The latest on the killing of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher

By Mike Hayes, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 4:48 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022
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3:50 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022

What we know about the key events surrounding the abduction of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher

From CNN's Jason Hanna, Aya Elamroussi and Melissa Alonso

The place and method of Eliza "Liza" Fletcher's death has not been announced by authorities yet, but officials have provided a timeline of the key events surrounding her abduction and death.

Fletcher, a 34-year-old junior kindergarten teacher at St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis, was jogging at around 4 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) Friday in a neighborhood near the University of Memphis when a man chased her and forced her into a black SUV, authorities said.

Her husband reported her missing that morning, sparking an intense weekend hunt that led to the arrest of a suspect, Cleotha Abston age 38, near his Memphis home Saturday after investigators unearthed clues including surveillance video of the abduction, authorities said in court documents.

Fletcher's husband told police Friday morning that she'd not returned from her early morning jog, authorities said in an affidavit filed Sunday.

Someone found her phone in the street on Central Avenue that morning, and it was given to one of Fletcher's relatives, who gave it to investigators, the affidavit reads.

Police then found surveillance video of the area, which shows a black GMC Terrain pass by her, according to the affidavit. A man is seen in the footage getting out of the SUV and "aggressively" running toward her before forcing her into the vehicle's passenger seat, according to the affidavit.

The SUV remained in a parking lot for about four minutes after both people were inside and then drove away, the affidavit states.

Police also analyzed a pair of sandals that were found at the abduction site, near the victim's phone. DNA found on the shoes matched DNA for Abston, the affidavit reads.

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

Researching Abston's residence, police found that he lived at a home whose utilities were registered in the name of a woman who owned a GMC Terrain, the court document reads.

Investigators then interviewed Abston's employer, who said he drove a GMC Terrain and verified his phone number. Investigators checked Abston's cell phone records, which showed he was near the abduction scene during the time of Fletcher's kidnapping, according to the affidavit.

Members of a US Marshals task force found a GMC Terrain near Abston's residence on Saturday morning, and it had the same distinguishable damage and partial license plate information seen in the surveillance footage from Fletcher's abduction, the affidavit reads.

The task force saw him standing in the doorway of the home, and detained him Saturday, the court document said.

Police have not said what led them to vacant duplex where Fletcher's body was found. That duplex was in the 1600 block of Victor Street, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said. That's about a half-mile drive from the address that authorities gave for his brother's home, a 7.5-mile drive from the alleged abduction site and about a 15.5-mile drive from his own home.

Then on Tuesday, police identified Fletcher as the person found dead Monday in the rear of the vacant duplex in the Tennessee city.

Abston will be arraigned Wednesday on charges including first-degree murder — adding to kidnapping and other charges he already faced, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.

4:48 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022

Memphis school community "heartbroken at the loss" of beloved teacher

From CNN's Anne Clifford and Melissa Alonso

Eliza Fletcher
Eliza Fletcher (Memphis Police Department)

School officials of St. Mary's Episcopal School, where Eliza "Liza" Fletcherr worked, said Tuesday they "are heartbroken at the loss of our beloved teacher, colleague, and friend."  

"This morning our faculty and staff started the day in chapel. We lit candles to remember Liza who was a bright light in our community," said a Facebook post from the school. 

"Liza embodied the song that we sing every week in Early Childhood chapel, 'This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,'" said the post. 

"We continue to draw strength from our all-school read, 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse' by Charlie Mackesy. ‘We don’t know about tomorrow,’ said the horse, ‘all we need to know is that we love each other,’” school officials wrote. 

"Our hearts are with the Fletcher, Orgill, and Wellford families," said the post.  

Fletcher’s body was found Monday after she went missing during a morning run on Friday, according to the Memphis Police Department. Cleotha Abston has been charged in her murder, CNN has reported.

2:36 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022

Eliza Fletcher was the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgill III

From CNN's Chuck Johnston 

A body found in Memphis this week was identified on Tuesday as Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, 34, who was abducted while jogging in the city last week, according to police.

Eliza Fletcher is the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgill III who died in 2018 at the age of 80.  

