The family of Memphis hardware heiress Eliza Fletcher broke their silence after police discovered her body on Tuesday.
“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was such a joy to so many — her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her,” her family announced in a statement.
Fletcher, 34, a kindergarten teacher and mother of two, was out jogging early Friday morning when she was allegedly abducted by former felon Cleotha Abston, 38, and forced into his GMC Terrain.
Fletcher was captured being forced into a dark SUV on security video, her water bottle and smashed phone were left behind. Abston’s DNA was discovered on a pair of sandals close to the kidnapping site and his phone was pinged in the area at the same time.
Abston was arrested on Sunday on charges of aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence, after a witness saw him frantically cleaning his SUV. He previously served a 20 year prison sentence for the 2000 kidnapping of Memphis lawyer Kemper Durand, who he took hostage in a similar manner.
He refused to tell law enforcement authorities if the Orgill Inc. heiress was still alive, or give them a location. After an exhaustive search, police confirmed that the remains they found at 5:07 p.m. on Monday behind a vacant duplex belonged to Fletcher.
Law enforcement authorities discovered the body after officers searching a Memphis neighborhood found car tracks in the grass of the duplex, and were able to smell a decaying body. A trash bag containing Fletcher’s running shorts was found 100 feet away.
Abston’s charges were upgraded to first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping.
“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” her family said after the arrest.
“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,” they concluded.