Body found during search for Memphis heiress allegedly kidnapped while jogging


An unidentified body has been found in Memphis, Tennessee during the search for the missing heiress Eliza Fletcher, US police have confirmed.

Authorities have said that the deceased’s identity and cause of death is yet to be confirmed as they continue their investigation.

The discovery comes after a man, Cleotha Abston, 38, was charged on Saturday as a suspect of Fletcher’s kidnapping and for tampering with evidence after his DNA was detected on a pair of Champion slide sandals at the place of her disappearance.

The 34-year-old heiress and teacher disappeared around 4.20am while jogging around the University of Memphis on Friday morning, when a person is thought to have forced her into a dark sport-utility vehicle, US police said.

A vehicle thought to be used for the alleged kidnapping has been linked to a person in a property where the suspect, Abston, was staying.

Fletcher, who is the granddaughter of the late businessman and philanthropist Joseph Orgill III, is thought to have been seriously injured during the incident, police previously said, based on surveillance footage.

Memphis police stated in an email on Monday night that “the investigation into the abduction is ongoing” and that “once additional info is available, we will advise”.

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Reports came to light that the suspect, Abston, had previously been charged with another kidnapping when he was 16 years of age.

Abston was arrested and jailed for 24 years for abducting and robbing Memphis lawyer Kemper Durand in 2000 and later released from prison in 2020.

Mr Durand had managed to escape after a few hours and has since passed away in 2013.

In a statement published by the Commercial Appeal, Mr Durand said: “My feelings about being the victim of this crime, and the feelings of those around me, are that I was extremely lucky that I was able to escape from the custody of Cleotha Abston.

Cleotha Abston on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Pic: Shelby County Sheriff's Office/AP
Cleotha Abston on Saturday, 3 September. Pic: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office/AP

“I had been taken from the trunk of my car, where he and his co-defendant had placed me for a number of hours, and made to drive to the Mapco station.

“The purpose was that I was to use my ATM card to get cash for Cleotha Abston.”

He added: “It was very fortunate that an armed, uniformed Memphis Housing Authority guard happened to come into the Mapco station while Cleotha Abston, Marquette Cobbins (the second defendant) and I were using the ATM machine.

“It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped.”

Mr Durand had told the court that Cobbins had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had tried to convince Abston to stop.

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