According to the company’s website, Orgill is the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor with annual sales of $3 billion. The company is privately owned and is headquartered in Collierville, Tennessee, located about 30 miles east of Memphis.  

According to Joseph Orgill’s obituary in the Commercial Appeal newspaper, Mr. Orgill served as president of the company from 1968-1980 and as chairman of the board until 2005.

1:37 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022

Abduction and murder of Memphis teacher was "isolated attack by a stranger," district attorney says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Shelby District Attorney Steve Mulroy speaks during a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 6.
Shelby District Attorney Steve Mulroy speaks during a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 6. (CNN)

Shelby District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Tuesday that authorities have "no reason to think" that Eliza Fletcher's murder "was anything other than 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," said Mulroy, who expressed his condolences to the Fletcher family. 

Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn Davis said Tuesday "it's too early to determine place and method of death" for Fletcher. 

"While the outcome of this investigation is not what we hoped for, we are nonetheless pleased to remove this dangerous predator off the streets of Memphis," said Davis at a joint press conference with local and federal law enforcement regarding the abduction and murder of Fletcher. 

Fletcher's body was discovered Monday in the back of a vacant duplex apartment in the 1600 block of Victor Street, and positively identified on Tuesday, Davis said.  

"This finding marked the culmination of a four-day intensive investigation incorporating robust search and rescue effort," said the police chief. 

Cleotha Abston was arrested and has been charged with first-degree murder, premeditated murder and murder in the perpetration of a kidnapping, CNN has reported. Abston is also charged with unrelated offenses, including identity theft, theft of property and credit card fraud, the chief said. 

Davis said the community is greatly "impacted by the tragic and heinous kidnapping." 

11:53 a.m. ET, September 6, 2022

District attorney: Suspect will be arraigned on new charges tomorrow morning

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said that the suspect was arraigned this morning and will be arraigned tomorrow on new charges.

Mulroy said he spoke to Eliza Fletcher's family this morning and asked that the public please respect their privacy.

CNN reported earlier Tuesday that a suspect arrested over the weekend, Cleotha Abston, 38, has now been charged with first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, in addition to kidnapping and other charges previously filed, Shelby County Court records show.

11:50 a.m. ET, September 6, 2022

"Too early" to determine place and method of Eliza Fletcher's death, police chief says

It's "too early" in the investigation to determine the place and method of 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher's death, said Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn "C.J." Davis at a news conference on Tuesday.

"We're still working with the suspect, but at this time, we have not gotten very much information," she said. "We're still uncovering many leads."

11:44 a.m. ET, September 6, 2022

Memphis police chief says law enforcement received hundreds of tips in the case

Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn "C.J." Davis said that the police department received hundreds of tips through Crimestoppers and other platforms following the abduction of Eliza "Liza" Fletcher.

She thanked "our engaged and supportive community" for assisting law enforcement in their investigation.

Davis noted that this is an "ongoing investigation."

1:34 p.m. ET, September 6, 2022

Local police: "Today is a very sad day in the city of Memphis"

Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn "C.J." Davis speaks during a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 6.
Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn "C.J." Davis speaks during a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 6. (CNN)

Memphis police are holding a news conference to share an update after they identified the body of 34-year-old Memphis resident Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted on Friday.

"Today is a very sad day in the city of Memphis," said Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn "C.J." Davis

"First, I'd like to express our sincere condolences to the family, friends and numerous others who have been impacted by the tragic and heinous kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher," the officer continued.

11:40 a.m. ET, September 6, 2022

NOW: Authorities provide an update on the investigation

From CNN's Jason Hanna, Aya Elamroussi and Melissa Alonso

Memphis authorities are providing an update now on the case of Eliza "Liza" Fletcher and the ongoing investigation.

Police said earlier Tuesday that a body found this week in Memphis is that of a teacher who was abducted there while jogging last week, and a suspect is being charged with murder.

Fletcher, 34, was identified as the person found dead Monday in the Tennessee city, roughly 7.5 miles from where surveillance video showed she was forced into an SUV early Friday, Memphis police said on Twitter.

A suspect arrested over the weekend, Cleotha Abston, 38, has now been charged with first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, in addition to kidnapping and other charges previously filed, Shelby County Court records show.

The cause of Fletcher's death was not immediately announced.