https://www.foxnews.com-The rear of a vacant duplex apartment in Memphis where Eliza Fletcher’s body was found.
Tire tracks approaching an abandoned house at 1666 Victor St. in Memphis emitting an “odor of decay” helped investigators find the body of Eliza Fletcher Monday evening.
Authorities said Tuesday they discovered Fletcher’s remains around 5:07 p.m. in the “rear of a vacant duplex apartment” near where she was abducted last Friday.
Eliza Fletcher murder suspect Cleotha Abston’s violent history of rape, assault and kidnapping explained
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Cleotha Abston-Henderson, the 38-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, man accused in the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher, a teacher and mother of two, was only 16 when he began a 20-year prison term for kidnapping another victim at gunpoint.
Abston’s criminal past began when he was even younger, with charges that included aggravated assault and rape. He told investigators that he dropped out of school after ninth grade, according to court documents obtained by Fox News Digital, but they found no evidence that he’d attended his stated high school at all.
Authorities confirmed to Fox News Digital Tuesday that a juvenile court found it to be true that Abston, who is also known by the alias “Pookie,” committed a juvenile delinquent act of rape against an unnamed suspect when he was 14.
“The thing about these sexual predators, it seems it doesn’t matter how much time they do,” John Kelly, a criminal profiler and psychotherapist who has interviewed multiple serial killers, told Fox News Digital Tuesday. “When they get out, they’re back on the hunt.”
At 16, Abston abducted the late Memphis lawyer Kemper Durand at gunpoint, threw him in the trunk of his own car and drove him around to various ATMs, demanding he withdraw cash, court documents show. Abston pleaded guilty in that case and served about 20 years of a 24-year sentence.
“I understand that [Abston’s] record goes back to 1995, when he was about 13 years old, and shows juvenile court matters in every year – 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999,” Durand wrote in a 2001 victim impact statement obtained by Fox News Digital. “He obviously never learned any lesson from his encounters with the law.”
Durand told the court that while he suffered no physical injuries, he had recurring bad dreams about his abduction and criticized Abston for showing no remorse.
“It took Cleotha Abston from June 2000 to September 2000, some 15 months, to get around to pleading guilty to the crime to which he confessed on May 29, 2000,” Durand wrote. “He rejected a plea agreement because he ‘didn’t want to sign for any time.’ This, I understand, is jailhouse braggadocio – being a tough guy and showing off to the other jail inmates.”
Durand died in 2013, according to an online obituary.
A list of enhancement factors for Abston in Durand’s abduction included his previous history of violence, the fact that he was the ringleader in a crime involving multiple suspects, and, written in by hand, a reference to the rape case.
Abston separately told investigators he had “a good relationship with his family, but his childhood was rough,” documents state. He served about 20 years of a 24-year sentence and was released two years ago, according to state prison records.
Early Friday, according a new affidavit, he was hiding out near the University of Memphis campus four a bout 24 minutes before Fletcher’s routine morning jog brought her to the area.
Fletcher, a fit 34-year-old standing around 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 137 pounds, came jogging through the area. Abston, at 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, allegedly pounced.
“Investigators located surveillance near 3876 Central Avenue that showed a black GMC Terrain passing and then waiting for the victim to run by,” the affidavit alleges. “A male exited the black GMC Terrain and ran aggressively toward the victim, and then force[d] the victim, Eliza Fletcher, into the passenger’s side of the vehicle.”
There was “a struggle,” according to the affidavit, and then “the vehicle sat in the parking lot with the victim inside for approximately four minutes before it drove off.”
Police said they found Abston’s DNA on shoes recovered from the scene and arrested him over the weekend. They recovered Fletcher’s body behind a vacant house on Victor Street Monday.
In a statement, Fletcher’s family said they have faith that they will find justice in the courts.
“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss,” the family said through a spokesperson. “Liza was a such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her.”
The statement continued, “Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her. We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. We are grateful beyond measure to local, state and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.”
Abston is being held on $510,000 bond. He’s due back in court Wednesday morning. His brother, Mario Abston, is also being held in the Shelby County Jail in Memphis on unrelated charges.
Given the defendant’s past, according to Kelly, the criminal profiler, there’s a chance he went into the evening planning to prevent any witnesses from testifying against him – even if it was a random attack. It’s not unusual among repeat sexual offenders, he said.
“By leaving a victim alive, the victim became a witness and testified against him,” he said. “And then he got [prison] time.”
Frequently, they re-offend after they’re released, he said, and can be more violent.
“Because it’s real plain and simple, and I’ve seen this with a lot of guys in their histories,” he said. “No witness? There’s a chance at no time.”
- Eliza Fletcher was abducted while jogging in Memphis on Sept. 2
- A man approached Fletcher and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle
- U.S. Marshals arrested 38-year-old Cleotha Abston on Sept. 3 after police detected his DNA on a pair of sandals near where Fletcher was last seen
- Memphis Police said officers in the 1600 block of Victor Street located a “deceased party” the evening of Sept. 5
- The body was identified early Tuesday as being Eliza Fletcher