Eliza Fletcher: Man charged with kidnapping Memphis heiress previously jailed for another kidnapping | American News


The man accused of kidnapping a Memphis heiress had previously been sentenced to 24 years in prison for another kidnapping.

Cleotha Abston, 38, was arrested by U.S. Marshals on Saturday after her DNA was detected on a pair of sandals near where Eliza Fletcher was last seen.

Police also linked the vehicle they believe was used in the abduction to a person at a property where Abston was staying, according to an affidavit of arrest.

Ms Fletcher was abducted while jogging near the University of Memphis around 4am on Friday.

The 34-year-old teacher has not been found.

Police said they believe she was seriously injured in the abduction, based on what they saw in surveillance footage.

But it emerged Abston was just 16 when he kidnapped Memphis attorney Kemper Durand in 2000.

Mr Durand was able to escape after several hours and Abston was jailed for 24 years after pleading guilty to particularly aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

Cleotha Abston on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Photo: Shelby County Sheriff's Office/AP
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Cleotha Abston on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Photo: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office/AP

“It is very likely that I would have been killed if I had not escaped”

Mr Durand died in 2013 but he said in a statement to the court that he was ‘extremely lucky’ to have been able to get away from Abston, adding: ‘It is very likely that I would have been killed if I hadn’t escaped.”

In a statement released by Commercial Appeal, he said: “My feelings of being a victim of this crime, and the feelings of those around me, are that I was extremely fortunate to have been able to escape from the police custody of Cleotha Abston.

“I had been taken from the trunk of my car, where he and his co-accused had placed me for several hours, and made to go to the Mapco station.

“The purpose was to use my ATM card to get money for Cleotha Abston.

“It was very fortunate that an armed, uniformed guard from the Memphis Housing Authority entered the Mapco station while Cleotha Abston, Marquette Cobbins (the second accused) and I were using the ATM.

“It is very likely that I would have been killed if I had not escaped.”

$50,000 reward offered by the woman’s family

Mr Durand had told the court that Cobbins had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and tried to convince Abston to quit.

According to Mr Durand’s statement, Abston had also been charged with a number of offenses prior to his abduction, including aggravated assault with a weapon and rape, some of which dated back to age 12.

Abston was released from prison in 2020.

He is due in court on Tuesday, accused of particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in Mrs. Fletcher’s disappearance.

Ms Fletcher’s family offered a $50,000 (£43,000) reward via Crimestoppers on Friday for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for her disappearance.

She is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist.

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