Will Cleotha Abston get the death sentence? Eliza Fletcher murder suspect charged with first-degree murder

Cleotha Abston, who has been charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence in connection to the disappearance of Eliza Fletcher, reportedly has a violent history of rape, assault and kidnapping. The 38-year-old is currently being held on a $510K bond whereas, his brother Mario Abston is being held in the Shelby County Jail in Memphis on unrelated charges.

Eliza Fletcher went missing on Friday, September 2, after going for a jog at 4.20 am. Her body was found Tuesday, September 6. The body was found about a hundred yards from the Longview Gardens apartment complex where Abston’s brother Mario lives. According to Fox News, Abston’s criminal past began at a young age. At 16, he was only 16 when he began a 20-year prison term for kidnapping another victim at gunpoint.

Abston was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher's disappearance  (Instagram@lizawfletcher and Facebook/Memphis Police Department)
Abston was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence following Fletcher’s disappearance (Instagram@lizawfletcher and Facebook/Memphis Police Department)


Cleotha Abston’s criminal past

Fox News reported that Cleotha Abston has been earlier charged with aggravated assault and rape. He reportedly told investigators that he dropped out of school after ninth grade. However, no evidence was found that he attended his stated high school at all. Speaking of his criminal past, Abston at the age of 16 kidnapped a Memphis lawyer named Kemper Durand (now deceased) at gunpoint.

According to the court documents, he threw him in the trunk of his own car and drove him around to various ATMs, demanding he withdraw cash, court documents show. At the age of 16, Abston pleaded guilty and served about 20 years of a 24-year sentence. Kemper Durand later detailed Abston’s record, noting how he had appeared in juvenile court records in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. The report did not detail if he was convicted or exactly what led to the charges, including the alleged rape.


Durand in his 2001 victim impact statement revealed that Abston showed no remorse, further stating, “It took Cleotha Abston from June 2000 to September 2000, some 15 months, to get around to pleading guilty to the crime to which he confessed on May 29, 2000.” Durand added, “He rejected a plea agreement because he ‘didn’t want to sign for any time.’ This, I understand, is jailhouse braggadocio-being a tough guy and showing off to the other jail inmates.”

Will Cleotha Abston get the death sentence?

The sentence is decided by the jury and must be unanimous when the prosecution seeks the death penalty. However, in the case of a hung jury during the penalty phase of the trial, a life sentence is issued, even if only a single juror opposed death. There is no retrial.

It is yet to be confirmed whether Abston will get the death penalty or not. The Department of Correction on their website states that capital punishment has existed in Tennessee off and on throughout its history but its methods have changed.


The death penalty became legal in the state again in 1978 and the offenders sitting on death row from 1960 to 1978 had their sentences commuted mostly to life. The website revealed that today, offenders who are sentenced to death are primarily housed in a separate unit at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

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