Cleotha Abston is the Memphis felon accused of kidnapping and murdering pre-kindergarten teacher Eliza Fletcher, who was snatched in Tennessee while jogging in the early morning hours of September 2, 2022.
On September 6, 2022, authoritiesidentified a body discovered in Memphis as Fletcher, 34, Memphis police announced on September 6, 2022. They have now added murder charges against Abston.
In a press conference on September 6, 2022, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said, “Today is a very sad day in the City of Memphis.” She expressed condolences to the family and friends impacted by the “heinous” kidnapping and murder of Fletcher. At 5:07 p.m. on September 5, police discovered human remains at the rear of a vacant duplex apartment 1600 block of Victor Street. The body was then positively identified as Fletcher, Davis said.
The police chief said it was too early to determine the place and cause of death for Fletcher.
A review of Abston’s criminal history by Heavy shows that he spent years in prison for kidnapping a defense attorney at gunpoint. The man was stuffed into a trunk, but managed to escape the robber after Abston took the attorney to a gas station to withdraw money from an ATM machine, according to a 2000 article in the Commercial Appeal newspaper accessed through Newspapers.com.
The police affidavit in the Fletcher abduction case paints a terrifying scene in which Abston is accused of waiting for the victim to run by, then rushing her and forcing her into his vehicle. He was later seen cleaning the SUV. Cleotha Abston “declined to provide investigators with the location of the victim,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit describes the abduction as “violent,” with the suspect, “waiting for, then rushing toward the victim.” Authorities believe Fletcher, 34, “suffered serious injury” that probably left “evidence, e.g. blood, in the vehicle that the defendant cleaned.”
According to Shelby County jail records, the suspect goes by the name Cleotha “Pookie” Abston. A Facebook page for Pookie Abston, of south Memphis, says he is also known as “Wild Child.” The profile picture is a gun with the phrase “Wild Mob.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A New Affidavit Describes Police Finding Fletcher’s Body
The amended affidavit provided more disturbing details into Fletcher’s death.
It says that authorities searched for Fletcher near East Person Avenue and Victor Street on September 5, 2022, based on data from the FBI. An officer noticed high grass south of a vacant residence, vehicle tracks in the grass and smelled “an odor of decay.”
Immediately to the right of the steps, the officer “located an unresponsivle female lying on the ground.”
About 100 feet north of 1591 S. Orleans Street, officers found a discarded trash bag that contained the purple Lululemon shorts consistent with those Fletcher was wearing to jog.
Video analysis captured the suspect’s vehicle on the morning of the abduction between 5:48 a.m. and 5:52 a.m. driving to different locations.
Neighbors told Daily Mail that Abston was a “weird pervert” who stalked women, watched them and tried to get them to have sex with him for $100.
People referred to Cleotha Abston as “wild” on another Facebook page, in which he wrote about getting out of prison after 20 years. “I GOT 364 DAYS LEFT, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS AFTER 20YEARS!” he wrote in 2019. He shared a gun photo on that page, which is in the name “Cleo Real.”
Abston’s arrest came after a sudden flurry of activity in the abduction investigation, including discovery of the suspect SUV, search of a Memphis apartment complex, and crime scene tape near a local McDonald’s.
Fletcher was forced into the mid-sized dark-colored SUV near the University of Memphis campus while jogging, Memphis police wrote in a news release.
Her abduction has gripped the city.
University of Memphis police said in a safety alert that Fletcher regularly “runs on Central Avenue,” and was “reported missing after not returning home” at 7 a.m. Her “cell phone and water bottle were discovered in front of a house in the 3800 block of Central that is owned by the University.”
2. Police Say Cleotha Abston Left Behind Champion Sandals With His DNA After Running ‘Aggressively’ Toward Fletcher & Forcing Her Into the Passenger Side of the SUV
The police affidavit reveals chilling details. It says that, on Sept 2, 2022, at 7 a.m., Memphis police responded to a missing person report in the 1500 block of Carr Avenue. Richard Fletcher advised that his wife went for her regular run around 4 a.m. and did not return home.
At about 6:45 a.m., a citizen on a bike found her cellphone and a pair of Champion slides sandals lying in the street in the same area. Investigators then obtained video that showed a black GMC Terrain passing and then waiting for Fletcher to run by.
