Man who ‘killed’ heiress Eliza Fletcher accused of raping and kidnapping another woman

The man accused of kidnapping and murdering billionaire heiress Eliza Fetcher has been charged in an unrelated kidnapping and rape a year earlier thanks to DNA evidence gathered from his latest arrest.

Cleota Abston, 38, was charged a second time at a hearing on Thursday when a judge denied him bail for his alleged role in Fletcher’s death. The new charges appeared on 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 charged on Friday with new charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and unlawful possession of a weapon.

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

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

It wasn’t until September 2, 2022, after Abston was arrested for allegedly murdering Fletcher, that there was a hit in the DNA database – and the criminal was subsequently retried.

Cleota Abston, 38, was charged a second time at a hearing on Thursday when a judge denied him bail for his alleged role in Fletcher’s death. The new charges appeared on 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 charged on Friday with new charges of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and unlawful possession of a weapon

Memphis police confirmed the new charges Saturday without providing any additional information about the 2021 case in question — other than confirming the new charges are not related to the Fletcher case

It wasn’t until 2 September 2022, when Abston was arrested for allegedly murdering Fletcher, that there was a hit in the DNA database – and the criminal was subsequently retried

Cleota Abston, a 38-year-old career criminal who served 20 years in prison for kidnapping, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping of Fletcher, the 34-year-old heiress to the $3 billion Orgill Hardware company

Memphis mother of two Eliza Fletcher, 34 (pictured with her husband and two young sons), was kidnapped after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. Cleota Abston, 38, has been charged with her abduction and murder after her body was found in long grass opposite 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 the CODIS hit was received.”

The rape kit was sent to the investigative bureau two days after the alleged crime on September 21, 2021, the Commercial Appeal reported.

A TBI spokesperson confirmed the dates. However, they noted that the evidence against Abston was placed in “a queue of unknown assailant kits because no request was made to expedite a TBI analysis and no suspect information or DNA standard was included in the filing.”

Abston is a professional criminal who served 20 years in prison for another kidnapping, this time of a man.

Memphis police confirmed the new charges Saturday, without providing any additional information about the 2021 case in question — other than to confirm that the new charges are unrelated to the Fletcher case.

He was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping of Fletcher, a 34-year-old kindergarten teacher who was on her routine morning jog on Friday, Sept. 5, in Memphis, Tennessee, when she was caught on camera being forced to got 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 denying him bail ahead of another hearing on September 19.

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

However, the matter was dismissed by the judge, Luis Montesi Jr., although he agreed to hear her arguments about the gag order at a later hearing.

Case argued that certain aspects of the case should not be made public after Memphis Police Chief CJ David called Abston a “dangerous predator.”

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

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

Fletcher was last seen around 4:20 a.m. 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 from them in a “senseless” way

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 valued at $500 or less. Court documents reveal he was then convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager and was placed in the custody of the Shelby County Bureau of Youth Services.

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

According to Action News 5, his first charges were brought 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 youth services in his mother’s care, he was transferred to adult court for 2000 kidnapping attorney Kemper Durand — who worked at the same law firm as Fletcher’s uncle, Michael Kinney.

Abston was just 16 when he and an accomplice kidnapped Duran, threw him in their own trunk and tried to force him to withdraw money from a gas station ATM.

In his victim impact statement, Durand, who died in 2013, said he feared for his life at the time of his abduction when he was rescued by a nearby Memphis Housing Authority security guard who heard his cry for help, reports the Commercial Appeal.

“I would very likely have been killed if I had not escaped,” Durand wrote.

Abston was jailed for 22 years for the crime but was released in early 2020 before kidnapping again just two years later.

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

“Any time someone is released early and they go on to commit another serious crime, yes, I think society is disappointed,” she said. “I think we’re all disappointed with his early release.”

Coffindaffer also said that Durand’s relationship with Fletcher’s uncle was a “very important clue.”

“I’m sure the FBI, the U.S. Marshals and the TBI are keeping a close eye on this relationship,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *