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Man charged in abduction of Memphis heiress previously jailed for another kidnapping

The man charged with abducting a Memphis heiress was previously sentenced to 24 years in jail for another kidnapping.

Cleotha Abston, 38, was arrested by US Marshals on Saturday after his DNA was detected on a pair of sandals near where Eliza Fletcher was last seen.

Police have also linked the vehicle they believe was used in the kidnapping to a person at a property where Abston was staying, according to an arrest affidavit.

Ms Fletcher was snatched while jogging near the University of Memphis at about 4am on Friday.

The 34-year-old teacher has not been found.

Police said they believe she was seriously injured during the abduction, based on what they have seen in surveillance footage.

But it has emerged that Abston was just 16 when he abducted a Memphis lawyer, Kemper Durand, in 2000.

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Mr Durand was able to escape after a number of hours, and Abston was jailed for 24 years after pleading guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

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

‘It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped’

Mr Durand died in 2013 but he had said in a statement to the court that he was “extremely lucky” to have been able to get away from Abston, adding: “It is quite likely that I would have been killed had I not escaped.”

In a statement published by the Commercial Appeal, he 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.

“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.

“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.”

$50,000 reward offered by woman’s family

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.

According to Mr Durand’s statement, Abston had also been charged with a number of offences before his kidnapping, including aggravated assault with a weapon, and rape, some of which went back to when he was just 12.

Abston was released from prison in 2020.

He is due to appear in court on Tuesday, charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the disappearance of Ms Fletcher.

On Friday, Ms Fletcher’s family offered a $50,000 (£43,000) reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for her disappearance.

She is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist.

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