Eliza Fletcher - live: Cleotha Abston’s teen rape conviction revealed as he’s arraigned for teacher’s murder

Cleotha Abston was convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager – almost three decades before he allegedly kidnapped and murdered Memphis business heiress Eliza Fletcher.

Now 38, Abston was just 14 years old when he committed a juvenile delinquent act of rape against an unnamed male, according to court documents.

Abston appeared in Shelby County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning for arraignment on first degree murder charges, where he asked that he be known by his paternal surname of Henderson.

Judge Louis Montesi revoked his bond, and ordered another hearing on Thursday.

Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two and granddaughter of billionaire Joseph Orgill III, was violently abducted while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus and forced into an SUV at 4am on Friday.

Her family released a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying that they are “heartbroken and devastated” by her murder.

“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,” the statement continued.

Key points

  • Cleotha Abston held without bond, requests name change

  • Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing

  • Footage shows murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning SUV

  • Women demand change after Eliza Fletcher’s murder

  • Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students and playing with her dog

05:30 , Bevan Hurley

Video has surfaced of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee kindergarten teacher who was kidnapped and killed last week, recording a song for her students.

In the clip, Fletcher, a junior teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal school in Memphis, sings “This Little Light of Mine” and tells students about her dog. The video, which has been viewed more than 530,000 times on Twitter.

Josh Marcus has the story.

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to students, as alleged killer is charged

Everything we know about suspect in murder of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher

04:30 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston, who has been charged with the abduction and murder of heiress Eliza Fletcher, spent 20 years in prison for kidnapping and robbery before being released in 2020.

Here’s everything we know about Mr Abston, who has since asked that he be known as Cleotha Henderson.

Cleotha Abston: Everything we know about suspect in kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

03:30 , Bevan Hurley

Memphis police confirmed on Tuesday morning that a body found during an “intensive” city-wide search was positively identified as missing mother of two Eliza Fletcher. Ms Fletcher, 34,was abducted while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus early on Friday morning (2 September) in what police have described as a random attack.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Teacher, heiress and mother: Who was Eliza Fletcher?

02:30 , Bevan Hurley

Eliza Fletcher was well known in the Memphis community as both a respected teacher and the heiress to a local business fortune.

The 34-year-old mother of two was the granddaughter of the late local businessman and philanthropist Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, who founded the Memphis hardware supply company Orgill.

The private, family-ran business is now worth $3.2bn and employs 5,500 people, with the Orgill family well-known in the local area.

The company website describes Orgill as the “world’s largest independently owned hardlines distributor, providing retailers across North America and in more than 60 countries throughout the world access to over 75,000 products and industry-leading retail services”.

Instead of working in the family business, however, Ms Fletcher became a local kindergarten teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal School.

She was married to Richard Fletcher III and they have two boys together.

Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and murdered while jogging in Memphis on Friday, with husband Richard Fletcher (Eliza Fletcher / Instagram)
Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and murdered while jogging in Memphis on Friday, with husband Richard Fletcher (Eliza Fletcher / Instagram)

Footage shows murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning SUV after Eliza Fletcher’s murder

01:30 , Bevan Hurley

Grainy video footage that purportedly shows murder-accused Cleotha Abston cleaning a dark SUV in the hours after Eliza Fletcher was abducted has been obtained by Memphis news network WREG.

Video footage shows murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning SUV after heiress’s murder

Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing

Thursday 8 September 2022 00:30 , Bevan Hurley

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” family of murdered Memphis woman Eliza Fletcher say in statement.

Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing of Memphis heiress

Hundreds of women are planning to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run one week on from her murder

Wednesday 7 September 2022 23:30 , Bevan Hurley

“We want to stand up and say it’s OK for women to run at 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s OK for women to run in whatever type of clothing they feel comfortable in,” the organiser of the Let’s Finish Liza’s Run event tells The Independent.

Why hundreds of women plan to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run a week after her murder

The shocking precautions female runners like me are being forced to take

Wednesday 7 September 2022 22:30 , Bevan Hurley

“So when the news hit that a female jogger had been abducted from a Tennessee street early last Friday morning (we now know that it was Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two, and we also know that she was tragically killed) it spread like wildfire amongst the running community on social media,” writes Gemma Abbott for Independent Voices.

“But not purely because this was such shocking and disturbing news. Most people just simply couldn’t believe it had happened – again. Another female runner abducted or assaulted as she went about doing the thing she loved. Sadly, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen news reports of women being attacked while out running in the last few years.”

Opinion: These are the shocking precautions female runners must now take

Cleotha Abston’s 2000 kidnap victim worked at same law firm as Eliza Fletcher’s uncle

Wednesday 7 September 2022 21:45 , Bevan Hurley

There is no indication that the law firm connection between Fletcher’s uncle Mike Keeney and kidnapping victim Kemper Durand has anything to do with her murder, which investigators described as an ‘isolated attack by a stranger’.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Cleotha Abston’s 2000 kidnap victim worked at same law firm as Eliza Fletcher’s uncle

Shelby County DA issues correction after saying suspect was paroled

Wednesday 7 September 2022 21:30 , Bevan Hurley

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy clarified a statement he made earlier on Wednesday that Cleotha Abston was paroled from his 24-year prion sentence for kidnapping.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Cleotha Abston’s teenage rape conviction revealed as he is held without bond for murder

Wednesday 7 September 2022 21:15 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston was convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager – almost three decades before he allegedly kidnapped and murdered Memphis business heiress Eliza Fletcher.

