Eliza Fletcher is the latest female jogger to meet with foul play in the United States.
Authorities have identified a body they discovered in Memphis, Tennessee, as Fletcher, Memphis police announced on September 6, 2022. They have charged a felon named Cleotha Abston with her kidnapping and murder. The affidavit says authorities believe Abston forced her into an SUV and then later was seen cleaning it. He then dumped her body behind a vacant house, authorities say. The cause of death is not yet clear.
Fletcher was running at 4:30 a.m. on September 2, 2022, when she was taken.
A series of other joggers, almost all female, met with foul play over recent years. Joggers have met with foul play in communities ranging from Manhattan to rural Iowa.
Karina Vetrano, Ally Brueger, and Vanessa Marcotte were all jogging when they died in 2016 in just over a week’s time span. Mollie Tibbetts was murdered in Iowa while jogging in 2018. And they’re not the only ones. Sydney Sutherland was murdered while jogging in Arkansas in 2020. Melissa Millan was murdered while jogging in 2014 in Simsbury, Connecticut. Judith Nilan died in Massachusetts in 2006. Chandra Levy was a Washington D.C. intern when she was murdered, possibly while jogging, in 2001. Suzanne Marie Collins died in 1985, and Judith Nilan was slain in 2006. Laura Smithers, 12, was abducted and murdered by a serial killer while jogging in Texas in 1997.
A male, Ahmaud Arbery, was shot to death in what prosecutors said was a racial attack while Arbery was jogging in Georgia in 2020, according to BBC.
Here’s what you need to know about the cases:
As with Fletcher, Tibbetts, 20, disappeared after going for a jog and her abduction sparked a massive search.
It ended tragically.
Cristhian Bahena Rivera was the killer; a farmhand in the United States illegally from Mexico, he is now serving a life sentence without parole, according to NPR.
He had driven past her as she ran, abducted her, and stabbed her, leaving her body in a cornfield, NPR reported. Tibbetts lived in Brooklyn, Iowa, a small town of about 1,700 people.
Tibbetts’ mother, Laura Calderwood, gave a statement to the court at his sentencing hearing.
“Mollie was a young woman who simply wanted to go for a quiet run on the evening of July 18 and you chose to violently and sadistically end that life,” she wrote, according to NPR.
In 2020, Sydney Sutherland, 25, was murdered by a farmer named Quake Lewellyn, who is serving a life prison sentence in Arkansas, according to the Jonesboro Sun.
The newspaper reported that Lewellyn claimed he accidentally struck Sutherland with his truck as she jogged and then raped her before burying her body.
She was jogging on Jackson County Road 41 at the time. Sutherland was a nurse from Grubbs, Arkansas. Lewellyn was acquainted with her before the homicide.
Vanessa Marcotte, 27, a Google employee from New York City, was murdered while jogging in Massachusetts.
Marcotte went jogging around 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, and her body was later found in the woods. WFXT said Marcotte was visiting her mother in Princeton, Massachusetts when she died. MassLive said Marcotte may have been sexually assaulted and then set on fire.
WCVB said Marcotte’s body was naked and her hands, feet and part of her head were burned.
Angelo Colon-Ortiz was accused of the crime; he will stand trial for murder in the long-languishing case in December 2022, according to CBS News.
She was described by those who knew her as creative, friendly, and positive, said Fox 25 Boston.
Authorities said investigators have a “horrible set of facts,” said MassLive. The Boston Globe said Marcotte “graduated from the Bancroft School in Worcester in 2007 and from Boston University in 2011, where she studied communications.”
Arbery’s case drew national attention because of the racial dimension after he was shot to death while jogging in Georgia in 2020, according to BBC.
According to the website Run With Maud, “A federal judge sentenced Travis and Gregory Georgia men to life in prison on Aug. 8 for the pursuit and slaying of Ahmaud Arbery; William Bryan was sentenced to 35 years in prison.”
That website says that Arbery “a fit athlete, was out jogging near his home on a Sunday afternoon in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020,” when he was murdered when “two white supremacists saw him, got their guns, got in a truck, chased him down, pulled up next to him, shot him at least two times, and killed him right there on the spot. Ahmaud was unarmed, broke no laws, and did nothing wrong. He was only 25 years old when he died.”
Karina Vetrano, 30, was raped and murdered while jogging through Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach, New York, on a nightly jog she took. The New York Post says she was killed while running on a “remote dirt path through the underdeveloped marshy land.”
Her teeth were broken during a struggle in which she was dragged off a path, while clutching clumps of grass and her body was black and blue, said Radar Online.
Karina’s father, Philip Vetrano, a retired firefighter, normally jogged with her but was having back pain that night, ABC said. He was with police when they found her body in a marshland on Aug. 2, said ABC News.
