Man who ‘murdered’ heiress Eliza Fletcher was charged with raping and kidnapping another woman

REVEALED: Man who ‘murdered’ billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher is charged with the unsolved rape and kidnapping of ANOTHER woman one year ago after DNA taken during his latest arrest linked him to the 2021 crime

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The man accused of kidnapping and murdering billionaire heiress Eliza Fetcher was charged with an unrelated kidnapping and rape that took place a year earlier thanks to DNA evidence compiled from his most recent arrest. 

Cleotha Abston, 38, was handed down a second indictment during a Thursday hearing that saw a judge deny him bail for his alleged part in Fletcher’s death. The new charges appeared in the Shelby County criminal justice portal the next day. 

Abston was arrested on Tuesday – less than a day after detectives found Fletcher’s body – but was rebooked on Friday on new charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Memphis Police said that the new charges stem from a rape kit sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in September 2021, when an unidentified woman filed the alleged crimes to police.

The DNA sample from the kit was sitting in evidence storage until a match was flagged in the system, nearly one year later. 

It was only on September 2, 2022, after Abston was arrest for allegedly murdering Fletcher, that there was a hit in the DNA database – and the felon was subsequently rebooked.

Cleotha Abston, 38, was handed down a second indictment during a Thursday hearing that saw a judge deny him bail for his alleged part in Fletcher's death. The new charges appeared in the Shelby County criminal justice portal the next day

Cleotha Abston, 38, was handed down a second indictment during a Thursday hearing that saw a judge deny him bail for his alleged part in Fletcher’s death. The new charges appeared in the Shelby County criminal justice portal the next day 

Abston was arrested on Tuesday - less than a day after detectives found Fletcher's body - but was rebooked on Friday on new charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful carrying of a weapon

Abston was arrested on Tuesday – less than a day after detectives found Fletcher’s body – but was rebooked on Friday on new charges of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful carrying of a weapon

Memphis police confirmed the new charges Saturday, without providing any additional information on the 2021 case in question - other than confirmation that the new counts aren't tied to the Fletcher case

Memphis police confirmed the new charges Saturday, without providing any additional information on the 2021 case in question – other than confirmation that the new counts aren’t tied to the Fletcher case

It was only on September 2, 2022, when Abston was arrest for allegedly murdering Fletcher, that there was a hit in the DNA database - and the felon was subsequently rebooked

It was only on September 2, 2022, when Abston was arrest for allegedly murdering Fletcher, that there was a hit in the DNA database – and the felon was subsequently rebooked

A 38-year-old career criminal who served 20 years in prison for kidnapping, Cleotha Abston had been charged with first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnaping of Fletcher, the 34-year-old heiress to the $3billion Orgill Hardware company

A 38-year-old career criminal who served 20 years in prison for kidnapping, Cleotha Abston had been charged with first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnaping of Fletcher, the 34-year-old heiress to the $3billion Orgill Hardware company 

Memphis mom of two Eliza Fletcher, 34, (pictured with her husband and two young sons) was kidnapped after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with her kidnap and murder after her body was found in long grass against an abandoned house

Memphis mom of two Eliza Fletcher, 34, (pictured with her husband and two young sons) was kidnapped after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with her kidnap and murder after her body was found in long grass against an abandoned house

The Memphis Police Department said in a statement: ‘An official CODIS (national DNA database) hit was not received until after the unfortunate event that occurred on September 2, 2022. 

‘Probable cause to make a physical arrest of any suspect did not exist until after the CODIS hit had been received.’

The rape kit was sent to the investigation bureau two days after the crime allegedly took place on September 21, 2021, Commercial Appeal reported.  

A spokesman for TBI confirmed the dates. However, they noted that the evidence against Abston was placed in a ‘queue of unknown assailant kits, as no request was made for TBI analysis to be expedited, and no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the submission.’ 

Abston is a career criminal who served 20 years in prison for yet another kidnapping, in that case a man. 

Memphis police confirmed the new charges Saturday, without providing any additional information on the 2021 case in question – other than confirmation that the new counts aren’t tied to the Fletcher case.

He had been charged with first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnaping of Fletcher, a 34-year-old kindergarten teacher who had been on her routine morning jog Friday September 5 in Memphis, Tennessee, when she was caught on camera being forced into a black SUV.

Abston appeared in court in Memphis on Thursday, where he was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence – with the judge again refusing him bail ahead of another hearing on September 19.

Jennifer Case, his public defender, initially argued that there was a conflict of interest in her representing him as her office had worked with him in a previous criminal matter in the early 2000s. 

However the matter was dismissed by the judge, Louis Montesi Jr, despite him agreeing to hear her arguments regarding a gag order at a later hearing. 

Case argued that certain aspects of the case should not be made public after Memphis Police Chief C.J. David called Abston a ‘dangerous predator.’

Tennessee is a state with the death penalty, and prosecutors on Thursday said that they were not ruling it out if he is convicted.  

Abston wore a green prison-issued uniform and a mask and only spoke to his public defender during the short hearing.

Eliza Fletcher, 34, was last seen about 4.20am on Friday, when she was jogging in Memphis and a man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle, police said
The last known image of Fletcher shows her jogging early on Friday

Fletcher was last seen about 4.20am on Friday, when she was jogging (right) in Memphis and a man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle, police said

 

Fletcher pictured with her husband Richie and their two children. The family described her as a 'special' woman who was taken away from them in a 'senseless' manner

Fletcher pictured with her husband Richie and their two children. The family described her as a ‘special’ woman who was taken away from them in a ‘senseless’ manner

Abston has been known to law enforcement since he was 11-years-old. 

Now 38, he was just 11 when he first appeared in Shelby County Juvenile Court, charged with theft of property $500 or less. Court documents reveal that he was then convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager, and was placed in the custody of Shelby County’s Youth Services Bureau.

He was detained 16 times from October 1995 to May 2000 for rape, aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

According to Action News 5 his first charges were filed against him in June 1995, and that he was part of the ‘LMG’ gang – which stands for ‘Lemoyne Gardens Gangstas.’

Two weeks after he was released from the youth services bureau to his mother’s care, he was transferred to adult court for the 2000 kidnapping lawyer Kemper Durand – who worked in the same law firm as Fletcher’s uncle Michael Keeney.

Abston was only 16-years-old when he and an accomplice kidnapped Durand, threw him into his own trunk, and tried to force him to withdraw money at a gas station ATM.

In his victim impact statement, Durand, who died in 2013, said he feared for his life during his kidnapping, where he was rescued by a nearby Memphis Housing Authority guard who heard his scream for help, the Commercial Appeal reported.

‘It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped,’ Durand wrote.

Abston was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the offence, but was released early in 2020, before kidnapping again just two years later. 

Ex-FBI officer Jennifer Coffindaffer told NewsNation that she condemned the decision to release Abston two-years early, saying that keeping him in prison would have prevented Fletcher’s death.

‘Any time someone is let out early and the goes on to commit another violent crime, yes, I think society’s let down,’ she said. ‘I think we are all let down by his early release.’

Coffindaffer also said that Durand’s connection to Fletcher’s uncle is a ‘very significant clue.’

‘I’m sure certainly that the FBI, that the US Marshals, and that the TBI is looking closely at this relationship,’ she said. 

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