Richard “Richie” Fletcher is a boat center manager and the husband of Eliza Fletcher, the pre-kindergarten teacher and married mother of two who was abducted and married in the City of Memphis, Tennessee, while jogging in the early morning hours of September 2, 2022.
Fletcher, 34, went by the name Liza Fletcher on Facebook. She was from a prominent Memphis family, the granddaughter of a well-known philanthropist and business owner who died in 2018.
Memphis police now say a body they found in Memphis is that of Eliza Fletcher. 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.
Steven J. Mulroy, the District Attorney, said the murder was an “isolated attack by a stranger,” and that Fletcher’s family was always cooperative with authorities. He read a message from the family: “Please respect their privacy. Please allow them to grieve. At an appropriate time, they will be making a statement.”
Police announced the arrest of a suspect, Cleotha Abston, who was charged with kidnapping and murder. Read more about him here. The police affidavit in the case says that Fletcher likely suffered serious injury after Abston waited for her to run past and then aggressively rushed her and forced her into his SUV. He won’t tell authorities where she is, the affidavit says.
News broke on the evening of September 2, 2022, that Memphis police had confiscated a vehicle and other items from the couple’s home. The disappearance has gripped the Tennessee city.
On Saturday, September 3, 2022, Memphis police tweeted, “UPDATE: the vehicle of interest has been located and a male who was occupying the vehicle has been detained. Eliza Fletcher has not been located. This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.”
According to ABC24, the SUV crashed into an ATF vehicle. Social media posts showed a massive law enforcement presence at a Memphis apartment complex, with crime scene tape and armored vehicles.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Richard Fletcher III, Who Married Liza in 2014 in Festivities Dubbed a ‘Memorable Memphis Wedding,’ Appeared at a News Conference With Liza’s other Family Members
Fletcher is listed as a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School under the name Liza Fletcher.
Eliza’s family held a news conference and spoke publicly on her abduction for the first time on September 3, 2022.
Liza’s uncle read a statement, including from her husband, brother, and parents. Richie Fletcher 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.”
Eliza Fletcher 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 Eliza 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.”
2. The Couple Are Described as ‘Very Active & Great Leaders’ in Their Church; Richie Is a Former Coast Guard Machinery Technician Who Works at a Boat Shop
George Robertson, the senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, 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.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Richie Fletcher works as a dealer manager at Memphis Boat Center, a position he has held for over a year. Before that, he worked as a project manager for Memphis Millwork, as a maintenance mechanic for a marine company, as a crossfit coach, as a project consultant for an environmental company, and as a barista.
His LinkedIn page says he was a machinery technician for the U.S. Coast Guard for four years, ending in 2005.
He writes that he has a bachelor’s degree in project management from Union University and took general education courses at Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Richie’s bio on the Memphis Boat Center page describes him as a “boat mechanic for four years in the Coast Guard. Loves the outdoors and surfing. Proud father of two boys.” It lists him as “dealership manager.”
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.
3. Eliza & Richie Fletcher Filled Their Social Media Accounts With Pictures of Their Family Vacations & Date Nights
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 their wedding.
Eliza Fletcher’s Facebook posts were 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?”
@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!”
His most recent Instagram posts were focused on a VW van he was fixing up. Four days before his wife was abducted, Richie Fletcher posted a video showing her boating with their kids. He frequently posted pictures showing the couple on date nights, involved in outdoors activities, or with their children.
Many of his posts deal with biking competitions. “The biggest goal in this process is to not get burnt out! It is easy to do when you also have to put time AND effort into family, recovery, career, spirituality, and friendship!” he wrote.
“What a beautiful day to celebrate the Lord!” Richie Fletcher wrote on a photo showing the family dressed up.
He is the son of parents who served in the U.S. Navy.
4. Richie Refers to Eliza as ‘My Better Half,’ Calling Her the ‘Definition for a Beautiful Soul’
In 2018, Richie wrote of Eliza, “My better half. #howcanibethislucky #nofilterneeded #hottie🔥 #A…10! #varsityblueshashtag.”
In 2017, he wrote, “Happy 30th birthday to Liza! If there was a definition for a beautiful soul most awesomeness mother it would be you! Can’t wait to see what the next 30 years have in store for you.”
On Father’s Day, Liza wrote of her husband, “Happy Fathers Days to the fun one of our team. Grateful you always have a good adventure planned and let me sit on the sidelines.”
In March 2022, she wrote, “Yesterday marked 8 years married to @fletch_livves. To say it has all been rainbows, prettiness, Hollywood movies, and easy would be a lie. I am grateful for every 2922 day of these 8 years. We have worked hard, showed up, failed, forgiven, and loved. Thank you Richie! Love you! Lets make a beautiful mess of many more years together. ❤️”
He has now privatized his page.
5. The Police Affidavit Against Cleotha Abston Paints a Terrifying Picture of What Happened to Eliza Fletcher
The police affidavit 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 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.”
Before Abston’s arrest, ABC24 journalist Ian Ripple reported that police were removing items from the Fletcher home.
“Police are towing this vehicle from the home in the investigation of Eliza Fletcher’s abduction. We also saw a computer and lawn shears tagged as evidence and removed from the home,” he tweeted.
Various items were marked as evidence, and a $50,000 reward is being offered, he reported.
Police were also searching Overton Park late on Friday evening.
University of Memphis police said in a safety alert that Fletcher regularly “runs on Central Avenue,” they wrote, and she 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.”
The phone was smashed, according to Action News 5.
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