The body of a teacher who was kidnapped while jogging last week was found in Memphis this week and a suspect is being charged with murder, police said Tuesday. Eliza Liza Fletcher was identified as the man found dead behind an empty duplex on Monday. Memphis police said about 7.5 miles into downtown Tennessee, where surveillance video shows he was forced into an SUV.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said a suspect arrested over the weekend would be arrested on Wednesday on charges including kidnapping and first-degree murder, among other charges. Fletcher’s family told a news conference on Tuesday that the passing of such a young and important man is a tragedy in itself, but it is unimaginable to see it coupled with a senseless act of violence.
It is too early to determine the place and method of death of Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis at the same news conference. Mary Episcopal School in Memphis, Fletcher was walking around a neighborhood near the University of Memphis at around 4 a.m. Friday when a man chased her and took her in a black SUV, officials said.
Officials said in court documents that her husband reported missing that morning, beginning an intense weekend hunt that led investigators to search for clues, including surveillance video of Saturday’s abduction near their Memphis home. Abston was arrested. Fletcher was the granddaughter of hardware magnate Joseph Orgil III, who died in 2018 at the age of 80. Tennessee-based Orgil has annual sales of $3 billion, according to the company.
The accused appeared in the court on the charges of kidnapping. Abston was presented Tuesday morning in a Memphis courtroom with charges against him: kidnapping and tampering with evidence before Fletcher’s body was identified. Dressed in a prison dress and face mask, he only asked a judge to answer questions, saying he didn’t have a lawyer or money to post the bond.
Fletcher’s five relatives were in the courtroom. Before the hearing began, Montesi told them to abstain from any resentment or emotional reaction during the convulsions. Ebston was held in county jail on Tuesday on initial charges with a $510,000 bond. The district attorney said Tuesday that Mulroy would be produced on Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder and manslaughter during the kidnapping crime.
Evidence in the case
Fletcher’s husband told police Friday morning that she did not return from a morning walk in an affidavit filed on Sunday.
That morning someone found his phone in the street of Central Avenue and it was given to a relative of Fletcher, who in an affidavit gave it to investigators.
According to the affidavit, police found surveillance video of the area, which showed a black GMC Terrain Pass with him. According to the affidavit, in the footage, a man is seen getting down from the SUV and running towards it in an aggressive manner.
The SUV remained in the parking lot for nearly four minutes after two men entered and then exited on an affidavit.
The police also analyzed a pair of sandals found at the abduction site near the victim’s phone. The DNA found in the shoes matched Abston’s DNA, the affidavit reads.
According to an affidavit, in surveillance footage taken from a local theater the day before Fletcher went missing, Abston was wearing the same pair of Champion slide sandals found at the crime scene. The court document said that upon a search of Abston’s residence, police found that he lived in a house whose utility was registered in the name of a woman in the GMC area.
Investigators then interviewed Abston’s employer who said he runs the GMC area and verified his phone number. According to the affidavit, investigators examined Abston’s cell phone records, which revealed that he was near the abduction site at the time of Fletcher’s abduction.
American members of the Marshall Task Force found a GMC landfill near Abston’s residence on Saturday morning and included information such as damage seen in surveillance footage from Fletcher’s abduction and partial license plates.
The court document said that the task force saw him standing at the door of the house and took him into custody on Saturday.
The Memphis school community is shocked at the loss, with officials at the school where Fletcher worked, saying Tuesday they are saddened by the loss of our beloved teacher colleague and friend. This morning our faculty and staff started the day in the chapel. We lit candles in a Facebook post from St. Mary’s Episcopal School to remember Liza, a shining light in our community.
Liza embodied the song we sing every week at the Early Childhood Chapel. This little light of mine is going to shine on the posts I read. We continue to gain strength by teaching the boy the mole fox and the horse throughout our school. by Charlie Mackesy. We don’t know about the horse who said that yesterday, all we need to know is that we love each other who read the post.
Police likewise accumulated subtleties from witnesses who said they had experienced Abston after the seizing. A witness said he saw Abston at his brother’s Memphis home after the kidnapping, according to the affidavit. The affidavit said the witness and Abston’s brother said that Abston was behaving strangely as he cleaned the interior of his SUV and washed his clothes in the sink.
Police did not say why they went to the empty duplex where Fletcher’s body was found. The police chief said the duplex was in the 1600 block of Victor Street. It’s about a half-mile from the address that officers gave to her brother’s home, a 7.5-mile drive from the alleged abduction site, and about a 15.5-mile drive from her own home.