MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)– Eliza Fletcher’s loved ones released a montage of videos showing the slain teacher playfully interacting with students at St. Mary’s Episcopal School during the pandemic.
The video is just under three minutes long, but it’s how her family members want the world to remember the 34-year-old runner and mother of two young boys.
Fletcher taught kindergarten at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis. Administrators at the school said they are dealing with the grief and providing counseling to help their students deal with the tragedy.
On Tuesday, police in Tennessee said they had found the body of a Memphis woman abducted during a pre-dawn run, confirming fears that Fletcher was killed after she was forced into an SUV on Friday morning.
After police identified Fletcher’s body, her family released this statement:
“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was such a joy to so many – her family, friends, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation, and everyone who knew her. Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her. We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. We are grateful beyond measure to local, state, and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.”
They also acknowledged the “need for the family to grieve in privacy without outside intrusion during this painful time.”
U.S. Marshals arrested Cleotha Abston, 38, on Saturday after police detected his DNA on a pair of sandals found near where Fletcher was last seen, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police did not find Fletcher’s body until just after 5 p.m. on Monday and did not publicly confirm that the body was Fletcher’s until Tuesday morning.
Fletcher attended Baylor University and Belmont University, where she graduated in 2012 with a Master of Arts degree in teaching. In 2014, her lavish wedding to Richie Fletcher was featured in Memphis magazine.
Fletcher was the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, who ran Orgill Inc., a hardware supply company. Forbes listed Orgill as the 143rd-largest private company in the country in 2021.
Fletcher’s case is the latest that reinforces the fears of many female athletes when it comes to working out alone, at night or in secluded places. Crime statistics show these types of attacks are exceedingly rare. Women out for a run face much greater dangers from traffic. But the fear they inspire is real, as are smaller-scale episodes of harassment or assaults on women, even in well-populated areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.