A male exited the Terrain and “ran aggressively toward the victim,” forcing her into the passenger’s side of the vehicle. There was a struggle, and the Champion slides were found in that area. The vehicle then sat in a parking lot with the victim inside for about four minutes.
Police obtained a partial plate from other video, and they sent the Champion slides sandals for DNA testing on Friday, and got a hit: Cleotha Abston (Henderson) in the CODIS database.
Authorities then worked on confirming Abston’s whereabouts “before, during and after the abduction.” They obtained surveillance footage of him wearing the same slides the day before the abduction at Malco Theatre. They found that he resided in the 5700 block of Waterstone Oak Way, a location with active utilities in the name of Gwendolyn Brown, who has a black 2013 GMC Terrain registered to her name.
They also located a September 1, 2022, police report for Abston that listed his address at Waterstone Oak Way. The affidavit doesn’t explain that report.
The owner of Majesty’s Cleaning Service verified that she employed Abston and he drives a GMC Terrain.
Police determined Abston’s cell phone was near the area where Fletcher was forced into the Terrain at the time of the abduction.
On September 3, 2022, at 10:45 a.m., the GMC Terrain was located by members of the US Marshals Service.
Officers detained Abston when they saw him standing in a doorway. He tried to flee but was taken into custody.
A woman told police that she saw Abston at around 7:50 a.m. on the day of the abduction. He was at a different home – that of his brother, Mario Abston. He was cleaning the interior of the GMC Terrain with floor cleaner and “behaving oddly.”
Mario Abston stated that he saw Cleotha Abston cleaning the interior of the car with floor cleaner. Both also saw Abston washing his clothes in a sink in the house. Mario stated that Abston was “acting very strange.”
Police announced that Abston was charged in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance on their Facebook page.
“The individual who was detained has been officially charged in connection with the abduction of Eliza Fletcher. At this point in the investigation, Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and Tampering with Evidence,” they wrote.
“Eliza Fletcher has not been located at this time. MPD Investigators and officers, along with our local and federal partners, continue searching for Mrs. Fletcher.”
A second individual, currently not believed to be connected to Fletcher’s abduction, was also arrested during this investigation. Mario Abston, 36, was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Manufacture and Sell Fentanyl, Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Manufacture and Sell Heroin, and Convicted Felon in Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Dangerous Felony.
This remains to be an active and ongoing investigation.
We continue to ask for assistance from the community. If anyone has any information concerning this investigation, they should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.
On Facebook, Abston referred to Mario as his brother.
He shared a YouTube video of a rap video created by Mario. It has since been deleted.
3. Abston Was Accused in the Kidnapping of a Defense Attorney Named Kemper Durand in 2000
Shelby County, Tennessee, court records reviewed by Heavy show that Abston was charged with “especially aggravated kidnapping” in 2000. He entered a guilty plea, court records show. He received 24 years in prison, starting in November 2001.
According to FOX13 Investigates, Cleotha Abston was eligible for release after 85% of his 24-year prison sentence, and got out “sometime in the past two years.”
In was also charged with aggravated robbery. His sentence for that count was 11 years, but it appears to have run concurrently, stemming from the same offense.
The May 2000 article in the Commercial Appeal says that Abston was 16 at the time of the kidnapping. He was one of three juveniles, one only 12 years old, who were charged in the robbery and carjacking of Memphis defense attorney Kemper Durand.
The story says that Abston was believed to be the gunman.
Durand was confronted just before 2 a.m. as he left the Handy Awards Ceremony. The gunman “took his billfold and ordered Durand into the trunk of his 1992 Mercedes-Benz, where he spent the next two hours,” the story, obtained through Newspapers.com, says. The gunman then “picked up the two other suspects.”
They tried to withdraw money from ATM machines and took Durand to a gas station.
Durand was able to call to a Memphis Housing Authority security guard in the store. The robbers left on foot “while the guard called 911,” the story says.
Abston was arrested after a tip to CrimeStoppers.
