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Eliza Fletcher went missing after going jogging in Tennessee last week. On Sunday, a man was charged in connection with the alleged abduction of the billionaire heiress.
Around 4:30 a.m. on Friday, Fletcher went jogging on Central Avenue in Memphis. Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher III, reported his wife missing at around 7:45 a.m. the same day. He said she went for her usual early morning jog, but never returned home.
The 34-year-old mother of two was forced into a dark-colored SUV, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The morning of the abduction, a passerby found Fletcher’s cellphone and a pair of sandals nearby, CBS News reported. Investigators analyzed surveillance video from where the cellphone and sandals were located. The video revealed a black SUV with damage to the rear tail light. A man is seen on video exiting the truck, running towards Fletcher, and forcing her into the passenger side of the vehicle, according to the affidavit. The vehicle drove away four minutes later.
Police said, “As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing toward the victim, then forcing the victim into the vehicle, where she was confined and removed and continues to be missing, it is believed and supported by the facts and physical evidence that she suffered serious injury. Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence, e.g. blood, in the vehicle that the defendant cleaned.”
DNA testing on the sandals reportedly found a match with 38-year-old Cleotha Abston. U.S. Marshals allegedly located the SUV with the same body damage as seen in the surveillance video. Authorities traced a phone number connected to Abston to the crime scene, the affidavit said.
Following a brief chase, U.S. Marshals agents took Abston into custody on Saturday. The Memphis Police Department announced that Abston was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in connection with Fletcher’s disappearance.
Police purportedly interviewed a woman with who Abston was staying with. She claimed that he was cleaning the floor of the SUV the previous morning, according to the affidavit. The woman and another witness alleged that they saw Abston washing his clothes in a sink, and that he was “acting very strangely.”
Memphis police told Fox News that Abston had previously been charged with aggravated robbery and kidnapping involving prominent Memphis attorney Kemper Durand in May 2000. Abston was 16 at the time of the crime, according to police.
The missing kindergarten teacher has yet to be found.
Police said the investigation remains to be “active and ongoing.”
“We continue to ask for assistance from the community,” the Memphis Police Department said. “If anyone has any information concerning this investigation, they should call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.”
Police say Fletcher is 5’6″ and 137 pounds. She has brown hair and has green eyes. At the time of her abduction, Fletcher was wearing a pink jogging top and purple running shorts.
Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Joe” Orgill III – a billionaire hardware magnate out of Memphis.
The Fletcher family has offered a $50,000 reward for information regarding her disappearance.
Eliza Fletcher’s uncle, Mike Keeney, delivered a plea for the public to help find the missing heiress.
“Liza has touched the hearts of many people, and it shows,” Keeney said in a video posted on Saturday. “We want to thank the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, TBI, FBI, and all of the other law enforcement agencies who are working tirelessly to find Liza. The family has met with police and we have shared with them all the information we know.”
“We believe someone knows what happened and can help,” said Keeney, flanked by Eliza’s parents and husband. “More than anything we want to see Liza returned home safely.”
Richard Fletcher III became emotional during the video asking for assistance in locating his missing wife.
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