On the heels of a man being charged with kidnapping in the disappearance of Memphis school teacher in West Tennessee, police on Monday announced they found a body near the area where the woman was taken.
Cleotha Abston, 38, was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping in last week’s disappearance of a Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a 34-year-old woman who Memphis police said was abducted while jogging on Friday.
Abston’s arrest announced Sunday came after the Memphis Police Department police said DNA on a pair of slides linked him to her.
Here’s what we know so far about the case:
Previously reported:Man charged with kidnapping in disappearance of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher
What’s the latest in the case?
Police on Monday announced they’d found a body found near the area where Fletcher disappeared last week.
Officers discovered the body about 5 pm in a residential area roughly five miles from the University of Memphis campus, where she was taken.
“The identity of this person and cause of death is unconfirmed at this time,” police wrote on Twitteradding the incident remained under investigation.
Who is Eliza Fletcher?
Fletcher’s abduction last week set off a large-scale search involving local, state and federal authorities.
She is 5′ 6″ tall, weighs 137 pounds, and has brown hair, was wearing purple shorts and a pink sports bra, police reported.
Fletcher is a mother of two and teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis.
She is also the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a noted philanthropist who helped run the family-owned Memphis-based hardware supply firm Orgill Inc.
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When did Fletcher disappear?
On Friday, the woman’s husband, Richard Fletcher, notified the police his wife had not returned from her run by 7 am, and a man on a bike, who was riding the same route Fletcher was running, found Eliza Fletcher’s cellphone and a pair of Champion brand slides in the street.
Police reviewed surveillance footage from the nearby Earthquake Research and Information Center on the University of Memphis campus and said the video showed a black GMC Terrain passing by and then waiting for Fletcher to run past.
“A male exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively towards the victim, and then forced the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle,” the affidavit read. “During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle.”
Police say the SUV was parked for about four minutes before the vehicle drove away.
After reviewing footage, investigators said that about 24 minutes before the abduction, surveillance footage captured the same vehicle in the area.
Police said they believe Fletcher suffered serious injuries based on the violence of the abduction.
Who is Cleotha Abston?
The slides were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing, which later was found to match Abston in a national DNA database from a previous conviction.
Abston was released from prison in November 2020 after serving two decades for kidnapping. In that case, he kidnapped a Memphis lawyer, who spent time working for the Innocence Project. Abston was sentenced to 24 years in that case.
So far, police said Abston hasn’t said where Fletcher is.
Police said detectives began looking into what Abston had been doing in the days before and after Fletcher’s disappearance found footage of him wearing the same slides at a Memphis cinema on Thursday.
During the investigation, the police also found that the Terrain was registered to a woman, who is not being named as she has not been charged with a crime.
Police questioned the owner of Majesty’s Cleaning Service, where Abston worked, and she verified that he drove the Terrain and also provided investigators with his cellphone number. That number was used to determine where Abston was at the time of Fletcher’s abduction, confirming he was in the area at the time.
What lead to Abston’s arrest?
On Saturday, US Marshals found the vehicle parked at the address listed on an incident report from Thursday. Along with confirming the car from the license plate, surveillance footage also showed the car to have “noticeable damage” to the rear passenger-side taillight, which was also visible to Marshals at the apartment complex.
When law enforcement officials tried to arrest Abston, who was in the Terrain at the time, they say he attempted to drive away but ended up being taken into custody.
Another woman interviewed by police said she saw Abston outside the home of his brother, Mario Abston. She told investigators Cleotha Abston did not live there, but “she saw Cleotha Abston cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and stated that he was behaving oddly.”
The woman and Abston’s brother both told investigators they saw Abston cleaning his clothes in the house sink.
Mario Abston was also arrested Sunday on unrelated drug charges but has not been charged in relation to Fletcher’s disappearance. Police said he is not believed to be involved with Fletcher’s abduction.
Is there a reward?
Fletcher’s family is offering a $50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information about her disappearance.
Her family released a video statement Saturday afternoon urging anyone with information about the case to contact the police.
“The family has met with the police, and we have shared with them all the information we know. More than anything, we want to see Liza returned home safely,” Fletcher’s uncle, Mike Keeney said.
Contributing: Lucas Finton and Astrid Kayembe, The Commercial Appeal
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.