MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Family, friends, and community leaders in Memphis expressed their grief after the body of Eliza Fletcher, a local teacher who was last seen jogging on Friday, was found on Monday.
Calvin Johnson, an avid runner, is stunned. He said he often does early morning runs like the one Fletcher was on when she was kidnapped.
“Just stunned and shocked by being an avid runner for most of my life, and never heard of anything of this magnitude ever happened in the city of Memphis,” Johnson said. “And the half of the runners, we just stunned and you have to be safe as we possibly can.”
A small memorial has been erected and is getting national attention at the spot where Fletcher was abducted. Flowers, candles, and mementos sit on the side of the street where she was last seen on video.
At St. Mary’s School, where she taught, they are dealing with grief, trying to comfort and help her young students cope by planning counseling meetings with parents to help them talk about the tragedy with their kids.
St. Mary’s said it will also provide counselors to help the community.
The 34-year-old mother’s family released a statement during a press conference with the Shelby County District Attorney and law enforcement officials Tuesday:
“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her.
Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her. We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. 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 responsible for this horrible crime.
We hope that everyone, including media representatives, understand the need for the family to grieve in privacy without outside intrusion during this painful time.”
When Fletcher was abducted she was just a short distance away from her church Second Presbyterian, who also expressed their grief in a Facebook post:
“We are grieving deeply over the loss of dear church member, Liza Fletcher.
Please join us in prayer for the Fletcher, Wellford, and Orgill families, as well as for the Memphis community. We are seeking shelter in the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection and will at the Great Day heal us and our whole world.”
Following the release of the family’s statement, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee expressed his condolences and support on Twitter, writing:
“Maria & I are heartbroken by the tragic death of Eliza Fletcher, a dedicated teacher, wife & mother of two. We lift the Fletcher family up in prayer during this time of unspeakable grief. I thank law enforcement for their tireless efforts & trust justice will be swift & severe.“
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris also released the following statement:
“Eliza Fletcher was an indefatigable educator, devoted wife and mother, and deeply rooted member of her church and our community. Our prayers are with her family and all of those touched by her life. We all hope the perpetrator of this heinous crime is swiftly brought to justice.”
Dr. Greg Jones, President of Belmont University where Fletcher attended, shared about the difference she has made as a teacher in the Memphis area.
“Eliza (Wellford) Fletcher was a Belmont alumna making a tangible difference in her community, and we are all heartbroken by the news of her tragic death. Liza graduated from Belmont University in 2012 with a Master’s of Arts in Teaching education degree and was shaping young lives as a teacher in the Memphis area. Though we all hoped for a different outcome following Friday’s news of her kidnapping, we are grateful for the many law enforcement teams that worked together throughout the weekend to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible. The entire Belmont community joins with many around the nation in praying for Liza’s family and friends as they begin to navigate incomprehensible grief.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement Tuesday night:
“There is evil in this world. My heart breaks for Eliza and her family, all victims of evil.
I thank the FBI, TBI, Sheriff’s office, ATF, US Marshals, and especially the men and women of the Memphis Police Department, who worked tirelessly and skillfully, as they always do, to solve this horrific crime.
I hope that whoever is guilty of this heinous crime, and any such crime, is removed from society and is punished to the fullest extent of the law.”