MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A judge has revoked bond for the man arrested in connection with the abduction of Memphis mother Eliza Fletcher.
Cleotha Abston, whose legal last name is Henderson, faces additional charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping, according to the Memphis Police Department (MPD).
Abston made his first court appearance on the kidnapping and tampering with evidence charges on Tuesday morning at 201 Poplar, where he told the judge he cannot afford to make his $500,000 bond and cannot afford an attorney.
He appeared in court again Wednesday morning for the charges of first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping.
The judge announced Abston’s $500,000 bond had been revoked and he is being held without bond.
He appeared in court again Thursday morning, where the judge brought to the court’s attention there possibly might be a conflict of interest, and there was a motion to review the appointed public defender.
However, after some discussion Judge Montesi said there is “no reason” to disqualify the public defender assigned to the case.
Abston-Henderson will be back in court Monday, Sept. 19.
The judge will assign a new attorney to represent Abston.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, MPD Chief Cerelyn Davis said hundreds of tips had come in following Fletcher’s abduction.
Davis said it’s too early in the investigation to determine the exact manner and location of Fletcher’s death, and that Abston is still uncooperative with investigators.
Multiple law enforcement officials expressed their condolences to Fletcher’s family during the press conference.
A representative from the US Marshals said the agency helped with the search for Fletcher all day Sunday and Monday.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Fletcher’s kidnapping and killing appears to be an isolated attack by a stranger.
Tuesday evening, in a thread of Tweets, Mulroy said, “I want to offer the condolences of both my office and myself personally to the family of Eliza Fletcher. To lose someone so young and vital is a tragedy, but to have it result from a senseless act of violence is unimaginable. Both law enforcement and our office were in contact with the family through the weekend. They’ve been fully cooperative. I have a message from the family to both the public and the media: Please respect their privacy. Please allow them to grieve. Any murder is a tragedy. Any murder in our jurisdiction is high priority. All deserve our care and best efforts. This one has triggered an extraordinary outpouring of public concern which motivates this message. We will work to do justice in this case and all other cases in the hopes we can prevent such tragedies.”
During Tuesday morning’s press conference, Mulroy said the family was notified Tuesday morning of the positive ID of her body.
They then released the following statement:
“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was a such a joy to so many - her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her.
Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her. We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. 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.
We hope that everyone, including media representatives, understand the need for the family to grieve in privacy without outside intrusion during this painful time.”
Fletcher was kidnapped while jogging near the University of Memphis on Sept. 2, according to police.
Monday evening, police confirmed a body was found in an area near Victor Street and Person Avenue around 5 p.m.
The next morning, police confirmed the body was that of Fletcher, a 34-year-old teacher at St. Mary’s.
Police have not confirmed a cause of death.
St. Mary’s released the following statement through Facebook:
We are heartbroken at the loss of our beloved teacher, colleague, and friend Liza Fletcher. Our hearts are with the Fletcher, Orgill, and Wellford families.
This morning our faculty and staff started the day in chapel. We lit candles to remember Liza who was a bright light in our community. Liza embodied the song that we sing every week in Early Childhood chapel, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
We continue to draw strength from our all-school read, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. “‘We don’t know about tomorrow,’ said the horse, ‘all we need to know is that we love each other.’”
Her body was found within walking distance from Longview Gardens apartments, where Abston allegedly cleaned a GMC Terrain hours after Fletcher’s abduction.
Authorities said that was the same GMC Terrain used to kidnap Fletcher in the area of Central Avenue and Zach Curlin.
An excerpt from a police affidavit reads:
“As the abduction was violent with, as captured on video, the suspect waiting for, then rushing towards the victim, then forcing the victim into the car, where she was confined and removed and continues to be missing, it is believed and supported by the facts and physical evidence that she suffered serious injury. Further, it is probable and apparent from witness statements that these injuries left evidence of blood in the car the defendant cleaned.”
Abston was initially charged with kidnapping Fletcher, and police said he would not tell them where she was located.
Court records show that Abston was previously charged with aggravated kidnapping in June of 2000. He was sentenced to 24 years but was eligible for release after 85 percent of that sentence was served.
Fletcher’s family had offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to her return.
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