‘Always had a smile’: Funeral for Eliza Fletcher held Saturday

Mid-South

Eliza Fletcher

(NewsNation) — Funeral services for Eliza Fletcher were held Saturday at a church in Memphis.

The Commercial Appeal reported that all the parking lots surrounding Second Presbyterian Church Saturday morning were full. Family and friends lined up to pay their respects in church. According to the newspaper, it’s the same church where Fletcher married her husband, Richard, in 2014.

“Liza was a light to all who knew her. Her contagious smile and laughter could brighten any room,” her obituary read. “Liza was pure of heart and innocent in ways that made her see the very best in everyone she met. To know her was to love her and to be loved by her.”

Fletcher, a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School and a mother of two, was abducted during a routine jog around 4 a.m. Sept. 2 near the University of Memphis. A man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle, authorities said. Fletcher was reported missing after she did not return home.

Fletcher’s body was eventually found in the rear of a vacant duplex apartment after an exhaustive search that lasted more than three days.

Cleotha Abston, 38, the only suspect in Fletcher’s disappearance, was arrested after police found his DNA on a pair of sandals found near where Fletcher was last seen.

Abston was initially charged with aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Police later upgraded the charges to first-degree murder and first-degree murder in perpetration of kidnapping.

Abston had already spent 22 years behind bars for a previous kidnapping, according to court records.

“We are heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss. Liza was such a joy to so many — her family, colleagues, students, parents, members of her Second Presbyterian Church congregation and everyone that knew her,” Fletcher’s family said in a statement Tuesday.

Fletcher played soccer for the University of Memphis, according to her obituary, and her passion for sports “extended from childhood teams to collegiate competition to excellence in marathons in adulthood.”

Her former coach at the University of Memphis, Brooks Monaghan, wrote in an open letter that Fletcher “literally always had a smile on her face,” NewsNation local affiliate WREG said.

“As a soccer player, she was very athletic and had track-like speed. She was just a worker,” Monaghan said. “She always looked at things as the glass being half-full, not half-empty. Her attitude was infectious.”

WREG said in honor of Fletcher, thousands gathered in the streets of Midtown Memphis and finished the 8.2-mile run she was taking before her abduction.

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