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Disturbing details emerge in jogger Eliza Fletcher’s death as suspect arraigned for murder

Police were searching near a vacant home in Memphis, Tennessee when they discovered the body of Eliza Fletcher and a discarded trash bag containing what appear to be her running shorts.

The disturbing details were included in an amended affidavit filed in Shelby County Criminal Court on Tuesday, days after police arrested Cleotha Abston in the Fletcher kidnapping.

Elisa Fletcher.Memphis Police Department

Abston, 38, was initially charged with kidnapping and tampering with evidence. First degree murder and first degree murder in the commission of kidnapping were added after Fletcher’s body was found. He was arraigned Tuesday on the charges of kidnapping and tampering with evidence where a judge ordered him to be held on $510,000 bond.

On Wednesday, in another settlement on the murder charges, the judge revoked Abston’s bail.

Police were alerted to Fletcher’s disappearance around 7 a.m. on Friday after Richard Fletcher told officers his wife had not returned home from her regular 4 a.m. jog, the affidavit states.

Fletcher, an avid runner, kindergarten teacher and mother of two, was running near the University of Memphis when she went missing. Security video showed “a black GMC Terrain passing and then waiting for the victim to pass,” according to a criminal complaint.

A man then got out of the vehicle, ran towards Fletcher and forced her into the passenger seat, according to the complaint. Investigators determined Abston was the man in the vehicle after his DNA was found on a pair of slide sandals at the scene. His phone also placed him in the area when Fletcher was abducted, authorities said.

Disturbing details emerge in jogger Eliza Fletcher’s death as suspect arraigned for murder
Cleotha Abston during her arraignment on Tuesday. Mark Weber/Daily Memphian via AP

According to the affidavit, a witness told police she saw Abston outside her brother’s apartment cleaning the SUV “with floor cleaner.” The witness said it appeared Abston was “behaving oddly”.

Abston’s brother also told police he saw him cleaning the car and “washing his clothes in the house sink,” the affidavit states. The brother said Abston seemed to be “acting very strangely”.

In surveillance video obtained by local news station WREG, Abston is seen arriving at the Longview Garden flats around 7.57am on Friday. In the footage, he sits in the car for a moment before entering his brother’s apartment. He leaves the apartment and spends about an hour on the passenger side of the car, according to the news station.

Abston was arrested Saturday after investigators found the SUV in a parking lot near his residence. The affidavit says Abston refused to tell investigators where Fletcher was.

Disturbing details emerge in jogger Eliza Fletcher’s death as suspect arraigned for murder

His body was found as police searched an area near Victor Street in Memphis. According to the affidavit, police saw vehicle tracks near the driveway of a house and “smelled a rotting smell.”

Officers went to the back of the house and found Fletcher lying unconscious on the floor, the affidavit states.

Police continued to search the area and found a trash bag containing purple Lululemon running shorts that resembled “the one Eliza Fletcher was last seen in,” according to the affidavit.

In a statement Tuesday, Fletcher’s family said they were “heartbroken” by the loss.

“Liza was such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation and everyone who knew her,” they said. “Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared about her so much.”


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