According to Memphis Flyer:
Durand was walking to his car around 2 a.m. on May 25, 2000, after attending a par ty on Beale Street when a lone gunman walked up behind him, took his wallet, and forced him into the trunk. The abductor, Cleotha Abston, drove around and picked up friends then, after about two hours, escorted Durand into a Mapco station to withdraw money from an ATM. A uniformed Memphis Housing Authority officer entered, Durand yelled that he had been kidnapped, and the kidnappers ran away.
Durand is now deceased. He was remembered as a tenacious defense attorney who fought for the rights of people wrongfully convicted in a tribute article.
Fletcher’s uncle, Mike Keeney, works for the same law firm that employed the now deceased lawyer once kidnapped by Abston.
On Facebook, “Pookie” Abston is still friends with one of the co-actors in the Durand incident.
There was an abduction in Memphis shortly before Fletcher was taken that resembles the Durand incident; in that case a mother and young child were abducted at a Target store and made to obtain money out of an ATM, according to Fox News. They got away alive. Police are still seeking suspects in that case, but they have released two suspect photos, and there’s no sign the cases are linked.
In the Fletcher kidnapping, Memphis police quickly released photos of the suspect SUV.
“Officers have been able to obtain video of the possible suspect’s vehicle,” Memphis police wrote.
On Saturday, September 3, police announced that they had located the SUV near an apartment complex in southeast Memphis and detained a man inside it. It’s not clear whether that man was Abston. The SUV was damaged in a crash with an ATF vehicle. Police then swarmed the apartment complex.
4. The Pookie Abston Facebook Page Shared Graphics With Expletives; Fletcher Showcased Pictures of Her Family on Social Media & Wrote About Her Love of True-Crime Podcasts
The Pookie Abston page doesn’t have much visible on it, expect for the gun graphic and a couple graphics with expletives. “Which part of f*ck off do you not understand,” reads one.
Another post says “shhh…dis weed. Is vewy vewy loud.”
On the second Facebook page, which is in the name of Cleo Real, he wrote, “Don’t loose your Queen Bee, chasing a butterfly, and end up with a roach. Let us spray!😄”
In 2019, he wrote, “I’m a prisoner in my own mind, I feel like these walls talking to me.”
Another post said: “Mfs always see my folks and be on some wats up with pookie wats up wit wild like they really f*** wit a n**** but don’t f*** wit no n**** I been gone all this time and have a FB page MF if u f*** with me u would’ve made sure I was straight fym get tf out of here with that bs been doin this shyt by my mfn self I’m screaming F*** u n**** and b****** keep the same energy wen they free me..”
On her Facebook page, Fletcher showcased photos of her husband, Richie Fletcher, and their two young children. Her most recent post, in 2021, other than a profile picture of her family, reads, “Need a new general practitioner. Can someone recommend a good, easy to get an appointment of Dr or NP?”
Other photos show her wedding.
Fletcher’s Facebook posts were similarly typical. “I need tv show recommendations…? I’m up for older shows or newer ones,” read one. In one post, she told her friends she was looking for a new true-crime podcast.
She also wrote about running: “Long distance runners, what do you think is the best form of cross training?”
She wrote, “Best podcasts to listen to while running. I liked serial, up and vanished and dr death. I enjoy the happy hour and I’ll have another.”
Her Instagram page is filled with photos of her husbands and kids, biking, family trips and so forth. She wrote recently on Instagram,
The boys woke me with handmade cards, balloons and breakfast. I love my family. I am an imperfect mother. Everyday I am working to move from rigidity to flexibility, shame to grace, perfection and criticism to acceptance and gratefulness. I want to be a mom that is a safe place for the boys to feel, be themselves and fail while learning. As a raise these boys I am reteaching my inner child at the same time. Gotta give a shout out to @fletch_livves who goes through this process with me and loves me at the same time. #surrender
View this post on Instagram
@fletch_livves is the Instagram page of her husband, Richie Fletcher, a long-distance bicycle rider. In March, he wrote on Instagram, “8 years in the making with this smoking hot babe! Wouldn’t want it any other way.”
In February, Richie Fletcher wrote, “The boys and I had a blast chasing Mom around the mountains as she ran her first 50k trail run!”
