Law enforcement gives insight to the recovery of Eliza Fletcher’s body

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The search for Memphis woman Eliza Fletcher ended with a tragic end in South Memphis.

On Tuesday morning, Memphis Police ended the city watch that was put out for her and shortly after confirmed Fletcher was identified as the body that was found in South Memphis Monday evening.

“Today is a very sad day in the City of Memphis,” said Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis.

Tuesday afternoon, new court documents detailed the discovery and identification of the body.

The affidavit reads that law enforcement noticed vehicle tracks in the tall grass next to a vacant home on Victor Street.

At 5:07p.m. Monday evening, officers fanned out and walked to the back of the property, finding “an unresponsive female lying on the ground.”

The body fit the description of Fletcher, according to the narrative.

At approximately 8:15 p.m. that same evening, officers located a discarded trash bag barely a quarter mile away on South Orleans Street.

Inside were the clothes Fletcher wore the morning she was kidnapped.

“Further forensic investigation by the MPD Traffic Unit positively identified the body was in fact Eliza Fletcher,” said Davis.

The man charged with Fletcher’s kidnapping, Cleotha Abston, is now charged with her murder, among a list of other charges.

He went before Judge Louis Montesi in Shelby County Criminal Court Tuesday morning, only to be arraigned for his charges that stemmed from Monday: Aggravated kidnapping, tampering with evidence, identity theft, theft of property, and illegal possession of a credit/debit card.

Montesi said he needs to see the additional charges, which were filed shortly before Abston’s appearance, on paper in front of him before he addresses them in front of the defendant.

“He’ll be arraigned tomorrow morning on new charges that we now have to bring,” said Shelby County D.A. Steve Mulroy.

A press conference was called Tuesday morning at MPD Headquarters, following the announcement of Fletcher’s death, where Chief Davis, Mulroy, and Federal partners from the ATF, FBI, and U.S. Marshals gave details on their collaboration to find Fletcher’s body.

“To lose someone so young and so vital is a tragedy in it of itself, but to have it happen in this way, a senseless act of violence, is unimaginable,” Mulroy said.

“While the outcome of this investigation is not what we hoped for, we are nonetheless pleased to remove this dangerous predator off the streets of Memphis,” said Davis.

There are still unanswered questions that the group of law enforcement leaders couldn’t answer.

We still don’t know how or where Fletcher was killed, if locating her body was with, in part, the assistance/cooperation of Abston, or if Abston was working alone in this alleged crime.

Davis said this is still an ongoing investigation and that they’re working to get those answers.

“It’s still early on,” the MPD Chief said. “We’re still uncovering various leads.

“Contrast to whatever baseless speculation you might have seen, we have no reason to think this was anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” Mulroy said.

We know this is not the first time Abston has been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping.

“Repeat violent offenders, particularly, deserve a strong response,” said Mulroy.

Back on the corner of Victor and Person, a memorial began to build near the site where Fletcher’s body was found.

Josephine McGhee was tying balloons to a street light near the property.

When we spoke to her, she told us she helps run a non-profit, The Queen Community Organization Program, that provides resources to battered and abused women.

She also said her sister was kidnapped and killed 40 years ago in Memphis in a similar manner to Fletcher’s.

“I’m devastated. I just wanted her to be alive; I wanted her to be safe,” McGhee said, beginning to cry. “I know she was scared. I know she was real scared.”

Abston is scheduled to be arraigned for his additional charges Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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