A district attorney announced on Thursday that prosecutors want to ask for the death penalty in the case of a man accused of killing a Memphis, Tennessee, school teacher after snatching her on a morning run.

From left, Cleotha Abston, his lawyer Jennifer Case, prosecutor Paul Hagerman, and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy sit in court in Memphis, Tenn, on Thursday, July 6, 2023. Memphis prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Abston, who’s charged with kidnapping a school teacher during an early morning run and killing her (Source: AP News)

A Teacher was Kidnapped and Murdered

According to the news report by AP News, Eliza Fletcher was taken from a roadway near the University of Memphis on September 2 and allegedly forced into an SUV by Cleotha Abston, 39. Days later, her body was discovered close to a deserted duplex. First-degree murder and particularly aggravated kidnapping are among the counts against him; he has entered a not-guilty plea.

According to Judge Lee Coffee, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy has informed the court that if Abston is found guilty of first-degree murder, prosecutors would ask for the death penalty. Mulroy stated outside of court that cases that are thought to be heinous, awful, and cruel are suitable for the death penalty under state law. Mulroy stated that they will claim that this holds in that instance.

No scheduled trial date exists. Coffee expressed a desire for it to happen this year, but it was unclear whether the legal profession could achieve that deadline. According to the arrest complaint, Abston was apprehended when authorities discovered his DNA on footwear near the spot where Fletcher was last seen. In an autopsy report, Fletcher suffered a head wound from a gunshot. She also suffered fractures in her jaw and damage to her right leg.

Fletcher was the target of a thorough police investigation that lasted three days. Her body was found not far from a deserted duplex. In addition to seeing car tracks adjacent to the driveway, the officers “smelled an odor of decay,” according to an affidavit.

The day before Fletcher vanished, Democratic district attorney Mulroy took the oath of office. He has said that although he has long opposed the death penalty and would vote against it if he were a legislator, he is obligated to maintain the law in cases where the death penalty may be warranted because he is Memphis’ top prosecutor and district attorney.

READ ALSO: Francisco Oropeza Killed 5, Indicted for Capital Murder

Pursue of Death Penalty

Mulroy previously declared that prosecutors would pursue the death penalty against a man accused of killing three people and injuring three others during a live-streamed shooting rampage shortly after Mulroy took office in a separate first-degree murder case. According to Mulroy, Abston’s family was consulted before the decision to ask for Abston’s execution, and they are in favor of it.

Abston, also known as Cleotha Henderson, was incarcerated for 20 years before for an abduction he carried out when he was 16 years old. A year or so before Fletcher was killed, in September 2021, he is also accused of raping a lady. Due to a lengthy delay in processing the sexual assault kit, he wasn’t detained on the rape charges before the murder of Fletcher, according to the authorities.

A statute requiring the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to publish a quarterly report on sexual assault kit testing timelines was passed by the Legislature after Fletcher’s passing. In a news release on Thursday, Tennessee Democrats observed that it takes an average of 22.7 weeks for three state crime labs to get test findings to local law enforcement.

The TBI data stated it was down from 45.4 weeks in August of last year, which was before Fletcher was abducted. According to a news release from the Democrats, the state police agency is utilizing $1.9 million in federal grant money to outsource some testing to a Florida company.

READ ALSO: A Man from Maine Is Charged with Murdering His Missing Girlfriend Who Was Receiving Cancer Treatment