Judge Sets Trial in Memphis Teacher's Slaying

Eliza Fletcher was abducted while on a morning run
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2022 11:22 PM CDT
Updated Jun 17, 2024 5:50 PM CDT
Eliza Fletcher's Cause of Death Is Revealed
In this undated photo provided by the Memphis Police Department, 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher, of Memphis, Tenn., is shown.   (Courtesy of Memphis Police Department via AP, File)
UPDATE Jun 17, 2024 5:50 PM CDT

A trial was scheduled Monday for a man charged in the kidnapping and killing of Eliza Fletcher, a schoolteacher attacked while on an early morning run in Memphis in 2022. Cleotha Abston, who also has gone by Cleotha Henderson, will be tried Feb. 10 for first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and other charges, a judge decided, according to court records. If Abston is convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty, the AP reports. Last month, he was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the rape of a woman in 2021.

Sep 29, 2022 11:22 PM CDT

Eliza Fletcher's cause of death has been revealed via her autopsy report. The Memphis teacher, who was abducted and forced into a vehicle during her early-morning run on Sept. 2, suffered jaw fractures and a gunshot wound to the rear of her head, reports the AP. Fox 13 cites the autopsy report as saying she was shot from an intermediate range, and CNN has these lines from the report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center: "Autopsy examination revealed a perforating gunshot wound of the head. Based on all the currently known and available information, the cause of death is gunshot wound and blunt force injury of the head and the manner of death is homicide."

The autopsy specified Fletcher also sustained blunt force injuries to her right leg; one measured a quarter-of-an-inch and the other one-and-a-quarter inches. Cleotha Henderson has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the case. Fletcher's partially decomposed body was found after a three-day search. The Commercial Appeal reports the autopsy lists the date of her death as Sept. 5, when her remains were found; it does not provide any detail on when or where she was killed. The autopsy notes that while a rape kit was taken during the autopsy, there was "no overt evidence" of injuries that would indicate sexual assault. (More Eliza Fletcher stories.)

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