Women speak out about safety while running after death of Memphis jogger

Eliza Fletcher was abducted while out for an early morning run, authorities say.

ByKatie Kindelan via ABC logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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Derick Waller reports on the latest developments in a case which has made national headlines.

The dangers women face while simply going outside for a run are in the spotlight again after the death of Eliza "Liza" Fletcher, a teacher and mother of two who was abducted while on an early morning run in her hometown of Memphis, police said.

The 34-year-old was last seen jogging near the University of Memphis campus on Friday morning around 4:20 a.m. local time. She was approached by a man and forced into a dark-colored GMC Terrain, which then took off, according to the Memphis Police Department.

Fletcher's husband, Richard Fletcher, reported her missing about three hours later, telling investigators that she never returned home from her regular 4 a.m. run, according to an affidavit of the complaint made public Sunday by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

Fletcher's remains were found on Monday afternoon in a South Memphis residential neighborhood several miles from where she was abducted, police said.

The suspect in Fletcher's kidnapping, Cleotha Abston, is scheduled to return to court on Wednesday to be arraigned on additional charges of first-degree murder, premeditated murder and first-degree perpetration of kidnapping. He is being held at the Shelby County Jail in Memphis on $500,000 bail.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Fletcher's family members have been fully cooperative with law enforcement throughout the ordeal and slammed "baseless speculation" that said otherwise.

"We have no reason to think this is anything other than an isolated attack by a stranger," he said.

Fletcher's death while out for a run quickly drew comparisons to the deaths of at least six women who in recent years were also each killed while running in their city or neighborhood streets: Sydney Sutherland, 25, whose body was discovered two days after she disappeared after going for a run in Jackson County, Arkansas; Mollie Tibbetts, who was found stabbed to death after going for a run near her Iowa home; Wendy Martinez, who was stabbed to death while jogging in a busy, well-lit area of Washington, D.C.; Karina Vetrano, who was found dead after going on an evening jog near her New York home; Vanessa Marcotte, who was killed as she was out jogging in broad daylight in Massachusetts; and Ally Brueger, who was shot in the back while running in Michigan.

In 2018, another athlete, a 22-year-old collegiate golf player, was killed while she was golfing alone on a course in Ames, Iowa.

After Fletcher's death, women took to Twitter to share their frustrations about the dangers they face while exercising outdoors, using the hashtag #ElizaFletcher.

"WE ARE SICK & TIRED OF HAVING TO WATCH OUT FOR MEN JUST BECAUSE WE BREATHE. Carry keys to stab someone, carry tasers, stun guns, mace, bear spray, loud alarms. Knowing self-defense, becoming a gun owner, never going anywhere alone. HOW ABOUT MEN DO BETTER," wrote one Twitter user.

"Women runners worry most about 2 things before a run-whether they'll be abducted/assaulted/murdered or if they'll be subjected to cat calls and being sexualized. Men worry about whether they should poop before or after their run. We are not the same," wrote another.