Memphis police discover unidentified body 3 days after violent kidnapping of teacher

An unidentified body was found in Memphis on Monday at the scene of an extensive search, just three days after teacher Eliza “Liza” Fletcher was violently abducted, Memphis police tweeted on Monday.

The man charged with kidnapping a still-missing Memphis teacher served time in prison for an aggravated kidnapping more than 20 years ago, court records show.

Cleotha Abston, 38, pleaded guilty in November 2001 to the charge of particularly aggravated kidnapping. He was released in November 2020, according to court records.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office told WREG Abston he was convicted of kidnapping a local attorney in 2000.

Abston is currently facing the same charge of particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the kidnapping of Eliza “Liza” Fletcher.

Three additional charges have been added for Abston since his arrest on Saturday, according to Shelby County Jail Records. These charges include identity theft, theft of property of $1,000 or less, and fraudulent use/unlawful possession of a credit or debit card of $1,000 or less, according to records.

The newly filed charges against Abston are unrelated to the Fletcher kidnapping, according to an affidavit obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ. The new charges relate to a theft report filed Thursday by a woman who reported someone was using her CashApp card and Wisley card at gas stations without her knowledge.

CNN has contacted the Shelby County District Attorney and Memphis police regarding the additional charges.

Fletcher, 34, a mother of two, was jogging around 4 a.m. Friday when a black GMC Terrain SUV drove past her, according to surveillance footage obtained from the incident. A man was then seen getting out of the vehicle and “aggressively ran” towards Fletcher and forced her into the passenger side of the SUV. Once the two individuals were inside the SUV, the vehicle remained in a parking lot for approximately four minutes before driving off, according to footage cited in an affidavit obtained by CNN.

The affidavit said police had found “physical evidence that she suffered serious injuries”.

Abston was arrested Saturday after police found the GMC Terrain in a parking lot near his residence, according to the affidavit. The vehicle had the same distinctive damage and partial license plate identification seen in surveillance footage of Fletcher’s abduction.

Abston attempted to flee after US Marshals located him nearby, according to the affidavit.

The suspect is being held at the Shelby County jail on $500,000 bail and is due in court on Tuesday, jail records show. We don’t know if he has a lawyer.

DNA recovered from a pair of sandals found near where authorities believe Fletcher was abducted helped investigators identify and arrest Abston, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance footage captured at a local theater the day before Fletcher disappeared showed Abston wearing what authorities believe to be the same pair of Champion slide sandals found at the crime scene, according to the affidavit.

Additional surveillance footage, coupled with statements from Abston’s employer, confirmed that the vehicle in question is owned by a woman associated with Abston’s home address.

Cell phone records also place Abston at the site at the time of Fletcher’s abduction on Friday morning, according to the affidavit.

Fletcher’s damaged phone was found near the scene where she was abducted, Crime Stoppers executive director Buddy Chapman said, according to a press release obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ.

According to the affidavit, a witness said he saw Abston at his brother’s house after the abduction. The witness and his brother said Abston behaved strangely as he cleaned the interior of his SUV and washed his clothes in the sink.

Photos released by police show Fletcher running in the neighborhood near the University of Memphis. She was last seen wearing a pink jogging top and purple running shorts, police said in an alert.

Fletcher is white, 5-foot-6, has brown hair and green eyes, police said. She weighs 137 pounds.

His family is offering a $50,000 reward through Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest in the case, WHBQ reported.

“We look forward to Eliza’s safe return and hope this award will help police capture those who committed this crime,” her family said in a statement shared by Chapman.

In a post on Twitter, St. Mary’s Episcopal School said Fletcher is a kindergarten teacher.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet he assists the Memphis police in the investigation.