On Sept. 2, Tennessee teacher Eliza Fletcher was out for an early morning jog when she was abducted near the University of Memphis, WREG reported. After a suspect driving a GMC Terrain wrestled her into the vehicle and fled the scene, police officers found it a race against time to find Fletcher. Unfortunately, her body was discovered four days later via Fox 13.
After Fletcher’s disappearance caught the attention of true-crime podcasters and social media users, it wasn’t long before people began drawing parallels between Fletcher and travel vlogger Gabby Petito, whose boyfriend Brian Laundrie pre-dated of his act in a written statement to have killed her suicide, per people.
Some Twitter users suggested that the missing persons cases from both Petito and Fletcher have only received so much attention because of their looks and background. According to the New York Post, the Fletcher family owns Orgill Inc., a multi-billion dollar hardware company. “How exactly do the 600,000+ people who go missing each year get the same coverage? What about the 300,000+ white women who aren’t rich or pretty (or caught on video) who don’t get the same coverage as Eliza Fletcher & Gabby Petito? Or other races? Or the males? read a tweet. Others immediately turned their attention to Fletcher’s husband. “In the Eliza Fletcher case, I feel like the husband has something to do with it. I could be wrong but it’s how I feel,” one wrote. However, an update on the case prompted some investigators to apologize for their theories.
Twitter criticized Eliza Fletcher’s husband
According to Fox News, it was Eliza Fletcher’s husband, Richard Fletcher III, who reported her missing. He appeared alongside other members of Eliza’s family in a video (above) posted to the WREG Twitter account, wiping tears as Eliza’s uncle read a statement. Some Twitter users were convinced his crying wasn’t real. “Husband keeps rubbing chili powder in eyes,” one person wrote. “Husband touches his face a lot,” wrote Linda Hogan, ex-wife of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, on Twitter.
But on Sept. 4, police arrested a suspect named Cleotha Abston on kidnapping charges, according to Fox 13. Abston reportedly did not want to cooperate with police and reveal Eliza’s whereabouts, but her body was soon found not far from where Abston was seen cleaning a vehicle Authorities identified the premises of GMC where Eliza’s kidnapper had driven.
News of Abston’s arrest caused some Twitter users to address those who had jumped to conclusions about Eliza’s husband. “Your husband deserves an apology from the internet sleuths who heard a rumor and ran off with it,” one person wrote. But even in their apologies and admissions that they were wrong in their assumptions, there were netizens who continued to speculate wildly about Richard. “I apologize to the husband unless you hired this guy,” one tweet said. “Oddly her very wealthy grandfather just died and she probably stands or wanted to inherit a lot of dollars,” tweeted another skeptic. “Did anyone really examine the husband?”
Eliza Fletcher’s alleged killer previously spent time in prison
During a news conference, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy addressed the rampant rumors surrounding Eliza Fletcher’s death. “Contrary to all the unfounded speculation you may have seen, we have no reason to believe this was anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger,” he said, per Action News 5.
Eliza’s alleged killer was arrested for kidnapping back in 2000, according to the Associated Press (via ABC News). Cleotha Abston spent two decades behind bars after pulling a gun on Memphis attorney Kemper Durand and holding him captive in the trunk of his vehicle while he drove to another location. Abston, who was 16 at the time, eventually attempted to force Durand to withdraw from an ATM at a gas station, but the kidnapper fled when Durand screamed to alert an armed guard within earshot of what was happening. In relation to Eliza’s death, Abston also faces first-degree murder charges in addition to kidnapping charges, according to Fox 13.
According to Memphis Magazine, Eliza and Richard Fletcher III first met at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, where they were married in March 2014. “There hasn’t been another wedding like this in Memphis,” the event planners said. The couple’s pastor told Commercial Appeal that church is an important part of the Fletchers’ lives, adding heartbreakingly, “They have two little boys who come up to me every week and give me a hug.” Fletcher also leaves behind the many students, whose life she touched while teaching at St. Mary’s Episcopal School.