Posted on September 22, 2022

Mother of Eliza Fletcher’s Accused Rapist and Killer Cleotha Abston Says She Is Standing By Her Son and Insists Is a ‘Good Person’

Shawn Cohen, Daily Mail, September 20, 2022

The mother of accused killer Cleotha Abston has insisted her son is innocent, claiming the convicted felon is a ‘kind’, ‘good person’ and is once again being ‘railroaded’ for a violent crime.

Cleotha Henderson

Cleotha Henderson

Virgie Abston, 65, broke her silence for the first time since her 38-year-old son was arrested in connection to the abduction and murder of jogger Eliza Fletcher, 34, in Memphis, Tennessee on September 2.

Emerging from her low-income apartment complex in north Memphis, the mother told she is standing by Abston, who declared his innocence to her from jail.

‘I talked to him and he said he didn’t do it,’ she recalled of their conversation. ‘He said [to me]: “They’re trying to put me in some stuff, mom”.’

‘I believe him,’ she continued. ‘I don’t believe he did it. If it comes out of his mouth, that’s what I believe.’

‘He’s just a good person, kind, lovable,’ she added, disputing depictions of her son as a monster.

Abston is accused of kidnapping and killing elementary school teacher and mother-of-two Fletcher after she set off on a pre-dawn jog near the University of Memphis campus on September 2.

He is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence with the judge refusing him bail ahead of another hearing on September 19.

But just days after his arraignment, Abston was later rebooked at the Shelby County Jail on September 9 on separate charges related to a September 2021 rape of a woman.

The 2021 victim, Alicia Franklin, 22, spoke out Sunday, telling the the Institute for Public Service Reporting and The Daily Memphian that she met the man she knew as ‘Cleo’ on a dating app and thought she was going to die when he blindfolded her and put a gun to her neck.

She took a rape kit days after the attack, but investigators failed to complete its processing it for 11 months.

Virgie, who had been in hiding since her son’s arrest, sells cans of soda and candy out of her ground-floor apartment, which often has neighborhood kids knocking on her door, handing her pocket change and walking off with drinks.

She said she is now struggling with the fact she has two sons in jail.

Her son Mario was also arrested on unrelated drug and weapon charges after police executed a search warrant of his apartment, where his brother Cleotha allegedly cleaned his clothes and vehicle after the killing.

She said that over the years, she’s had ‘all three of my boys gone.’

‘I just take one day at a time, one day at a time baby,’ she told ‘Things have been going on so much.’

Even as she defended her sons, she distanced herself from their actions by saying, ‘The boys are on their own. What they do, I do not know.’

‘They haven’t told me nothing, I don’t know nothing,’ she added.

She spoke of the fact Cleotha has spent nearly his entire adult life in prison, released in 2020 after serving two decades for the 2000 abduction of Memphis lawyer Kemper Durand.

She described it as an unfairly harsh sentence for a 16-year-old boy, which she blames on the justice system.

‘They held Cleo in the juvy,’ she said. ‘They railroaded him, had him sign the papers without no parent around, without our consent.

‘We didn’t know he signed no papers. We didn’t know nothing.

‘He left me when he was 16,’ she continued. ‘They took 20 years of my son’s life. They need to fix that prison [system].’

Virgie maintains a deep distrust of authorities, particularly against cops.

‘I don’t know why they do what they do,’ she said. ‘I don’t deal with the police. I don’t deal with the police, period.’

Abston will appear in court on September 19 for another hearing, where he is expected to enter a plea on all the charges he faces including the new rape case.

Authorities confirmed that a body found in long grass near an abandoned property was that of Fletcher, following a four-day search.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy confirmed that the incident was ‘isolated’ and that Fletcher had never met her attacker before.

Abston is alleged to have approached her and forced her into his SUV vehicle after a brief struggle around 4am.

She was reported missing when she did not return home from her regular morning run, and her cellphone and water bottle were discovered in front of a house owned by the university.

An obituary for the teacher described her as a ‘born athlete’, who ‘found great joy’ in her morning runs and was ‘not afraid to be vulnerable.

It comes after court documents reveal that he was previously convicted of raping a man when he was a teenager.

Abston was just 11 when he first appeared in Shelby County Juvenile Court, in Memphis, Tennessee, charged with theft of property $500 or less.

He was detained 16 times from October 1995 to May 2000 for rape, aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Records show that Abston was accused of raping a man and was placed in the custody of Shelby County’s Youth Services Bureau.

Two weeks after he was released from his final spell at the SCYSB to his mother’s care, he was transferred to adult court for kidnapping lawyer Kemper Durand.

He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the offense, and was released in 2020 before violently bundling Fletcher into his SUV and allegedly killing her.