Image: Cleotha “Pookie” Abston Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Corrections & Memphis Police Department
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Memphis police have positively identified a body found Monday as that of Eliza Fletcher, a kindergarten teacher who has been missing since being kidnapped during a morning run last week. The man accused of her abduction and murder has a violent past filled with charges of rape, assault, and kidnapping.
According to reports, Eliza Fletcher went jogging around 4:30 a.m. last Friday near the campus of the University of Memphis. Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a billionaire hardware company president. Initial suspicions thought money could be a factor in her disappearance, but police later said it was an “isolated attack by a stranger.”
Camera footage from the area shows a man running “aggressively” towards her and then forcing her into a black GMC Terrain. A pair of slides was found near the scene. DNA on the slides hit a match in the CODIS database, leading police to investigate 38-year-old Cleotha “Pookie” Abston, a man who had previously served 22 years in jail for kidnapping.
One clue after another led police closer to honing in on Abston and resulted in his arrest. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence, among other charges. The discovery of Fletcher’s body in the back of a vacant duplex led to additional charges of first-degree murder, premeditated murder, and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping.
Abston is currently being held in the Shelby County Jail on a $510,000 bond. He told the judge on Tuesday that he is unable to afford his bond or an attorney.
This is not Abston’s first run-in with the law. In fact, he has been in and out of police custody since around the age of 13. His record begins in 1995 and shows that he was in court every single year through 1999 with charges including “theft, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a weapon, and rape.” The rape was committed when he was just 14 years old.
John Kelly, a criminal profiler and psychotherapist, spoke with Fox News Digital: “The thing about these sexual predators, it seems it doesn’t matter how much time they do. When they get out, they’re back on the hunt.”
At the age of 16, Abston abducted lawyer Kemper Durand at gunpoint and forced him into his own trunk. Abston then took Durand to several ATMs, forcing him to withdraw cash for Abston. Durand escaped when Abston took him to a Mapco gas station where a uniformed guard walked in. Durand shouted for help, and Abston ran away.
Abston was caught and eventually pleaded guilty in the case, resulting in a 24-year sentence. He served just over 20 years of that sentence and was released in November 2000.
Kelly says it is common for repeat offenses to become more violent in nature.
“By leaving a victim alive, the victim became a witness and testified against him. And then he got prison time…it’s real plain and simple, and I’ve seen this with a lot of guys in their histories.”
The crime has left the Fletcher’s family “heartbroken at the loss” and the Memphis community “impacted by the tragic and heinous kidnapping.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com