Eliza Fletcher, a 34-year-old Memphis teacher, was tragically found dead on September 6th, 2022, after being reported missing just four days prior. Her death was ruled a homicide by the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, with the cause of death being a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
The community was shocked and devastated by the news of Eliza’s death, and the investigation into her murder quickly became a top priority for local law enforcement. Within days, a suspect was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection to her death.
Eliza’s family and friends have been left to grieve the loss of a beloved teacher, daughter, and friend, while the community continues to grapple with the senseless violence that took her life. The details surrounding her abduction and murder are still emerging, but one thing is clear: Eliza Fletcher’s death has left a lasting impact on those who knew her and the community at large.
Background and Personal Life
Eliza Fletcher was a mother of two, a teacher, and an avid runner. She was a kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, a prestigious private school in Memphis, Tennessee. She was also a graduate of Baylor University, where she earned a degree in education.
Early Life and Education
Eliza was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She attended St. Mary’s Episcopal School for her primary and secondary education. After graduating from high school, she went on to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas. While at Baylor, she was an active member of the university’s running club and competed in several races.
Eliza was married to Richard Fletcher III, a prominent lawyer in Memphis. The couple had two children together and were known for their active involvement in the community. Eliza’s love for running was something that she shared with her husband and children, and they often participated in races together.
Eliza was a beloved member of the Memphis community, known for her kindness, dedication to her students, and passion for running. Her tragic death has left a profound impact on those who knew her and has sparked a renewed conversation about safety for runners in the city.
On Friday morning, Eliza Fletcher, a 34-year-old teacher from Memphis, Tennessee, went for a jog in South Memphis. She was reported missing after she did not return home.
Surveillance footage from a nearby parking lot showed a dark-colored GMC Terrain pulling up to Fletcher, and a struggle ensued before she was forced into the passenger side of the vehicle. The vehicle was later identified as belonging to Cleotha Henderson, a 38-year-old man who was charged in connection with Fletcher’s death.
Discovery of Body
On Monday, Fletcher’s body was discovered outside a vacant home roughly 7.5 miles away from where she was abducted. An autopsy revealed that she died from a gunshot wound to the back of her head and had also suffered jaw fractures and blunt force injuries to her head.
The incident has shocked the Memphis community, and Henderson is currently facing several charges in connection with Fletcher’s death. The investigation is ongoing, and authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.
Investigation and Legal Proceedings
Following the discovery of Eliza Fletcher’s body on September 2, 2022, the Memphis Police Department began their investigation. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, including the U.S. Marshals and the FBI, also joined the investigation.
DNA testing was conducted on evidence found at the scene, which ultimately led investigators to Cleotha Abston-Henderson as a suspect.
Arrest and Charges
On September 5, 2022, Cleotha Abston-Henderson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, perpetration of kidnapping, murder in perpetration of kidnapping, aggravated rape, and tampering with evidence.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced on September 8, 2022, that he would seek the death penalty for Abston-Henderson.
During court proceedings, it was revealed that Abston-Henderson had also been indicted on rape charges in a separate case from 2021.
The autopsy report revealed that Eliza Fletcher sustained a gunshot wound to the back of her head from intermediate range and multiple fractures to her face, including jaw fractures. The cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound.
A woman also came forward during court proceedings, stating that Abston-Henderson had raped her but was not properly investigated by police.
the investigation and legal proceedings surrounding the murder of Eliza Fletcher have been ongoing and continue to develop.
Community Response and Aftermath
The community was shocked and outraged by the tragic death of Eliza Fletcher. The news of her abduction and murder spread quickly, and many people expressed their condolences and support for her family and loved ones. Social media was flooded with messages of sympathy and calls for justice.
Several community-led initiatives were also launched in response to the tragedy. “Finish Liza’s Run,” a 5K race, was organized to honor Eliza’s memory and raise awareness about violence against women. The St. Jude Marathon and Boston Marathon also paid tribute to Eliza, with runners wearing her name and dedicating their races to her.
Eliza Fletcher’s legacy lives on through the many lives she touched as a teacher and member of the community. Her passion for education and dedication to her students inspired many, and her memory continues to inspire positive change.
In the aftermath of her death, several legal proceedings took place. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office announced that they would seek the death penalty for Kemper Durand, the man accused of Eliza’s murder. Alicia Franklin, Durand’s girlfriend, was also charged with accessory after the fact.
The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center conducted an autopsy on Eliza’s body, which revealed that she died from a gunshot wound to the back of her head and blunt force injury.
The City of Memphis faced a lawsuit from Eliza’s family, who claimed that the city failed to provide adequate lighting and security in the area where she was abducted. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
the community’s response to Eliza Fletcher’s death was one of grief, but also of resilience and determination to seek justice and honor her memory.
Impact on Safety and Policies
Changes in Safety Measures
The tragic death of Eliza Fletcher has raised concerns about safety measures and policies in the community. Many people are questioning what can be done to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. One of the main issues that has been raised is the need for better safety measures for joggers and runners. Some people have suggested that there should be more streetlights and surveillance cameras installed in high-risk areas.
Another suggestion that has been made is to provide self-defense training for women. This could help women feel more confident and empowered when they are out jogging or walking alone. Additionally, some people have suggested that dating apps should be required to have more stringent safety measures in place to prevent predators from using them to target victims.
The Eliza Fletcher case has also raised questions about the legal system and the due diligence of law enforcement. Many people are calling for more resources to be allocated to the processing of rape kits, which could help identify perpetrators and prevent future crimes. Some people are also calling for stricter gun laws, as the weapon used to kill Eliza Fletcher was obtained illegally.
The case has also sparked a debate about the death penalty. Some people believe that the perpetrator should be put to death, while others believe that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is a more appropriate punishment. The case has also become politicized, with some politicians using it as a platform to push for their own agendas.
the impact of the Eliza Fletcher case on safety measures and policies cannot be overstated. It has raised important questions about how we can better protect our communities and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. While there are no easy answers, it is clear that we need to work together to find solutions that will make our communities safer for everyone.