Man charged in kidnapping of missing Memphis jock Eliza Fletcher

DNA from sandals found on the road near where Eliza Fletcher disappeared has led police to a suspect in her disappearance Friday while jogging near the University of Memphis in Tennessee, police said Sunday.

Cleotha Abston, 38, “is charged with aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence,” Memphis police said in a statement.

Fletcher, 34, who disappeared at 4 a.m., “has not been located at this time,” police said.

Eliza Fletcher (Memphis Police Department)

A pair of Champion slide sandals recovered from the area where Fletcher disappeared had DNA matching Abston’s, according to an affidavit obtained by NBC News. Fletcher’s phone was found with the sandals.

Security video from the scene showed “a black GMC Terrain driving by and then waiting for the victim to run,” according to the document. A man then got out of the car, aggressively ran towards Fletcher and forced her into the passenger seat.

“During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle,” the document said. “Champion slides were found in this area. The vehicle was then left in the parking lot with the victim inside for approximately four minutes before driving away.”

Cell phone records obtained by investigators reportedly showed Abston’s cell phone was near the location when Fletcher forced his way into the car.

Officers arrested Abston on Saturday after finding the GMC Terrain with a matching license plate number in a parking lot at Abston’s residence, the affidavit said. Abston tried to run away but was eventually taken into custody.

Mario Abston, 36, Cleotha Abston’s brother, was also arrested but is not believed to be connected to Fletcher’s kidnapping, authorities said. He was charged with drug and firearms offences, police said he tweeted.

Police said Abston refused to tell investigators if he knew where Fletcher was.

Investigators said they believe Fletcher “suffered serious injury” due to the violent nature of the abduction and that based on witness accounts, the injuries left evidence, such as blood, in Ampston’s car.

Abston will be arraigned via video at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Investigators continue to search for Fletcher, a preschool teacher and mother of two, police said in a statement.

“It remains an active and ongoing investigation,” it said.

In an earlier statement, police said Fletcher’s personal belongings had been recovered. At the time of her abduction, she was wearing purple jogging shorts and a pink top.

“Lisa touched the hearts of so many people,” Michael Kinney, Fletcher’s uncle, said in a statement Saturday on behalf of the family, marking an outpouring of support and goodwill for Fletcher, an avid runner.

“More than anything we want to see Lisa come home safely,” he said.

The family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to her safe return, NBC affiliate WMC of Memphis reported.

CORRECTION (September 4, 2022, 7:52 PM ET): A title in an earlier version of this The article misstated the source of the DNA that led police to the arrest. The DNA belonged to the man who was arrested, authorities said, not the kidnapping victim.

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