MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — The following is a timeline detailing the events that happened roughly 100 hours between when Eliza Fletcher went for a jog Friday, and Tuesday morning, when Memphis Police announced murder charges were pending against her accused kidnapper Cleotha Abston.
Friday, Sept. 2
4:20 a.m.: The last surveillance images of Eliza Fletcher, a mother and teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, were captured as she was jogging near the University of Memphis. She was just a few miles from her home on Carr Avenue.
6:45 a.m.: A man riding his bike found Fletcher’s damaged cell phone as well as a Champion slide sandal on the ground at Central Avenue and Zach Curlin Street. The items were turned over to Memphis Police and TBI for testing and analysis. Police are dispatched an hour later.
9 a.m.: Memphis Police issue a City watch for Fletcher. The first stories are posted on local media sites. Police soon reveal that they have evidence Fletcher had been forced into the passenger side of a dark SUV on Central Avenue. Multiple law enforcement agencies become involved in the search for Fletcher, including the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Overnight: Volunteers with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spent several hours searching a wooded area of Overton Park Friday night in connection with Eliza Fletcher’s disappearance. The park is about 1.3 miles from Fletcher’s home on Carr Avenue. This is the first of several scenes police investigated.
Saturday, Sept. 3
4:09 p.m.: Police say they have found the SUV wanted in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance and detain one man. The vehicle is a GMC Terrain and police say the man was its driver. The man is not identified nor are charges immediately announced.
4:30 p.m.: Fletcher’s family posts a video statement, offering a $50,000 reward to help find her. Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, a Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist whose company was reportedly worth billions when he died.
The TBI performed a DNA test on the slides and found that they belonged to Cleotha Abston after his information matched that in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database. Investigators managed to recover the surveillance footage showing Abston wearing the same slides days prior to the abduction. In addition, investigators were able to find Abston’s cell phone number and were able to determine his phone was in the vicinity of the abduction, approximately the same time it happened.
When authorities arrived at Abston’s last known address, they found the GMC Terrain, with passenger-side tail light damage backed into a parking space.
Sunday, Sept. 4
3:34 a.m.: Police announce Cleotha Abston, 38, the driver of the GMC Terrain, is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the case. According to records, Abston refused to provide investigators with information regarding Fletcher’s location. Records show he also has a previous conviction for aggravated kidnapping from 2000. That case involved a prominent Memphis attorney who was abducted from Beale Street and taken to an ATM.
WREG obtained a copy of the affidavit in Eliza Fletcher’s abduction. Police records indicate the abduction was violent and caught on camera.
Monday, September 5
5:07 p.m.: A body is discovered in the rear of an abandoned duplex home on Victor Street in South Memphis, but Memphis Police were unable to confirm the identity of the individual. The location was near Abston’s brother’s apartment where Abston was seen cleaning out his GMC Terrain and behaving strangely, according to police.
Tuesday, September 6
8:49 a.m.: Memphis Police confirmed the body found in South Memphis was that of Fletcher. Additional charges of first-degree murder and murder in perpetration of kidnapping were added against Abston, police said.
10 a.m.: Abston appears in a Shelby County court for an arraignment on his initial charges.
10:30 a.m.: Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy along with Chief CJ Davis and other law enforcement officials held a press conference regarding Fletcher’s abduction and death.
“Repeat violent offenders deserve a strong response and that’s what they’ll get from this district attorney’s office,” Mulroy said.
“Today is a very sad day in the city of Memphis,” Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said.
Fletcher’s family released a statement during the press conference: “We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was a such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her.”
WREG also received surveillance video of Abston cleaning out his car hours after Eliza Fletcher’s abduction.