The man accused of ‘violently snatching’ billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher while she was out jogging in the early hours of September 2 has been described as a ‘creep’ and ‘pervert’ by neighbors.
Authorities in Memphis announced Sunday that 38-year-old Cleotha Abston was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher’s disappearance.
One neighbor told DailyMail.com exclusively that Abston had routinely offered women money for sex and stalked others while hanging around the apartment complex where his brother lived.
His arrest comes just over two years after his release from prison on kidnapping charge. Abston served 20 years for the kidnapping and robbery of lawyer Kemper Durand in Memphis in May 2000.
On Saturday, Memphis police descended on a low-income apartment complex named Longview Gardens and stayed through the night, collecting three bags of evidence from an apartment where the suspect’s brother, Mario, lives.
Cleotha Abston, 38, was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher’s Friday disappearance
Police also hauled off a green dumpster from outside, neighbors told DailyMail.com.
At the time of writing, Fletcher, 34, a wife and mother-of-two remains missing.
One neighbor, April, told DailyMail.com that she also saw police take the brother into custody Saturday afternoon, and then work until dawn searching the complex. They returned later in the day Sunday.
At 2 p.m., several police cars were parked outside. Daily Mail.com witnessed investigators taking photographs of a brown stain near a curb, and searched debris beneath the dumpster they’d removed.
April said she’d seen Abston at his brother’s apartment nearly every day in recent months.
She described him as a ‘pervert,’ who once snuck up behind her and propositioned her for sex. He did the same to other women in the complex, and at times would sit in his black SUV gawking at women walking by or sitting on stoops.
‘When women were around, he would sit in the truck and stare,’ April said.
‘He was a weird pervert,’ she added. ‘He watched me come on the porch, then came up the stairs behind me and said, ‘I will give you $100 to f**k,’ she recalled of a creepy encounter she had with the suspect last winter.
‘Do you think I’m a h** that needs your money?’ she said she replied to him.
‘It ain’t like that,’ she said he responded. ‘I just want to have some fun.’
‘He approached at least two other girls here with the same line, offering money for sex,’ she said.
Abston acknowledged to her that he’d served 20 years in jail.
Police sniffer dogs from the Shelby County Sheriff’s office working alongside search teams around a dumpster close to Mario Abston’s home. The dumpster was later hauled away by police
Memphis Police Department officers searching for clues in the ground close to the home of Cleotha Abston’s brother’s home
A neighbor of Mario Abston’s, described Cleotha Abston as a sex pest who would regularly proposition women for sex in the area
At the time of writing, Eliza Fletcher, 34, a wife and mother-of-two remains missing
There has been multiple search locations for any trace of Fletcher across Memphis since the kindergarten teacher went missing
The Longview Gardens apartments are located in southern Memphis
A member of the Memphis Police Department collects events as police continue to look for clues in the search for Fletcher
Missing mother Eliza Fletcher pictured with her husband Richie and their two children
April said she last saw Cleotha on Thursday, the day before Fletcher was kidnapped.
Another neighbor, Latoya, 35, said the suspect also propositioned her and her 20-year-old niece earlier this year. ‘He kept waving me over to him and was like. ‘I’ve got $100,’ Latoya told DailyMail.com.
Abston served 20 years for the kidnapping and robbery of lawyer Kemper Durand in Memphis in May 2000. He was released in July 2020
‘He tried to catch my niece too, tried to get her to come into the apartment with him,’ she said. ‘As far as I know, nobody here have sex with him,’ she said. ‘He creepy, he really creepy.’
At around 2am May 25, 2000, Abston approached Kemper Durand from behind on Beale Street in Memphis then robbed him and forced him into the trunk of his car, according to the Memphis Flyer.
Abston then drove Durand around for several hours, then forced him into an ATM and demanded he draw out cash. While in the ATM Durand spotted a housing authority officer and yelled for help, causing Abston to flee.
Abston was convicted for that kidnapping and released from prison in July of 2020, according to Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Kemper Durand passed away in February 2013 at the age of 73.
In a tribute article that was published in the Commercial Appeal, a friend was quoted as saying that Durand would regularly joke about his kidnapping ordeal.