Abston, now 38, was just 14 years old when he committed a juvenile delinquent act of rape against an unnamed male, according to court documents.

The charge was sustained and the teenager was placed in the custody of Shelby County’s Youth Services Bureau.

Rachel Sharp has the story.

Eliza Fletcher suspect Cleotha Abston’s previous conviction revealed

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students and playing with her dog

Wednesday 7 September 2022 20:50 , Bevan Hurley

Video has surfaced of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee kindergarten teacher who was kidnapped and killed last week, recording a song for her students.

In the clip, Fletcher, a junior teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal school in Memphis, sings “This Little Light of Mine” and tells students about her dog. The video, which has been viewed more than 530,000 times on Twitter.

Josh Marcus has the story.

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to students, as alleged killer is charged

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Wednesday 7 September 2022 20:30 , Bevan Hurley

Memphis police confirmed on Tuesday morning that a body found during an “intensive” city-wide search was positively identified as missing mother of two Eliza Fletcher. Ms Fletcher, 34,was abducted while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus early on Friday morning (2 September) in what police have described as a random attack.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Everything we know about suspect in murder of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher

Wednesday 7 September 2022 20:10 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston, who has been charged with the abduction and murder of heiress Eliza Fletcher, spent 20 years in prison for kidnapping and robbery before being released in 2020.

Here’s everything we know about Mr Abston, who has since asked that he be known as Cleotha Henderson.

Cleotha Abston: Everything we know about suspect in kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher

Hundreds of women are planning to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run one week on from her murder

Wednesday 7 September 2022 19:55 , Bevan Hurley

“We want to stand up and say it’s OK for women to run at 4 o’clock in the morning and it’s OK for women to run in whatever type of clothing they feel comfortable in,” the organiser of the Let’s Finish Liza’s Run event tells The Independent.

Why hundreds of women plan to complete Eliza Fletcher’s run a week after her murder

Memphis to hold run in Fletcher’s honour

Wednesday 7 September 2022 19:30 , Bevan Hurley

The Memphis community is planning to hold a run event on Friday to honour Eliza Fletcher and raise awareness around the harrowing circumstances of her death.

Called “Let’s Finish Liza’s Run”, the event was originally intended for a few friends to jog 10 miles together but quickly exploded as a Facebook post announcing it went viral.

“My intention was to start near her home and run down Central to Zach H Curlin and back down Central,” organiser Danielle Heineman told ABC24. “However, it blew up from my original Facebook post, so now we’re looking at starting from either Peabody and Belvedere or Central and Belvedere as to not have a crowd near her home.”

Ms Heineman said she is hoping the event will send a message to critics who have cast blame on Ms Fletcher for going out for a jog at a time they deem unsafe.

“We do run at four o’clock in the morning, and you know what, we can run at four o’clock in the morning,” she said. “And we can wear our sports bra and our shorts and not be fully covered up head to toe.”

Runners in Memphis are planning to hold a ‘Let’s Finish Liza’s Run’ event on Friday (Memphis Police Department via AP)
Runners in Memphis are planning to hold a ‘Let’s Finish Liza’s Run’ event on Friday (Memphis Police Department via AP)

Cleotha Abston received medical evaluation after Wednesday court appearance

Wednesday 7 September 2022 19:20 , Bevan Hurley

The man accused of the kidnap and murder of Eliza Fletcher received a medical evaluation after appearing in court on Wednesday, Fox News reports.

Cleotha Abston, who asked to use his paternal surname of Henderson during Wednesday’s hearing, was ordered held without bond at Shelby County jail.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cleotha Abston made a second court on Wednesday (AP)
Cleotha Abston made a second court on Wednesday (AP)

Cleotha Abston’s 2000 kidnap victim worked at same law firm as Eliza Fletcher’s uncle

Wednesday 7 September 2022 19:10 , Bevan Hurley

There is no indication that the law firm connection between Fletcher’s uncle Mike Keeney and Kemper Durand has anything to do with her murder, which investigators described as an ‘isolated attack by a stranger’.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Cleotha Abston’s 2000 kidnap victim worked at same law firm as Eliza Fletcher’s uncle

Footage shows murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning SUV after Eliza Fletcher’s murder

Wednesday 7 September 2022 18:50 , Bevan Hurley

Grainy video footage that purportedly shows murder-accused Cleotha Abston cleaning a dark SUV in the hours after Eliza Fletcher was abducted has been obtained by Memphis news network WREG.

Video footage shows murder suspect Cleotha Abston cleaning SUV after heiress’s murder

Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing

Wednesday 7 September 2022 18:30 , Bevan Hurley

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” family of murdered Memphis woman Eliza Fletcher say in statement.

