In this photo provided by the Memphis Police Department, 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher is shown. Authorities in Tennessee searched Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, for Fletcher, who police said was abducted and forced into a vehicle while she was jogging near the University of Memphis campus. (Courtesy of Memphis Police Department via AP)

Eliza Fletcher: What we know about the Memphis heiress found dead

Eliza Fletcher, 34, was on her usual morning run near the University of Memphis when she went missing.

Her family have offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for her disappearance after police say she was kidnapped

His body was discovered three days later.

Cleotha Abston, 38, has been loaded with kidnapping and murder.

But who was Eliza Fletcherhow did her family earn their billions and what do we know about how she died?

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Memphis police conduct search after Fletcher goes missing

Who was Mrs. Fletcher?

She worked as a kindergarten teacher at St Mary’s Episcopal School.

The 34-year-old was married to Richard Fletcher III and they had two boys.

His grandfather, the late Joseph Orgill III, was a Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist.

How did the family business become so successful?

Although she came from a wealthy background, Mrs. Fletcher decided to pursue a career in teaching and not in the family business.

His late grandfather was a billionaire who oversaw the enormous growth of a Memphis hardware supply company known as Orgill.

The company is said to be worth over $3bn (£2.6bn) and employ around 5,500 people.

Originally established in 1847, it underwent a series of name and ownership changes before Joe Orgill III became president of the company in the late 1960s.

The company has grown through the acquisition of other businesses and now describes itself as the “world’s largest independent hardline distributor with annual revenue of $3 billion”.

According to the company’s website, it serves more than 11,000 retail stores, centers and dealerships in the United States and Canada.

It also provides its services to outlets in 50 other countries.

Orgill says it is “turning 175” and is headquartered in Collierville, Tennessee.

“Liza touched the hearts of many”

Following her disappearance, her family released a video asking for help in finding her.

In the statement, they also offered a $50,000 reward for information about the case.

“We believe someone knows what happened and can help,” said his uncle Mike Keeney.

After the discovery of his body, his family said they were “heartbroken and devastated” by their “senseless loss”.

“Liza touched the hearts of so many people,” they said, describing her as “such a joy to so many people.”

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared about her so much,” the family statement read.

In a Facebook post, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, where Fletcher taught kindergarten, said teachers and staff started at the chapel on Tuesday and lit candles to remember her as “a light brilliant in our community”.

‘Smell of rot’ and discovery of the purple running shorts

Memphis Police Superintendent Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said it was too early in the investigation to determine how and where Fletcher was killed.

Davis said the body was found behind a vacant duplex. A police affidavit said officers noticed vehicle tracks next to the duplex’s driveway and “smelled a rotting smell.”

Purple running shorts that matched the appearance of those Fletcher was wearing were found in a dumped trash bag nearby, according to the affidavit.

Who is suspect Cleotha Abston?

Cleotha Abston on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Photo: Shelby County Sheriff's Office/AP
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Cleotha Abston on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Photo: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office/AP

Abston, 38, now faces charges of first degree murder and first degree murder in the commission of a kidnapping.

He was arrested by US Marshals on Saturday September 3 after his DNA was found on a pair of sandals near where Fletcher was last seen.

Police also linked the vehicle they believe was used in the kidnapping to a person at a property where Abston was staying.

Abston had previously been sentenced to 24 years in prison for another kidnapping. He was just 16 when he kidnapped Memphis attorney Kemper Durand in 2000.

Mr Durand was able to escape after several hours and Abston was jailed after pleading guilty to kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

Abston allegedly forced Mr. Durand into the trunk of his own car at gunpoint. After several hours, Abston took Mr. Durand out and forced him to a gas station to withdraw cash from an ATM.

Mr Durand died in 2013 but he said in a statement to the court that he was ‘extremely lucky’ to have been able to get away from Abston, adding: ‘It is very likely that I would have been killed if I hadn’t escaped.”

According to Mr Durand’s statement, Abston had also been charged with a number of offenses prior to his abduction, including aggravated assault with a weapon and rape, some of which dated back to age 12.

Abston did not serve his full sentence and was released after 20 years.

Some prominent Tennessee Republicans were quick to argue that if Abston had served his full sentence, Fletcher would still be alive.

Eliza Fletcher: What we know about the Memphis heiress found dead

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