Why hundreds of women are planning to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run one week on from her murder

‘We want to stand up and say it’s okay for women to run at 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s okay for women to run in whatever type of clothing they feel comfortable in,’ organiser Danielle Heineman tells The Independent

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 07 September 2022 19:05 BST
Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students as alleged killer is charged

Hundreds of women in Memphis are planning to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run on what will mark the one-week anniversary of her abduction and murder – as her death shines a spotlight on the dangers women face while out jogging and going about their daily lives.

Ms Fletcher, a marathon runner and mother-of-two, was running her regular morning route close to the University of Memphis campus last Friday morning when she was attacked and dragged into a vehicle by a man.

Her body was found more than three days later behind an abandoned building in south Memphis. Her purple Lululemon running shorts were found discarded in a nearby trash bag.

On Friday – one week on from her abduction – women will come out in a show of support and to complete the run she never got to finish.

The event, named “Let’s Finish Liza’s Run”, will take runners along the business heiress and kindergarten teacher’s regular 8.2 mile route down Central Avenue and back to Belvedere, where she lived with her husband and two sons.

It is scheduled to start at 4.20am on Friday morning – the exact same time that surveillance footage captured her being violently snatched by her attacker.

Organiser Danielle Heineman told The Independent on Wednesday that she organised the event in protest that women should be able to go for a run at any time and wearing any clothes that they want without fearing their lives could be in danger.

“We want to stand up and say it’s okay for women to run at 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s okay for women to run in whatever type of clothing they feel comfortable in,” she said.

“We shouldn’t have to be shunned to running on a treadmill or have to run with a man.”

She added: “I also wanted to finish what Liza started which is finish her run.”

Ms Heineman said that Ms Fletcher’s abduction and death had raised greater awareness among runners and the local community about the dangers women sometimes face.

Eliza Fletcher captured on surveillance footage running her regular route moments before her abduction (Memphis Police Department)

“Her case has made women more aware and also men more aware,” she said.

“Women shouldn’t have to hide to do their physical activities.”

The organiser said that she initially planned the run to be just around 15 to 20 women in the local community.

In an initial Facebook post about her plans, she described how she – as a fellow local runner – felt the need to do it “as part of a coping process”.

But, interest in the idea grew rapidly.

As of Wednesday, a Facebook group for the event had 985 people marked as going and 1,500 interested.

Water stops are now being provided by multiple groups including Breakaway Running, Fleet Feet Running and Diversifit, volunteers are helping to organise the event, and local businesses and churches are lending their parking lots for those driving to the start.

Participants are urged not to come alone and to wear bright colours and a bright light if possible.

The event comes as tragic parallels have been made between Ms Fletcher’s abduction and death and the murders of multiple other women while they were out on jogs near their homes.

Several people have taken to social media to call for an end to women living in fear as they go about their daily lives, with the hashtag #ElizaFletcher circulating on Twitter.

Eliza Fletcher’s body was discovered on Monday afternoon (Family handout)

Others have slammed the “victim blaming” from some online, who have questioned why Ms Fletcher was running at the time of day that she did.

“How about instead of saying ‘she shouldn’t have been jogging at 4:30 in the morning’…we say that no one should be fearful of being abducted or killed on a run. She did nothing wrong. #bebetter #ElizaFletcher,” one woman tweeted.

Another woman tweeted: “In my opinion, it’s time to start imposing a curfew on men until they can get their s*** together and stop feeling like they have a right to snatch and murder women. Maybe it’s time we as women start making THEM afraid to go out after f***ing dark #ElizaFletcher#StopKillingUs”

Another woman voiced her frustration that women are expected to change their behaviour and prepare themselves for potential attack rather than men simply stopping carrying out violent attacks.


“Carry keys to stab someone, carry tasers, stun guns, mace, bear spray, loud alarms. Knowing self-defense, becoming a gun owner, never going anywhere alone. HOW ABOUT MEN DO BETTER. #ElizaFletcher.”

Ms Fletcher’s death comes just months after 23-year-old primary school teacher Ashling Murphy was murdered while on an afternoon run along the banks of a canal in Ireland in January.

Law enforcement search the area where her body was found on Monday afternoon (AP)

Their deaths mark just the latest in a growing number of women attacked while out running in recent years.

Ally Brueger, a 31-year-old nurse, would go on 10 mile runs near her home in Michigan every day. In July 2016, she was shot in the back and killed while on one of her usual runs.

Her killer has never been found.

One month later, avid runner Karina Vetrano was sexually assaulted and strangled as she jogged through a park near her home in Queens, New York City. The writer and speech pathologist had tried to put up a “ferocious fight” against her attacker.

That same month, 27-year-old Google employee Vanessa Marcotte vanished while out for a run during a visit to her mother’s home in Princeton, Massachusetts.

Her body was found hours later naked and burned, half a mile from the house.

In July 2018, Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student, vanished while out for a jog near her home in Brooklyn, Iowa. Her body was later found buried in a shallow grave in a cornfield, with only her bright running shoes visible. She had been stabbed to death.

In August 2020, 25-year-old nurse Sydney Sutherland was snatched in eerily similar circumstances while running near her home in Arkansas. Her body was found two days later.

A farm worker pleaded guilty to her rape and murder last year.

Over in Washington DC, 35-year-old Wendy Martinez was stabbed to death while out for an evening run in September 2018.

The tech executive was stabbed seven times when she briefly stopped at traffic lights, before her attacker fled the scene. She had celebrated her engagement just six days earlier.

On Wednesday, Ms Fletcher’s alleged killer Cleotha Abston Henderson appeared in court charged with her murder.

There is no sign that he knew his victim prior to the attack, with Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy saying it appears to have been “an isolated attack by a stranger”.

Prior to Ms Fletcher’s murder, the 38-year-old suspect served 19 years in prison for kidnapping an attorney back in 2000. He was released from prison less than two years ago.

Abston Henderson also had a lengthy juvenile rap sheet, including a conviction for raping a man when he was just 14 years old.

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