Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Cleotha Abston has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher. Here is a timeline of events in the case

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 07 September 2022 16:38 BST
Man charged over kidnapping of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher

Memphis police confirmed on Tuesday morning that a body found during an “intensive” city-wide search was positively identified as missing mother of two Eliza Fletcher.

Ms Fletcher, 34,was abducted while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus early on Friday morning (2 September) in what police have described as a random attack.

Her family, heirs to a multi-billion dollar hardware chain fortune, later put out a desperate plea for information and offered a $50,000 reward for her safe return.

Ms Fletcher’s body was discovered on Monday night in a wooded area in south Memphis.

Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with her abduction and murder.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

4am Friday (2 September)

Ms Fletcher headed out for her regular pre-dawn run around 4am on Friday, police say.

Surveillance footage picked up a black 2013 GMC Terrain “stalking” Ms Fletcher 24 minutes before she was taken, a police affidavit stated.

Ms Fletcher was a keen runner, having previously qualified for the Boston Marathon, and took her normal route along Central Avenue near the University of Memphis, according to an alert put out by the institution’s police force.

Eliza Fletcher was a keen jogger who had run several marathons

4.20am Friday

Police said surveillance footage showed a man aggressively approach and force her into an SUV at about 4.20am.

Separate footage captured from a local theatre shows Ms Fletcher and a suspect struggle, and the vehicle then remained stationary in a parking lot for four minutes before driving off.

Police would later say there were signs that Ms Fletcher had been severely injured in the attack.

There were signs that Eliza Fletcher suffered severe injuries in the attack, police said

6.45am Friday

A passing cyclist spots Ms Fletcher’s cellphone lying on the ground near to where she was abducted.

Unaware of what’s just taken place, he rides over to her family home to return it.

He also spots a pair of Champion sandals that police would later obtain DNA from that led them to prime suspect Cleotha Abston.

7am Friday

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) receive a call Ms Fletcher’s husband Richard Fletcher calls police to alert them that she has not come home from her run.

Around this time, the University of Memphis also phones police.

Police locate some of Ms Fletcher’s belongings from the scene.

Friday afternoon

Memphis police hold a press conference appealing for information about the missing jogger.

They say they are not aware of reports that the case may be linked to previous reports of women being harassed on the university campus.

Forensic testing from the sandals found at the scene is a match for Cleotha Abston, a violent felon who spent 20 years in prison for kidnapping, an affidavit would later reveal.

Investigators trace his cellphone records that place him at the scene around the time Ms Fletcher was abducted.

Cleotha Abston had prevsiously served 20 years in prison for kidnapping

10.45am Saturday (3 September)

US Marshals locate a black SUV matching the description of the vehicle seen in surveillance footage in a parking lot close to Abston’s home in Waterstone Oak Way.

They see the suspect in the doorway of the home, and after a short pursuit he is taken into custody.

In an affidavit, police say two witnesses including the suspect’s brother Mario Abston saw him cleaning the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and washing clothes in a sink.

Police said they found evidence in the vehicle that Ms Fletcher had suffered “serious injury” in the attack.

Mario Abston, who was separately charged with possessing materials to manufacture heroin and fentanyl, said his brother had been acting “strange”.

When questioned by police, Cleotha Abston refuses to cooperate.

Saturday evening

Family of Eliza Fletcher make an emotional plea for her safe return

Ms Fletcher’s family release a video statement to WREG appealing for help in finding her, and offer a $50,000 reward for her safe return.

We believe someone knows what happened and can help,” her uncle Mike Keeney says in a statement.

Sunday (4 September)

Memphis police announce Cleotha Abston has been charged with abduction and tampering with evidence.

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