Memphis heiress Eliza Fletcher died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head, autopsy confirms
Memphis billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head and blunt force trauma, an autopsy report has confirmed.
The mother-of-two was kidnapped and violently bundled into the back of an SUV by while out jogging on a pre-dawn jog at 4.30am on September 2.
Convicted felon Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, has been charged with kidnapping and murdering the 34-year-old after allegedly forcing her into his GMC terrain.
Her disappearance sparked a four-day search, which led officers to several wooded areas across Memphis.
She was discovered by the steps of a dilapidated one-story property just yards from where police last spotted the vehicle she was forced into.
Memphis billionaire heiress Eliza Fletcher died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head and blunt force trauma, an autopsy report has confirmed
Fletcher was last seen about 4.20am when she was jogging (right) in Memphis and a man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle, police said
Convicted felon Cleotha Abston-Henderson, 38, has been charged with kidnapping and murdering the 34-year-old after allegedly forcing her into his GMC terrain
A map illustrating the scale of the citywide search for Eliza Fletcher in Memphis
After a four-day search in September, Eliza Fletcher’s body was discovered near a dilapidated home, just yards from where police last spotted the vehicle she was forced into
Fletcher’s disappearance sparked a four-day search, which led officers to several wooded areas across Memphis. She was discovered by the steps of a dilapidated one-story property just yards from where police last spotted the vehicle she was forced into
A bloodstain remained at the bottom of the stairs next to the patch of dirt where her body was found, with flies still swarming the area and locals reporting a ‘stench of decay’.
The autopsy report was released by the West Tennessee Forensic Center on Thursday, according to ABC24 Memphis.
The report found that she died of a gunshot wound and blunt force injury to the back the head. Her manner of death was ruled a homicide.
She also had blunt-force injuries to her leg and jaw fractures, according to the autopsy completed by the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center in Memphis.
At the time Fletcher, an elementary school teacher was found, her body was in a moderate to advanced stage of decomposition.
A toxicology report also revealed that 10ng/ml of fentanyl was found in Fletcher’s system, according to Action5News.
Henderson pleaded not guilty to the murder but has not yet answered the rape charges
Abeston was seen swaying from side to side in court as he was brought in, and turned around to look at those attending court for his hearing
Fletcher was out running on the University of Memphis campus when she was forced into a vehicle after a struggle about 4am on September 2.
Police said her body was found September 5 behind a vacant home after a massive police search lasting more than three days
In the case of Fletcher’s abduction, Cleotha Abston-Henderson was identified as a suspect in just 18 hours, after a sandal left at the crime scene came back with a match to his DNA.
His DNA was already in police databases due to a prior felony conviction.
Henderson previously served 20 years in prison for a kidnapping he committed at age 16.
Henderson has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the case. He has not entered a plea, and his lawyer has declined requests for comment.
The disappearance of Eliza Fletcher
September 2, 4.30am: Fletcher, 34, goes for a jog near the University of Memphis campus and is bundled into a dark SUV
7.45am: Officers are dispatched after husband Richard reports his disappearance. They find her water battle and smashed cell phone in front of a home near the scene
September 3: Cops tow her family car from her home. Investigators were also seen to label a pair of garden shears and a computer as evidence. They scour a local park and release CCTV of GMC Terrain
Cleo Abston, 38, is arrested with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He was identified as the owner of the black SUV. He was apprehended after he was involved in a car wreck with an Alcohol Tobacco Firearms vehicle on Saturday night. It is later revealed he was recently released from a 20-year sentence for a similar crime
September 4: Abston is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence
September 5: Cops search pond and park. New charges are filed against Abston of identity theft, theft of property and fraudulent use/illegal possession of credit/debit card of $1000 or less
A body is found near Abston’s brother’s home. It has not been confirmed as Fletcher’s
The case sparked a nationwide outpouring of sadness and anger.
Earlier this month, in cities across the country, hundreds of joggers met at the same morning hour Fletcher was kidnapped, to ‘finish her run’ in her honor and make clear that ‘women should be able to run safely any time of day.’
To those who say Fletcher was tempting fate by going out alone so early, in a city considered unsafe, ‘it’s time to stop blaming women for getting murdered while running,’ said Christa Sgobba in a story in Self Magazine.
Melissa A. Sullivan, a marathon runner, described in The Washington Post how she was tired of constantly having to be on alert.
‘Like so many other women, I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted by the expectation that the onus to prevent the harassment and intimidation of female runners is, should be and always will be on us,’ she wrote in an op-ed.
The violent death of Fletcher, a mother with a big smile who has been described as an exemplary Christian, was quickly branded by some right-wing commentators as a sign of social decay under the left’s leadership.
Tucker Carlson, a star anchor at conservative-favored Fox News, made Fletcher an allegory for ‘the fall of Memphis, law and order.’
Conservative influencer Candace Owens, known for denouncing ‘wokeness’ among other things to her four million Instagram followers, urged Fox News viewers living in inner city areas to flee, insisting those neighborhoods are infested with criminals.
‘This is not a joke,’ she said. ‘Do not wait for politicians to rescue you. Rescue yourself, and get out of these Democrat-controlled cities.’
For some conservatives, Fletcher’s case is a reflection of the ‘culture wars’ brewing in the United States in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement.
Fletcher was white, but her suspected killer, Cleotha Henderson, is black.
Apart from these debates, Fletcher’s death has also resurfaced a recurring problem in the United States: a DNA sample from an unrelated rape case turned out to match Henderson.
The rape occurred in September 2021, but the sexual assault kit was only processed in June.
Missing mother Eliza Fletcher pictured with her husband Richie and their two children
The scene showing the search for Fletcher just prior to the announcement of the grisly discovery