Eliza Fletcher Murder an ‘Isolated Attack by a Stranger,’ DA Says as Jogger’s Accused Killer Appears in Court

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The man accused of the kidnap and murder of an heiress who was abducted while out for a run appeared in court in Memphis for the first time.

Cleotha Abston was being arraigned on charges including aggravating kidnapping and tampering with evidence when the prosecutor made a dramatic announcement. “Additional charges were filed this morning for murder, premeditated murder and murder in the perpetration of a kidnapping,” the prosecutor said.

Eliza Fletcher, a mother of two and heiress to a billion-dollar hardware company, was an accomplished marathon runner who regularly jogged before dawn. The 34-year-old runner, who was also a beloved elementary school teacher known for her dedication and devotion to her students, was jogging when she was forced into an SUV early Friday, surveillance footage of the terrifying ordeal showed.

Her body was found Monday behind a vacant duplex about 7.5 miles from where she was abducted, officials said.

Abston was arrested Sunday after police said DNA found on flip-flops left at the crime scene matched his own. Investigators also said Abston’s brothers told them he saw him washing the interior of his SUV and “acting strangely” at 7:30 a.m. the morning of Fletcher’s kidnapping.

He refused to lead investigators to Fletcher’s body, police said. Authorities did not say what led them to the vacant duplex where they discovered Fletcher’s body.

Abston will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder, premeditated murder and murder in the course of the perpetration of a kidnapping, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Tuesday.

Abston previously spent nearly two decades in prison for an aggravated kidnapping. He pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2001 and was released in November 2020.

Mulroy, the district attorney, told reporters during a news conference Tuesday authorities believe Fletcher’s murder was “an isolated attack by a stranger,”

“To lose someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in and of itself, but to have it happen in this way, with a senseless act of violence, it’s unimaginable,” Mulroy said, offering his condolences to Fletcher’s family.

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” Fletcher’s grieving family said in a statement.

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