Eliza Fletcher’s family break silence on ‘senseless’ killing of Memphis heiress

The shocking precautions female runners like me are being forced to take

Wednesday 7 September 2022 18:10 , Bevan Hurley

“So when the news hit that a female jogger had been abducted from a Tennessee street early last Friday morning (we now know that it was Fletcher, a 34-year-old mother of two, and we also know that she was tragically killed) it spread like wildfire amongst the running community on social media,” writes Gemma Abbott for Independent Voices.

“But not purely because this was such shocking and disturbing news. Most people just simply couldn’t believe it had happened – again. Another female runner abducted or assaulted as she went about doing the thing she loved. Sadly, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen news reports of women being attacked while out running in the last few years.”

Opinion: These are the shocking precautions female runners must now take

Cleotha Abston’s teenage rape conviction revealed as he is held without bond for murder

Wednesday 7 September 2022 17:45 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston Henderson was convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager – almost three decades before he allegedly kidnapped and murdered Memphis business heiress Eliza Fletcher.

Abston Henderson, now 38, was just 14 years old when he committed a juvenile delinquent act of rape against an unnamed male, according to court documents.

The charge was sustained and the teenager was placed in the custody of Shelby County’s Youth Services Bureau.

Rachel Sharp has the story.

Eliza Fletcher suspect Cleotha Abston’s previous conviction revealed

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to her students and playing with her dog

Wednesday 7 September 2022 17:15 , Bevan Hurley

Video has surfaced of Eliza Fletcher, the Tennessee kindergarten teacher who was kidnapped and killed last week, recording a song for her students.

In the clip, Fletcher, a junior teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal school in Memphis, sings “This Little Light of Mine” and tells students about her dog. The video, which has been viewed more than 530,000 times on Twitter.

Josh Marcus has the story.

Video emerges of Eliza Fletcher singing to students, as alleged killer is charged

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Wednesday 7 September 2022 16:50 , Bevan Hurley

Memphis police confirmed on Tuesday morning that a body found during an “intensive” city-wide search was positively identified as missing mother of two Eliza Fletcher.Ms Fletcher, 34,was abducted while out jogging near the University of Memphis campus early on Friday morning (2 September) in what police have described as a random attack.

Here is a timeline of events in the case.

Eliza Fletcher: Timeline of events in abduction and murder of Memphis heiress

Everything we know about suspect in murder of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher

Wednesday 7 September 2022 16:32 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston, who has been charged with the abduction and murder of heiress Eliza Fletcher, spent 20 years in prison for kidnapping and robbery before being released in 2020.

Here’s everything we know about Mr Abston, who has since asked that he be known as Cleotha Henderson.

Cleotha Abston: Everything we know about suspect in kidnapping of Eliza Fletcher

The hearing has concluded and the suspect has been led out of the courtroom

Wednesday 7 September 2022 15:54 , Bevan Hurley

The Shelby County Circuit Court judge has ended today’s hearing, and ordered another hearing on Thursday to determine what Cleotha Abston’s bond should be set at.

Judge revokes Eliza Fletcher suspect’s bond

Wednesday 7 September 2022 15:50 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston (Henderson) is being arraigned on first degree murder charges in Shelby County Circuit Court.

A judge has revoked his $500,000 bond from earlier kidnapping charges, pending a bond hearing.

“In light of the change of circumstance, I’m going to order that there be no bond. The $500,000 bond is revoked,” the judge said.

Suspect is asking that his name be changed in the record to Cleotha Henderson

Wednesday 7 September 2022 15:47 , Bevan Hurley

The judge says the suspect has asked that he be known as Cleotha Henderson, rather than Cleotha Abston.

Cleotha Abston is back in court for arraignment on first degree murder charges

Wednesday 7 September 2022 15:44 , Bevan Hurley

Cleotha Abston has just entered the Shelby County Circuit Court in Memphis for arraignment on first degree murder charges.

He is wearing prison garb and masked, and a lawyer is speaking to him in the dock.

Teacher, heiress and mother: Who was Eliza Fletcher?

Wednesday 7 September 2022 15:39 , Bevan Hurley

Eliza Fletcher was well known in the Memphis community as both a respected teacher and the heiress to a local business fortune.

The 34-year-old mother of two was the granddaughter of the late local businessman and philanthropist Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, who founded the Memphis hardware supply company Orgill.

The private, family-ran business is now worth $3.2bn and employs 5,500 people, with the Orgill family well-known in the local area.

The company website describes Orgill as the “world’s largest independently owned hardlines distributor, providing retailers across North America and in more than 60 countries throughout the world access to over 75,000 products and industry-leading retail services”.

Instead of working in the family business, however, Ms Fletcher became a local kindergarten teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal School.

She was married to Richard Fletcher III and they have two boys together.

Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and murdered while jogging in Memphis on Friday, with husband Richard Fletcher (Eliza Fletcher / Instagram)
Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and murdered while jogging in Memphis on Friday, with husband Richard Fletcher (Eliza Fletcher / Instagram)