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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man charged in abduction of billionaire’s granddaughter in Tennessee, police say

Sept. 4, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 4, 2022 at 12:59 p.m.

By April Rubin The New York Times

A man has been charged in connection with the abduction of Eliza Fletcher, a Memphis, Tennessee, teacher and granddaughter of a billionaire, but she remains missing, police said Sunday.

Fletcher, 34, who also goes by Liza, was last seen jogging near the University of Memphis campus at about 4:30 a.m. on Friday when she was forced into a dark-colored SUV, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said on Twitter.

Officers were dispatched at 7:45 a.m. after her husband, Richard Fletcher, reported that she did not return home, according to court records.

Video surveillance showed that a person exited the SUV when Eliza Fletcher went by, ran toward her and forced her into the passenger’s side of the vehicle. “There appeared to be a struggle,” court records said.

The person detained, Cleotha Abston, 38, was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence, police said. Abston had been in the SUV used in the abduction, court records said.

Another man, his brother Mario Abston, 36, was also arrested but was not believed to be connected to the abduction, police said. He was charged with drug and weapon possession charges.

A person who was biking in the area around 6:45 a.m. found Fletcher’s cellphone and gave it to her family, who turned it over to the police, court records said. The biker also found a pair of shoes, Champion slides, in the same area.

The shoes were linked by DNA testing to Cleotha Abston, and video evidence also showed him wearing the shoes, court records said. Authorities, relying on cellphone data, tracked Cleotha Abston’s phone to near where Fletcher was forced into the SUV.

Court records said he “declined to provide investigators with the location of the victim.”

Cleotha Abston worked for a cleaning service, his employer confirmed to police. He drives the SUV that was captured in the surveillance footage, the employer also said.

Cleotha Abston is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

Fletcher’s grandfather, Joseph Orgill III, was a billionaire who ran Orgill Inc., a Memphis-based hardware distributor. He died in 2018.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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