That friend also said that Durand argued for leniency for Abston and his 12-year-old accomplice. Durand later said that he did not want to ‘wallow in’ the fear he suffered.
Abston’s brother and aspiring rapper Mario Abston aka Yola Bizza
Mario Abston’s wife, Nakita, pictured here with the couple’s daughter. Nikita passed away due to a drug overdose in March 2021
April said Mario, 36, who was taken into custody Saturday and had yet to return as of late Sunday afternoon, had his own issues.
Online records show that Mario is facing two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent, possession of a firearm and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
‘They’re blood brothers from the same mother,’ she said.
She said Mario’s wife overdosed last year while in bed with him, and that she witnessed the aftermath.
‘Mario’s wife died in the same bed, and Mario’s definitely going through something himself,’ she said.
His wife, Nakita Dixon, died in March 2021 at the age of 31. Mario paid tribute on their anniversary this past August 14 on Instagram.
He wrote: ‘Had a birthday Got married and gave me a baby on the same day bae bae u the truth Happy Anniversary Happy Heavenly Birthday Long Live u Nakita Abston.’
Mario is an aspiring rapper who goes by the moniker Yola Bizza. A neighbor told WREG that she would be surprised if Mario had any connection to the abduction of Fletcher.
Cops have released an image of Fletcher, a mother of two, in running gear moments before she was snatched
At the time of writing, Eliza Fletcher, the wife and mother-of-two remains missing
In addition to surveillance footage which showed the entirety of the ‘violent’ abduction in which Fletcher was forced into a black SUV with a broken taillight, an affidavit showed cops identified Abston as the kidnapper by a pair of sandals he left behind at the scene.
Abston lost the sandals – a pair of Champion brand slides – in his struggle to force Fletcher into the car, and authorities were able to recover his DNA found on them to him.
Investigators also determined Abston’s cell was in the vicinity of the kidnapping at the time Fletcher was taken. The affidavit described an interview with a woman who said Abston’s behavior in the hours after the abduction was ‘odd.’
The woman said Abston was in a ‘strange mood’ and that she saw him frantically cleaning the interior of his car with carpet cleaner and washing his clothes in his home’s sink.
Authorities went to Abston’s last known address and found the same black SUV with the damaged taillight. The affidavit said Abston was standing in the doorway when police arrived and that he began to flee, but was soon apprehended.
A different resident posted this photo showing members of the Memphis Police Department SWAT Team preparing for a raid in the complex in the search for Eliza Fletcher
Not long after the raid on the apartment complex, police were seen searching dumpsters outside of a McDonald’s restaurant along South Perkins Street in the city
Abston still has not said where Fletcher is or what he did to her. The affidavit said evidence, including blood, found in Abston’s car led them to believe Fletcher suffered a ‘serious injury.’
‘The investigation into the abduction of Eliza Fletcher is still active and ongoing. Investigators are continuing the search and following all leads,’ police said in a statement on Sunday after announcing Abston’s arrest.
Police were also seen searching dumpsters outside of a McDonald’s restaurant in Memphis on Saturday evening as they searched for the kindergarten teacher and mother.
A resident of the area around the McDonald’s told KWAM: ‘They were knocking on doors of houses with cameras to see if we had anything helpful on our Ring.
‘They told us to review our footage from yesterday 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. and send them anything valuable via a phone number they left with us.’
Not long before that search, police raided an apartment complex where they were engaged in a standoff with a person inside a unit. It is unclear if this was Abston’s home.
One resident in the complex posted a photo showing members of the Memphis Police Department SWAT Team preparing for the raid Saturday evening and said police were in a standoff with a person inside the apartment. Officers kicked in the door of an apartment and brought a woman, her daughter and a baby, according to the witness.
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.
In the statement, Keeney thanked the law enforcement for their search efforts and stated: ‘We believe someone knows what happened and can help.’ At this station, Fletcher’s husband became overcome with emotion.
On Friday, police had searched a park near the site where a wealthy heiress was abducted and forced into vehicle, as they search for clues in the baffling case.