Cathy Vetrano, Karina’s mother, told The New York Daily News: “My daughter was a force to be reckoned with.” With shaking hands, she said to her daughter’s killer, “And I guarantee you, you motherf*****, that you will be reckoning with that force, not only for the rest of your pathetic life, but for the rest of eternity as you f****** burn in hell,” said The Daily News.
Karina lived in Ozone Park, and her family requested donations to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital or North Shore Animal League of America in her memory, her obituary said.
The New York Times said Vetrano had a master’s degree in speech pathology and worked for years at a lounge in Queens and a restaurant and wine bar. She also wrote a prolific blog in which she discussed love, sex, her own funeral – and murder.
Chanel Lewis was convicted in 2019 of her murder after confessing and due to DNA testing. However, according to NY1, some community leaders have argued that Lewis is innocent of the high-profile crime.
WJBK said Brueger, 31, was left to die by the assailant and collapsed on the porch of a neighbor, who called 911.
Ally was a registered nurse who was getting her master’s degree and had a passion for creative writing. She was shot on a mid-afternoon jog, said The Oakland Press, adding that police think the shooting was not random and that Brueger knew her killer.
The Michigan State Police said they were who hoping to hear from anyone who “saw a white or light-colored four-door vehicle,” according to The Oakland Press. They asked people with such information to call investigators at 855-MICH-TIP, said the Oakland Press.
The case remains unsolved.
In 2014, a life insurance executive was killed while jogging near her Simsbury, Connecticut home, The New York Daily News reported.
Melissa Millan, a triathlete, was stabbed, according to the newspaper. She had access to sensitive banking information.
Millan, 54, was jogging at night when William Leverett attacked her, according to Law and Crime.
According to Law and crime, Leverett confessed to the crime, saying that he had seen Millan jogging and, even though she was a stranger to him, he wanted to meet her but decided she was “way out of my league.” This angered him, so he “went into a frenzy,” ran up to her, and stabbed her.
Christian Bautista was convicted of stabbing jogger Lauren Bump to death in San Antonio. Bump, 24, had gone jogging while home from college.
“This was a sadistic, senseless, predatory crime,” prosecutor Mary Green said in court, according to My San Antonio. “It saddens me that the last face this beautiful woman saw is the face of evil. He must be held responsible. Find him guilty.”
Judith M. Nilan
In 2006, Scott J. Deojay, 37, was convicted in the beating and strangulation death of Judith M. Nilan, a social worker who had gone jogging in Massachusetts.
Nilan was found in a shed owned by a “Sesame Street” performer, according to NBC News.
“Judy was a champion bodybuilder, long-distance cyclist, runner, wonderful cook, avid gardener and enthusiastically jumped into designing and building with her own hands the interior of the shell of a home we had bought,” her husband said at Deojay’s sentencing, according to Telegram.
Two women have invented a booby trap bra containing a knife to protect joggers.
Suzanne Marie Collins
Suzanne Marie Collins, an U.S. Marine, was murdered while jogging in 1985, according to a Medium post by writer Lori Johnston.
The death occurred in Millington, Tennessee. Two other Marines saw a suspicious station wagon and heard Collins scream, according to Johnston. Sedley Alley was accused of being the driver. She was found dead in a park, severely beaten and raped with a tree limb.
According to the Innocence Project, Alley was later executed for Collins’ rape and murder, but DNA evidence at the scene was never tested, and there are other serious questions about his guilt.
In August 1997, 12-year-old Laura Smither was jogging near her home in Friendswood, Texas, when she was abducted. Her body was found two weeks later at the edge of a pond, 12 miles away. William Reece was developed as a suspect, but the case went cold.
In 2015, this case was adopted into the Texas Ranger Unsolved Crime (cold case) Investigation Program. The Texas Rangers worked closely with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors involved in this case. The case was solved in 2016, almost 20 years after the murder. Suspected serial killer William Reece has been charged with this crime.
Reece was convicted of another woman’s murder in Oklahoma, according to KHOU-TV.
Reece pleaded guilty to Smither’s murder and two others, according to The New York Post.
She may have been jogging in the park, but this is just one theory in the case. A neighbor also reported hearing a scream at her apartment building, according to Oxygen.
Ingmar Guandique, who was in the country illegally, was convicted of killing her, according to ABC News, after a media frenzy descended on then Congressman Gary Condit, with whom she was allegedly having an affair. Condit was never arrested or charged in her death or even called a suspect, and he has said he barely knew Levy and their relationship was misconstrued, according to NBC.
However, Guandique’s conviction was reversed, and charges against him were ultimately dropped, NBC reported.
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