A new video has surfaced showing murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning up his SUV after Eliza Fletcher’s kidnapping and death in Memphis.
The footage shows Abston, 38, driving to his brother Mario’s house in the Longview Gardens apartment complex around 8 a.m. Friday morning.
Less than four hours earlier, Fletcher, 34, was violently abducted while jogging near the University of Memphis.
In the video, Abston can be seen sitting in his car after arriving at the complex. After a while he gets up and goes to the trunk of the car. It is not clear what he took from the trunk.
Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Memphis confirmed that the body found near the apartment complex belonged to mother of two Eliza Fletcher. Her body was found behind a house nearby.
Fletcher, an heiress to the billion dollar Orgill hardware fortune, leaves behind her husband Richie and their two children.
According to the criminal affidavit in the case, Mario Abston’s neighbors witnessed the suspect cleaning his car and reported that he was acting strangely.
Eliza Fletcher, 34, was abducted after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. The driver of that SUV, Cleotha Abston, was arrested last weekend and multiple police sources have confirmed that a body found is the missing mother of two.
From there, Abston walks into his 36-year-old brother’s house. He returns to the car and spends over 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 his car and reported him behaving strangely.
After announcing the discovery of Fletcher’s remains and new charges against Abston, Fletcher’s family released a statement describing her death as a “senseless loss.”
The statement read, in part, “Liza was such a joy to so many—her family, friends, co-workers, students, parents, members of her congregation, and everyone who knew her.”
Her family also thanked the police for their efforts in searching for Fletcher and arresting Abston.
A map illustrating the scale of the citywide search for Eliza Fletcher in Memphis
Police discovered the missing mother of two in tall grass near where her Lululemon running shorts were found in a garbage bag. She was discovered unresponsive in the 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 next to their lawyer, Mike Keeney.
They said, “We are extremely grateful to local, state and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to locate Liza and bring the person to justice for this terrible crime.”
“It’s emotional, it really hurts,” April Jackson, 30, a neighbor of Mario Abston’s, told DailyMail.com Monday night before the body was identified.
“That could be anyone jogging that morning, a student, anyone. And he was just released two years ago for another kidnapping and he’s getting out and doing it again,” she said.
“It makes me sick.” She volunteered to help search yesterday, when police and a bloodhound were nearby, within a few hundred yards of the body.
The charges against Cleotha cited witnesses who said they saw the suspect acting strangely at his brother’s house and washing the carpet of this 2013 GMC Terrain.
Memphis police officers near where Fletcher’s body was found
Abston had stalked the area where she had gone missing while jogging nearly 30 minutes before her abduction.
On Sunday, a neighbor of Mario Abston told DailyMail.com that she had seen the suspect at his brother’s house almost every day for the past month.
Authorities arrested Cleotha Abston, 38, before charging him with particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher’s disappearance on Sept. 2.
Officers have images of the vehicle used in the kidnapping in the same area, 24 minutes before the mother of two was taken at 4:20 a.m. in Memphis, Tennessee.
Members of the Memphis Police Department SWAT team prepare to raid a home in Memphis
Surveillance footage obtained by police, which has not been released, shows a man “aggressively” running towards Fletcher and forcing her into the passenger side of the vehicle.
Police officers discovered Fletcher’s body in tall grass behind an abandoned house after noticing vehicle tracks and smelling a “smell of decay.”
She was found near where her Lululemon running shorts were found in a garbage bag.
The disappearance of Eliza Fletcher
Sept. 2, 4:30 a.m.: Fletcher, 34, goes for a jog near the University of Memphis campus and gets bundled up in a dark SUV
7.45am: Officers are dispatched after husband Richard reports her disappearance. They find her water fight and smash her cell phone in front of a house near the scene
September 3: Police officers tow her family car from her home. Investigators were also seen to label a pair of garden shears and a computer as evidence. They search a local park and release CCTV from GMC Terrain
Cleo Abston, 38, has been arrested for particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He was identified as the owner of the black SUV. He was arrested after being involved in a car accident involving a vehicle carrying alcohol-tobacco firearms on Saturday night. It is later revealed that he was recently released from a 20-year sentence for a similar crime
September 4: Abston charged with particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence
September 5: Police search pond and park. New charges filed against Abston for identity theft, property theft, and fraudulent use/illegal possession of a credit/debit card of $1,000 or less
A body is found near Abston’s brother’s house. It has not been confirmed as Fletcher’s
Authorities have not yet confirmed Fletcher’s cause of death, but they have confirmed the identity of the body, which is seven miles from where she was last seen.
She was discovered down the stairs of a dilapidated one-storey building just yards from where police last saw the vehicle she was forced into.
A bloodstain was left at the bottom of the stairs next to the patch of soil where her body was found, with flies still roaming 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 firm as Fletcher’s uncle, Michael Keeney, NewsNation reports.
She said, “I think this is a very important clue, and I’m sure the FBI, the US Marshalls and the TBI are closely monitoring this relationship.”
Abston was only 16 years old when he and an accomplice kidnapped Durand, threw him in his own trunk and tried to force him to withdraw money from a gas station ATM in 2000.
Abston spent 22 years in prison for the crime, and two years later after his parole in 2020.
In his victim 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 security guard who heard his cry for help, the Commercial profession reported.
“It is very likely that I would have been killed if I had not escaped,” Durand wrote. The attorney also said in his comments that:
According to Durand’s statement, the lawyer was alarmed by the teen’s lengthy criminal record that began when he was just 12, including charges of theft, aggravated assault and rape.
Durand was sentenced to 24 years in prison but was released in early 2020, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Coffindaffer condemned the decision to release Abston two years earlier, saying keeping him in prison would have prevented the alleged crime.
“Any time someone is released early and commits another violent crime, yes, I think society has been let down,” she said. “I think we are all disappointed by his early release.