and is the mother to their two children.
Fletcher’s family offered a $50,000 cash prize for information leading to her rescue. “We look forward to Eliza’s safe return and hope that this award will help police capture those who committed this crime,” Fletcher’s family said in a statement.