Tennessee man accused in Eliza Fletcher slaying convicted in 2021 rape of different woman

Cleotha Abston was found guilty on Friday of kidnapping and raping a woman a year before Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was murdered

The Tennessee man accused of kidnapping and killing a Memphis teacher in 2022 was found guilty on Friday of kidnapping and raping a different woman a year prior.

Cleotha Abston, 40, was convicted by a Memphis jury on three counts of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping and unlawful possession of a weapon, according to The Daily Memphian via The Associated Press. 

The crime took place on Sept. 21, 2021, after the woman agreed to meet Abston at his apartment after connecting with him on a dating website. She reported that he held her at gunpoint, covered her face with a T-shirt and walked her outside to a vehicle where he raped her in the backseat.

The victim reportedly testified on Tuesday that she complied because she "didn't want to die."  


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FILE - Cleotha Abston appears in court for his arraignment on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee, after being charged with the kidnapping and murder of jogger Eliza Fletcher. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

Abston, who is charged in the murder of 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher after allegedly kidnapping her during her morning run on Sept. 2, 2022, was not charged in the 2021 rape case until he was charged in Fletcher's death because of a delay in processing the first woman's sexual assault kit.

The victim in the 2021 case sued the city of Memphis on allegations that its police department did not investigate her case properly, but the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, the AP reported.

Memphis police car

The victim in the 2021 rape case against Cleotha Abston, Eliza Fletcher's alleged killer, sued the city of Memphis after claiming Memphis police did not investigate her report properly. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge. (Fox News Digital)

The Tennessee legislature passed a law after Fletcher's death requiring that the state Bureau of Investigation issue quarterly reports on sexual assault kit testing times.


Prior to Abston's trial for the 2021 rape, his lawyer, Juni Ganguli, filed a change of venue motion asking that jurors from the Nashville area hear the case instead of jurors from Memphis because of heavy media coverage, prompting concerns Abston wouldn't receive a fair trial.

Eliza Fletcher with family and posing for a selfie

Abston is accused of kidnapping and killing Eliza Fletcher, 34, in September 2022. Fletcher was a kindergarten teacher, wife and mother of two, and an avid runner. (Canale Funeral Directors; Liza Fletcher/Instagram)

Shelby County Judge Lee Coffee denied the request in January.

Abston has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and killing Fletcher, who was a kindergarten teacher, a wife and mother of two, and an avid runner.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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