Eliza Fletcher: Police identify body found in search for heiress

“Liza was a such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her.”

Well-known in the community, Ms Fletcher was the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a billionaire local hardware magnate and philanthropist. His company is now reportedly worth over $3bn (£2.6bn) and employs more than 5,000 people.

Ms Fletcher, however, worked as a junior kindergarten teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal School instead of for the family business.

She vanished at around 04:00 local time on Friday. CCTV footage showed a man approaching her and getting into a physical confrontation, forcing Ms Fletcher into a black SUV, according to police documents.

She was reported missing after failing to return home on Friday after her early-morning run, and her family posted a $50,000 (£43,330) reward for information.

The Memphis Police Department said on Monday that officers had found a body at around 17:07 local time (23:07 BST) – but stressed no identification had been made.

Then on Tuesday, officers said the deceased “located yesterday in the 1600 block of Victor has been identified as Eliza Fletcher”.

Authorities later confirmed the body was found in the rear of a vacant duplex apartment.

At the time of the body’s discovery, Abston, who was arrested on Saturday, had been charged with aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Additional charges for him have now “been added for first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping,” police said in the update.

Image caption,

Cleotha Abston, photographed in 2017 by the Tennessee Department of Correction

Abston was arrested after his DNA was detected on a pair of sandals found near where Ms Fletcher was last seen, according to an arrest affidavit.

Officers also found a vehicle at the address where Abston was staying that matched CCTV footage of Fletcher being forced into a similar car.

He attempted to flee when US Marshals arrived at the residence, but was captured, the affidavit said.

Abston previously served nearly 20 years in prison for kidnapping a prominent Memphis attorney in 2000 at gunpoint. He was released in late 2020.

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