UPDATE, TUESDAY: Police identify Eliza Fletcher’s body; Abston charged with murder
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)– The exhaustive search for abducted mother and teacher Eliza Fletcher was taking place throughout the weekend and now moving into Monday, but police won’t officially confirm what they are looking for.
Eliza Fletcher was initially reported missing Friday morning following her normal morning run.
Throughout a large portion of the day, a road was blocked by a cruiser as law enforcement focused on a wooded area not far from a location where Cleotha Abston, the man investigators say violently kidnapped Fletcher last week, has ties.
We talked to a law enforcement expert about what could be going on in the investigation four days after Fletcher’s abduction. Bennie Cobb, a retired Shelby County Sheriff’s Captain and public safety trainer who spent decades working in law enforcement, said this case is unlike most.
“This is unlike most missing persons or it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a kidnapping to this magnitude where there’s no ransom demands or the person hadn’t been released and then the investigation shows there was violence, mass violence involved in this kidnapping,” Cobb said.
We asked Cobb about how quickly the DNA was processed, he commended local law enforcement for quickly involving other agencies.
“Having the FBI and the TBI come in pretty quickly, it increases your resources,” Cobb said. “It gives you more resources that you can use and as a result, we are where we are now as far as having somebody in custody and charged for the kidnapping for this young lady.”
Police records said while her abduction by the University of Memphis was caught on camera, another crucial clue was Abston’s DNA left on a slide sandal discovered at the scene. Investigators were able to use a federal database to tie Abston, already convicted of a kidnapping more than 20 years ago, to the crime.
Throughout Monday afternoon, we watched as ATVs made their way through a wooded area off Prospect Street in south Memphis, industrial buildings back up to the green space and Cane Creek.
It’s unclear how long investigators spent at the spot or what exactly they were looking for, but it’s clear they’ve devoted resources to their efforts as the city of Memphis and now the nation hopes for Fletcher’s safe return.
At one point, we counted more than a dozen MPD cruisers leaving the search spot. It’s important to note that the location is less than two miles from the home of Cleotha Abston’s brother Mario Abston. It was at this home witnesses told investigators they saw Cleotha cleaning out the inside of his SUV with floor cleaner, washing his clothes in the sink, and behaving oddly.
We were there this weekend as MPD towed a dumpster from the complex.
Monday’s search was also less than a mile away from the Pine Hill Community Center, which served as a command post for law enforcement over the weekend after they told us they received a “tip.”
But not all efforts were in south Memphis. We also saw investigators on ATVs along interstate 240 in east Memphis and Nonconnah Creek.
Several different law enforcement agencies were involved in searches all over the city over the weekend, but not all of them have been confirmed to be directly connected to the investigation into the disappearance of Eliza Fletcher.
From a McDonald’s dumpster to parks and apartment complexes, authorities are hoping to leave no stone unturned.
Cobb also said officers are now following tips. If you know anything, call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.