Suspect in Eliza Fletcher's murder cleans car hours after abduction

Newly released surveillance video shows the moment ex-con charged with murder of billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher, 38, cleans his car – just HOURS after her disappearance and only a few hundred yards from where her body was found

  • New video has emerged showing the suspect in the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher, a mother of two, cleaning out his car following her disappearance 
  • The video shows suspect Cleotha Abston driving to his brother’s home and spending time standing by the passenger side of his SUV
  • The footage was shot less than four hours after Fletcher’s disappearance on September 2 
  • Authorities announced on Tuesday that Fletcher’s body had been found after an exhaustive search and that Abston had been charged with murder 

New video shows the moment an ex-convict suspected of kidnapping and murdering billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher cleans out his SUV – just hours after her disappearance while on a morning jog in Memphis.

The footage shows Cleotha Abston, 38, driving to the home of his brother, Mario, at the Longview Gardens apartment complex around 8am on Friday morning. 

Less than four hours earlier, Fletcher, 34, was violently kidnapped roughly seven miles away, close to the University of Memphis. She was found just a few hundred feet from the building where Abston was seen cleaning his vehicle.

In the video, he can be seen sitting in his car after arriving at the complex. After a period of time, he gets up and goes to the trunk of the car. It’s unclear what he was getting from the trunk.

Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Memphis confirmed that the body found nearby was that of the mother-of-two. Her body was found behind a home in the area. 

Fletcher, an heiress to the billion-dollar Orgill hardware fortune, is survived by her husband, Richie, and their two children. 

According to the criminal affidavit in the case, Mario Abston’s neighbors witnessed the suspect cleaning out his car and reported that he had been acting strange

Eliza Fletcher, 34, was kidnapped after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. The driver of that SUV, Cleotha Abston, was arrested over the weekend and multiple police sources have confirmed that a body found is the missing mother-of-two

After rummaging around in the vehicle’s trunk, Abston runs into his 36-year-old brother’s home. He returns to the car and spends more than an hour on the passenger side of the GMC Terrain. 

According to the criminal affidavit in the case, Mario Abston’s neighbors witnessed the suspect cleaning out his car and reported that he had been acting strange.   

Following the announcement of the discovery of Fletcher’s remains and new charges against Abston, Fletcher’s family released a statement in which they described her death as a ‘senseless loss.’

The statement read in part: ‘Liza was such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her congregation, and everyone who knew her.’

Her family also thanked law enforcement for their efforts in searching for Fletcher and apprehending Abston. 

A map illustrating the scale of the citywide search for Eliza Fletcher in Memphis 

Cops discovered the missing mother-of-two in long grass close to where her Lululemon running shorts were found in a trash bag. She was discovered lying unresponsive in long grass next to an abandoned property

After the discovery of the car, Fletcher’s family, her father, Beasley, mother, Adele, brother Gill and her husband appeared on camera alongside their lawyer, Mike Keeney

They said: ‘We are grateful  beyond measure to local, state, and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person for this horrible crime.’ 

‘It’s emotional, it really hurts,’ April Jackson, 30, a neighbor of Mario Abston’s, told on Monday night prior to the body being identified.

‘That could have been anybody out jogging that morning, a student, anyone. And he was just released two years ago for another abduction and he gets out and does it again,’ she said. 

‘It makes me sick.’ She was out yesterday offering to aid the search, when police and a bloodhound were out in the area, within a couple of hundred yards of the body. 

In the criminal complaint against Cleotha Abston, witnesses were quoted as saying they saw the suspect at his brother’s home behaving strangely and washing the carpet of this 2013 GMC Terrain

Memphis police officers shown close to the scene where Fletcher’s body was found 

Abston had stalked the area she went missing from while jogging for almost 30 minutes before her abduction.

On Sunday, a neighbor of Mario Abston’s told exclusively that she had seen the suspect at his brother’s house nearly every day for the last month.

Authorities arrested Cleotha Abston, 38, before charging him with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher’s disappearance on September 2.

Officers have footage of the vehicle used in the kidnapping in the same area 24 minutes before the mother-of-two was taken at 4:20am in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Members of the Memphis Police Department’s SWAT Team preparing a raid on a home in Memp 

Surveillance footage obtained by police, which has not been released, shows a man running ‘aggressively’ towards Fletcher and forcing her into the passenger side of the vehicle.

Police officers discovered the body of Fletcher in the long grass behind an abandoned house after spotting vehicle tracks and smelling an ‘odor of decay’. 

She was found close to where her Lululemon running shorts were found in a trash bag.

The disappearance of Eliza Fletcher 

September 2, 4.30am: Fletcher, 34, goes for a jog near the University of Memphis campus and is bundled into a dark SUV

7.45am: Officers are dispatched after husband Richard reports her disappearance. They find  her water bottle and smashed cell phone in front of a home near the scene

September 3: Cops tow her family car from her home. Investigators were also seen labeling a pair of garden shears and a computer as evidence. They scour a local park and release CCTV of GMC Terrain

Cleo Abston, 38, is arrested with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He was identified as the owner of the black SUV. He was apprehended after he was involved in a car wreck with an Alcohol Tobacco Firearms vehicle on Saturday night. It is later revealed he was recently released from a 20-year sentence for a similar crime

September 4: Abston is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence

September 5: Cops search pond and park. New charges are filed against Abston of identity theft, theft of property, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of credit/debit card of $1000 or less

A body that is later identified as Fletcher’s was found near Abston’s brother’s home.  

Authorities have not yet confirmed Fletcher’s cause of death, but they have confirmed the identity of the body, which was found seven miles from where she was last seen. 

She was discovered by the steps of a dilapidated one-story property just yards from where police last spotted the vehicle she was forced into.

A bloodstain remained at the bottom of the stairs next to the patch of dirt where her body was found, with flies still swarming the area.

The video comes as former FBI investigator Jennifer Coffindaffer revealed that Abston’s first kidnapping victim, Memphis Attorney Kemper Durand, worked in the same flaw firm as Fletcher’s uncle, Michael Keeney, NewsNation reports.  

She said: ‘I think this is a very significant clue, and I’m sure certainly that the FBI, the US Marshalls and the TBI is looking closely at this relationship.’

Abston was only 16 years old when he and an accomplice kidnapped Durand, threw him into his own trunk, and tried to force him to withdraw money at a gas station ATM in 2000. 

Abston spent 22 years in jail for the crime, and two years later after his early release in 2020.

In his victim impact statement, Durand, who died in 2013, said he feared for his life during his kidnapping, where he was rescued by a nearby Memphis Housing Authority guard who heard his screams for help, the Commercial Appeal reported. 

‘It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped,’ Durand wrote. The lawyer also said in his remarks that 

According to Durand’s impact statement, the lawyer was alarmed by the teenager’s lengthy rap sheet that began when he was just 12, which included charges of theft, aggravated assault, and rape. 

Durand was sentenced to 24 years in prison but was released early in 2020, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. 

Coffindaffer condemned the decision to release Abston two years early, saying that keeping him in prison would have prevented the alleged crime. 

‘Any time someone is let out early and the goes on to commit another violent crime, yes, I think society’s let down,’ she said. ‘I think we are all let down by his early release.

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