In an early morning tweet, Memphis Police said 38-year-old Cleotha Abston is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Police did not give more information on Abston or any prior connection to Fletcher.
The arrest came roughly 12 hours after police announced they had found the GMC Terrain they said was used in Fletcher’s abduction early Friday morning as she jogged on the University of Memphis campus.
The disappearance of Fletcher, a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis and mother of two, set off a large-scale search involving Memphis Police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.
Fletcher’s family released a video statement Saturday afternoon urging anyone with information to contact Crimestoppers with any information.
“The family has met with police, and we have shared with them all the information we know. More than anything, we want to see Liza returned home safely,” Fletcher’s uncle, Mike Keeney said.
Memphis and university police said Fletcher was forced into a dark SUV after a brief struggle. Police said the vehicle appears to be a dark-colored GMC Terrain.
Fletcher was reported missing at about 7 a.m. Friday. The FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation joined the investigation and law enforcement released grainy images of Fletcher running and the dark SUV believed to be the one she was forced into. Fletcher, who is 5′ 6″ tall, weighs 137 pounds, and has brown hair, was wearing purple shorts and a pink sports bra.
Her family is offering a $50,000 reward through Crimestoppers and said in a statement Friday night they are praying for Fletcher’s safe return.
Her church, Second Presbyterian, just blocks away from where she was last seen, opened its sanctuary for prayer. Dozens came, a church staff member said. The parking lot was full Friday afternoon.
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The church’s senior pastor, George Robertson, noted in an interview Friday that Fletcher’s kidnapping was not the first in Memphis this year or even this week.
“Someday we’ll eliminate this kind of tragedy,” Robertson said. “We also grieve the abduction that occurred a couple of days ago near Wolfchase. We grieve all of this kind of violence and evil in our city. It just makes us grieve. We grieve for ourselves, we grieve for the Fletchers and we also grieve for our city. Our whole city is hurting.”
Three children were abducted in Whitehaven on Sept. 2 and were later found three miles away. A mother and her one-year-old were abducted last weekend near Wolfchase and forced to withdraw money from an ATM before being released. And on Aug. 18, two children were kidnapped and later recovered by police in South Memphis.
There have been at least 100 incidents classified as kidnapping in Memphis this year, according to public safety data posted on the city’s website.