5. Abston Also Has a Lengthy Juvenile History for Theft & Aggravated Assault; He Was Accused of Taking a Woman’s Wallet a Day Before Fletcher’s Abduction
According to a 2001 article in Memphis Flyer, Abston also “has a long juvenile record of theft and aggravated assault.”
The Commercial Appeal reported that Abston “also appeared in juvenile court records in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 for charges including theft, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a weapon, and rape.”
According to Fox 13 Memphis, on Thursday, September 1, 2022, the day before the Fletcher kidnapping, a woman told Memphis Police “that her CashApp and Wisely Card were being used at gas stations without her knowledge or consent.”
She left her wallet at the Malco Theater, and police found that a member of a cleaning service – Abston, had taken her wallet, according to Fox13.
It’s not clear why he was not already under arrest for that offense.
Nathaniel Isaac, an uncle of Abston, told Daily Mail:
“My whole f****** family’s wacky. They always have been. They’re not beloved to me because they’re nuts. It’s the truth. Go check the police records for the Abstons.
You’ll find they’re all perpetrators of something. My wife’s son stayed locked up. Mario is arrested now for drugs and carrying a gun. And Cleo, I’m 100 percent sure he had something to do with her abduction. Can I prove it? No.”
In contrast, Fletcher is listed as a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School under the name Liza Fletcher.
Before news of Abston’s arrest, Eliza’s family held a news conference and spoke publicly on the abduction for the first time.
Liza’s uncle, Mike Keeney, read a statement, including from her husband, brother, and parents. Richie Fletcher, her husband, and the other family members flanked the uncle.
“We want to start by thanking everyone for their prayers and outpouring of support. Liza has touched the hearts of many people and it shows. We want to thank the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, TBI, FBI and all of the other law enforcement agencies who are working tirelessly to find Liza,” the uncle said.
“The family has met with police and we have shared with them all the information we know. More than anything we want to see Liza returned home safely. The family has offered a reward for any information that leads to her safe return. We believe someone knows what happened and can help. If you have any information on this crime or Liza’s location, call the police at 901-545-COPS or CrimeStoppers, 901-528-CASH.”
In a city watch alert before the arrest, Memphis police characterized Eliza W. Fletcher, 34, as a “missing adult.”
The alert says that a “male approached her at approximately 4:30 a.m. in the middle of Central Avenue and appeared to leave with her in an unknown vehicle following a brief struggle.” Police figured this out by obtaining surveillance video showing the abduction.
“Victim went running early morning, was abducted, and forced into a mid-sized dark-colored SUV,” police wrote.
They said Fletcher is a white female, 5 foot 6 inches tall, 137 pounds, with brown hair, green eyes, hair in a bun, a pink jogging top and purple running shorts. The suspect was described as an unknown male. People with information are encouraged to call the Memphis Police Department at 901-545-COPS (2677). Others have described her hair as blonde.
Police said they were not aware of a connection to a dark SUV harassing members of the University of Memphis women’s cross country team.
According to the Commercial Appeal, Fletcher is from a well-known family in Memphis. She is “the granddaughter of the late Joseph ‘Joe’ Orgill III,” described by the publication as a “Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist who has supported causes including Dixon Gallery and Gardens and Church Health.”
Orgill’s obituary says he left behind nine grandchildren at the time of his death.
She married Richard Fletcher III in 2014, Memphis Magazine reported. That article described the nuptials as a “Memorable Memphis Wedding.” Richard Fletcher III is also called Richie Fletcher.
The magazine described Fletcher as “a ‘natural’ girl — outdoorsy, athletic, and warm — and the plans for her wedding emanated from her personality and style.” The story noted that Fletcher’s parents, “Adele and Beasley Wellford, were happy to be able to give their daughter the woodland-themed wedding she envisioned.”
The story continued, “The wedding ceremony was held at nearby Second Presbyterian Church, which was indeed where the happy couple met; the officiant was Reverend Mitchell Moore. Echoing the naturalistic theme, Liza’s elegant wedding gown by Austin Scarlett was painted with pale mauve flowers.”
George Robertson, the senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, married Fletcher and her husband and told the Commercial Appeal, “She and her husband Ritchie are both very active and great leaders in our congregation. They have two little boys who have come up to me every week and give me a hug.”
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