Man charged in Memphis teacher abduction kidnapped attorney in 2000

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By Carina Murphy

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The man charged with violently kidnapping and murdering a Memphis teacher has a history of perpetrating similar crimes.

Cleotha Abston, 38, spent 20 years behind bars after he abducted an attorney when he was just 16. Per the Commercial Appeal, the felon had barely been free two years before he allegedly kidnapped Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher.

The mom-of-two was out for an early morning jog last week (Friday, September 2) when she disappeared.

Yesterday, police discovered a body not far from where Fletcher vanished and earlier today, they confirmed that it was in fact the missing teacher whose remains had been found.

Fletcher, 34, was a married mom to two boys and an elementary school teacher. She came from a wealthy family who found a private hardware company priced at around $3.2 billion, per The New York Post. 

Tennessee authorities arrested and charged Abston over the weekend after a pair of sandals containing his DNA were found near where the teacher was snatched.

Surveillance footage of the abduction later came to light, in which Abston can be seen running "aggressively toward the victim, and then [forcing] the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle," per a police affidavit.

Police have described the abduction as "violent" and said it is likely Fletcher "suffered serious injury" which "left evidence of blood in the car".

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Credit: REUTERS / Alamy

Abston was taken into custody on Saturday and charged with kidnapping. When questioned about Fletcher's whereabouts, the convicting criminal refused to help police with their investigations.

The suspect has a long and chequered past, having had multiple run-ins with the law. In 2000, he kidnapped a prominent Memphis attorney, Kemper Durand, forcing him into the trunk of his car at gunpoint and taking him to a Mapco gas station. There, he instructed the lawyer to withdraw money from an ATM.

It was only thanks to a passing Memphis Housing Authority Guard who Durand shouted to for help that the attorney escaped. Abston fled but was caught and arrested. He pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery and was handed a 24-year sentence.

In a victim impact statement, Durand wrote, "I was extremely lucky that I was able to escape from the custody of Cleotha Abston. ...It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped."

Abston was released in November 2020. Up until his arrest this weekend, he had not had any further run-ins with the law.

Featured Image Credit: Mike Voss / Alamy

Man charged in Memphis teacher abduction kidnapped attorney in 2000

vt-author-image

By Carina Murphy

Article saved!Article saved!

The man charged with violently kidnapping and murdering a Memphis teacher has a history of perpetrating similar crimes.

Cleotha Abston, 38, spent 20 years behind bars after he abducted an attorney when he was just 16. Per the Commercial Appeal, the felon had barely been free two years before he allegedly kidnapped Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher.

The mom-of-two was out for an early morning jog last week (Friday, September 2) when she disappeared.

Yesterday, police discovered a body not far from where Fletcher vanished and earlier today, they confirmed that it was in fact the missing teacher whose remains had been found.

Fletcher, 34, was a married mom to two boys and an elementary school teacher. She came from a wealthy family who found a private hardware company priced at around $3.2 billion, per The New York Post. 

Tennessee authorities arrested and charged Abston over the weekend after a pair of sandals containing his DNA were found near where the teacher was snatched.

Surveillance footage of the abduction later came to light, in which Abston can be seen running "aggressively toward the victim, and then [forcing] the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle," per a police affidavit.

Police have described the abduction as "violent" and said it is likely Fletcher "suffered serious injury" which "left evidence of blood in the car".

wp-image-1263168157 size-full
Credit: REUTERS / Alamy

Abston was taken into custody on Saturday and charged with kidnapping. When questioned about Fletcher's whereabouts, the convicting criminal refused to help police with their investigations.

The suspect has a long and chequered past, having had multiple run-ins with the law. In 2000, he kidnapped a prominent Memphis attorney, Kemper Durand, forcing him into the trunk of his car at gunpoint and taking him to a Mapco gas station. There, he instructed the lawyer to withdraw money from an ATM.

It was only thanks to a passing Memphis Housing Authority Guard who Durand shouted to for help that the attorney escaped. Abston fled but was caught and arrested. He pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery and was handed a 24-year sentence.

In a victim impact statement, Durand wrote, "I was extremely lucky that I was able to escape from the custody of Cleotha Abston. ...It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped."

Abston was released in November 2020. Up until his arrest this weekend, he had not had any further run-ins with the law.

Featured Image Credit: Mike Voss / Alamy