Eliza Fletcher to be buried at church where met and married husband

Memphis heiress Eliza Fletcher will be laid to rest at church where she met and married her husband – and is remembered by her fellow congregants as someone who ‘truly walked and modeled the Christian life’

  • Eliza Fletcher, 34, was kidnapped and murdered on September 4 – snatched at 4.30am during her regular run through Memphis 
  • On Saturday her funeral will be held at Second Presbyterian Church at 10.00am – the church where she met and married her husband, Richard
  • The family requests those wishing to pay tribute make a donation to a memorial fund set up at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, where she taught kindergarten
  • They also mentioned donations at Christ Methodist Day School, and Second Presbyterian Church
  • In her obituary, announcing the funeral, her family said ‘she truly walked and modeled the Christian life and trusted in her unwavering faith’
  • They wrote: ‘Liza was a light to all who knew her. Her contagious smile and laughter could brighten any room’
  • Cleotha Abston, 38, a career criminal who served 20 years for another kidnapping, has been charged with her abduction and murder  

Eliza Fletcher, 34, was kidnapped and murdered on September 2. Her funeral will be held on Saturday

Eliza Fletcher’s funeral will be held on Saturday, her family has announced – at the Memphis church where she met and married her husband.

The 34-year-old beloved kindergarten teacher was kidnapped and murdered last week – abducted as she went on her usual 4.30am run through Memphis. A 38-year-old career criminal who served 20 years in prison for kidnapping, Cleotha Abston, has been charged with her murder.

On Thursday the family confirmed the details of her funeral, which will be held at 10am at Second Presbyterian Church.

Fletcher met her husband Richard at the church, and the pair were married there in March 2014.

Eliza Fletcher is seen on her March 2014 wedding day, with her new husband Richard. The pair met at Second Presbyterian Church

Eliza Fletcher’s funeral will be held on Saturday at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis (pictured) – where she met and married her husband, Richard

Fletcher pictured with her husband Richie and their two children. The family described her as a ‘special’ woman who was taken away from them in a ‘senseless’ manner

The pair became parents to what her obituary described as ‘two rambunctious, joyful boys Richard James Fletcher IV and Harry Wellford Fletcher.’

The obituary stated: ‘She loved her family fiercely and unconditionally. Together as a family, they enjoyed outdoor adventures including boating, water sports, hiking, running, and biking. She was deeply admired by her family and friends for her passionate dedication to motherhood.’

The family also praised her strong faith.

‘She truly walked and modeled the Christian life and trusted in her unwavering faith,’ they wrote.

‘Liza was a light to all who knew her. Her contagious smile and laughter could brighten any room. 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.’

They noted the massive interest in her story and her untimely death.

‘Her impact is extraordinary, as is witnessed in the prayer groups, vigils held at the homes of friends and family, church and school gatherings, and memorial runs and walks held in her honor,’ they wrote.


Fletcher was last seen about 4.20am on Friday, when she was jogging (right) in Memphis and a man approached her and forced her into an SUV after a brief struggle, police said

A Facebook group has been set up to coordinate Friday’s run, in Fletcher’s memory

On Friday morning, at 4:30am, a group of women intend to run 8.2 miles in honor of the murdered jogger, describing the event as finishing her run.

Cleotha Abston, pictured in 2000, was first arrested when he was just 11 years old and was in and out of juvenile court 16 times in five years before he kidnapped a lawyer

‘The outpouring of love and grief would have surprised Liza, who never thought or acted as if she were something special – though she certainly was.’

The family are requesting that anyone wishing to contribute make a donation to a fund set up in her memory at St Mary’s Episcopal school, where she taught, or at the church which played such a large part in her life.

Memphis magazine said her wedding was the ‘wedding of the year’.

After the church ceremony, the pair held their reception at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, with a rustic woodland theme beneath a clear marquee lined with fairy lights.

Fletcher, whose grandfather founded a hardware distributor based in Memphis with a revenue of $3.2 billion last year, wanted the wedding to reflect her outdoorsy personality.

Guests were treated to a champagne and seafood bar, bluegrass musicians in the woodland, and an interior described by Memphis magazine as ‘a wonderland of flowers and ferns cascading from the ceiling.’

An Alabama-based artist, Ronald Bayens, was commissioned to paint the event as it was happening.

‘There has been no other wedding like this in Memphis,’ said the wedding planner team, Russell and Ruthie Events. 

Cleotha Abston, 38, appeared in court charged with the first-degree murder of Eliza Fletcher, 34, and could face the death penalty. He has not yet entered any pleas to the charges against him, but his public defender is considering a gag order

Eliza Fletcher, 34, (pictured) was kidnapped after being forced into a black SUV on Friday. Cleotha Abston, 38, has been charged with her kidnap and is set to be charged with her murder after a her body was found in long grass against an abandoned house

 

On Thursday Abston appeared at court in Memphis, Tennessee, charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence – with the judge again refusing him bail ahead of another hearing on September 19.

Jennifer Case, his public defender, initially argued that there was a conflict of interest in her representing him as her office had worked with him in a previous criminal matter in the early 2000. 

However the matter was dismissed by the judge, Louis Montesi Jr, despite him agreeing to hear her arguments regarding a gag order at a later hearing. 

Case argued that certain aspects of the case should not be made public after Memphis Police Chief C.J. David called Abston a ‘dangerous predator’. 

Tennessee is a state with the death penalty, and prosecutors on Thursday said that they were not ruling it out if he is convicted.  

Abston wore a green prison-issued uniform and a mask and only spoke to his public defender during the short hearing.

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