The man accused of kidnapping a Memphis heiress had previously been sentenced to 24 years in prison for another kidnapping.

Cleotha Abston, 38, was arrested Saturday by US marshals after her DNA was detected on a pair of sandals near where Eliza Fletcher was last seen.

Police also linked the vehicle they believe was used in the kidnapping to a person on property where Abston was located, according to an affidavit of arrest.

Ms. Fletcher was abducted while jogging near the University of Memphis around 4am on Friday.

The 34-year-old teacher was not found.

Police said they believe she was seriously injured during the kidnapping, based on what they saw in surveillance footage.

But it transpired that Abston was only 16 when he kidnapped a Memphis attorney, Kemper Durand, in 2000.

Mr. Durand managed to escape after a few hours and Abston was jailed for 24 years after pleading guilty to particularly aggravated kidnapping and robbery.

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

“It is very likely that I would have been killed if I had not escaped”

Mr. Durand died in 2013 but in a statement to the court he said he was “extremely lucky” to have managed to escape from Abston, adding, “It is very likely that I would have been killed if I had not escaped.”

In a statement published by Commercial Appeal, he said, “My feelings of being the victim of this crime, and the feelings of those around me, are that I have been extremely fortunate to have managed to escape Cleotha Abston’s custody.

“I was picked up from the trunk of my car, where he and his co-defendant had put me for a number of hours, and driven to Mapco station.

“The purpose was to use my ATM card to get cash for Cleotha Abston.

“It was fortunate that an armed and uniformed guard from the Memphis Housing Authority entered the Mapco station while Cleotha Abston, Marquette Cobbins (the second defendant) and I were using the ATM.

“It’s very likely I would have been killed if I hadn’t escaped.”

Reward of $ 50,000 offered by the woman’s family

Mr. Durand had told the court that Cobbins had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had tried to get Abston to stop.

According to Mr. Durand’s statement, Abston had also been charged with a number of crimes prior to his kidnapping, including aggravated assault with a weapon and rape, some of which dated back to when he was only 12 years old.

Abston was released from prison in 2020.

He is expected to appear in court on Tuesday, accused of particularly aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the disappearance of Mrs. Fletcher.

On Friday, Ms Fletcher’s family offered a $ 50,000 (£ 43,000) reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for her disappearance.

She is the granddaughter of the late Joseph Orgill III, a hardware businessman and philanthropist from Memphis.

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