Eliza Fletcher kidnapping: Police search near Memphis home where suspect seen washing clothes, cleaning car

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis police set up a mobile command center and were searching an area near a home on Sunday where Cleotha Abston, a 38-year-old man suspected of kidnapping Eliza Fletcher, could be seen washing clothes and cleaning the inside his vehicle on Friday after the alleged abduction. Police have not confirmed that Sunday’s search was linked to the violent kidnapping of the billionaire heiress.

Surveillance video reviewed by police shows a man forcing Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two and kindergarten teacher, into a GMC Terrain when she was out for an early morning run near the campus on Friday. University of Memphis. The video also shows Fletcher battling his captor.

Police located this GMC lot at Abston’s residence on Saturday and took him into custody after he attempted to flee.

Two witnesses told police they saw Abston ‘acting very strangely’ and ‘behaving strangely’ as he washed his clothes in a sink and cleaned the interior of the GMC Terrain at his brother’s home near of the Pine Hill Community Center, according to an affidavit.

Police wrote that it was “probable and evident” that Fletcher’s injuries “leaved evidence, such as blood, in the vehicle which the defendant cleaned up.”

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On Sunday, the Memphis Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office used ATVs, K-9s and horses to roam a park near this community center.

Cleotha Abston, 38, is suspected of kidnapping Eliza Fletcher on Friday morning when the mother-of-two was out for a run near the University of Memphis.
(Tennessee Department of Corrections)

After Abston was taken into custody, he “refused to provide investigators with the location of the victim,” according to the affidavit. He was charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

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Police initially identified Abston as a suspect because he allegedly left a pair of sandals at the scene of the abduction.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed that Abston’s DNA was found on the sandals and surveillance video showed him wearing them the day before the abduction.

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More than two decades ago, Abston was charged with aggravated robbery and kidnapping for forcing prominent Memphis attorney Kemper Durand into the trunk of his car in May 2000.

Fletcher’s grandfather was billionaire Joseph Orgill III, founder of Memphis-based Orgill Hardware, which now has more than 11,000 retail stores across the United States.

Anyone with information about Fletcher’s disappearance can call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH (2274).

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