Eliza Fletcher: Police identify body found in search for heiress

Police handout of Eliza Fletcher, 34, whose body has been found and identifiedMemphis Police Department

A body found in the search for Eliza Fletcher has been identified as that of the missing Memphis heiress, police say.

The 34-year-old was a teacher in the area - but also the granddaughter of a local billionaire.

She was abducted while jogging early on Friday morning near the University of Memphis campus.

Cleotha Abston, a 38-year-old man, has been charged with kidnapping and killing the mother-of-two.

Well-known in the community, Ms Fletcher was the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a billionaire local businessman and philanthropist. His company is now reportedly worth over $3bn (£2.6bn) and employs more than 5000 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 Friday. CCTV footage showed a man approaching her and getting into a physical confrontation, forcing Ms Fletcher into a black SUV, police documents say.

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 to help authorities apprehend any perpetrators.

The Memphis Police Department said on Monday that officers had found a body at around 17:07pm 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.

Image of Fletcher jogging showing last image of her wearing a pink running top, purple running shorts
Memphis Police Department

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.

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

Officers also found a vehicle at the address Abston was staying at 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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