Memphis police find unidentified dead body 3 days after a teacher was violently abducted

An unidentified body was found Monday in Memphis at the scene of a major search, just three days after teacher Eliza “Liza” Fletcher was violently kidnapped. The Memphis Police Department tweeted Monday.

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

Cleotha Abston, 38, pleaded guilty to particularly aggravated kidnapping in November 2001. According to court records, he was released in November 2020.

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

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

According to Shelby County Jail Records, three other charges have been filed against Abston since his arrest Saturday. These charges include identity theft, property theft of $1,000 or less, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit or debit card of $1,000 or less, records show.

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

CNN has reached out to the Shelby County District Attorney and the Memphis Police Department 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 of the incident. A man was then seen getting out of the vehicle and “aggressively” running towards Fletcher, forcing her onto the passenger side of the SUV. Once both people were in the SUV, the vehicle stayed in a parking lot for about four minutes before driving away, according to footage cited in an affidavit obtained by CNN.

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

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

Abston tried to flee after U.S. Marshals located him nearby, the affidavit said.

The suspect is being held at the Shelby County Jail on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, according to jail records. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

DNA found from a pair of sandals found near where authorities believe Fletcher was kidnapped helped investigators identify and arrest Abston, the affidavit said.

Surveillance footage taken by a local theater the day before Fletcher’s disappearance showed Abston, according to the affidavit, was wearing the same pair of Champion sandals that authorities believe were found at the scene.

Additional surveillance footage, cross-checked with statements from Abston’s employer, confirmed that the vehicle in question belonged to a woman linked to Abston’s home address.

Cell phone records also show Abston at the scene around the time of Fletcher’s kidnapping Friday morning, according to the affidavit.

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

According to the affidavit, a witness said she saw Abston at his brother’s home after the kidnapping. Both the witness and his brother said Abston behaved strangely while cleaning the interior of his SUV and washing his clothes in the sink.

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

Fletcher is white, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with brown hair and green eyes, police said. She weighs 137 pounds.

Her 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 catch 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 junior kindergarten teacher.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a tweet It assists the Memphis Police Department in the investigation.

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