A woman last seen jogging early Friday morning on the University of Memphis campus is believed to have been kidnapped, police said, setting off a search for a dark-colored SUV seen leaving the scene.
University of Memphis Police said 34-year-old Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, was last seen at around 4:30 a.m. while jogging near the intersection of Central Avenue and Zach H. Curlin Street.
Who is Eliza Fletcher? Police say someone kidnapped Eliza Fletcher near the UofM. Who is she?
The area where Fletcher was last reported seen is between the Herff College of Engineering and the university’s music school. Just before noon Friday, Maj. Karen Rudolph, MPD spokeswoman said the FBI and TBI have been called in to assist with the investigation.
University police said someone in a dark SUV approached Fletcher and forced her into the vehicle after a brief struggle.
Fletcher, a mother of two, is 5′ 6″ tall, weighs 137 pounds, and has brown hair, police said. MPD released a photo of Fletcher jogging where she is wearing purple shorts and pink or purple sports bra. In the photo, her hair is pulled back in a ponytail.
Officers were called at around 7:45 a.m. when Fletcher had not returned home by that point, Memphis Police said. University police said she ran often on Central Avenue.
University Police said in a campus safety alert that Fletcher’s cellphone and water bottle were found in front of a university-owned house in the 3800 block of Central Avenue.
Anyone with information may call the Memphis Police Department at (901) 545-2677. Police are also seeking camera footage from around the U of M area. The SUV was last seen driving west.
Traffic is down to one lane in both directions in the area of Central Avenue and Zach H. Curlin street as police continue investigating, police said at noon Friday.
“Someday we’ll eliminate this kind of tragedy”
Fletcher attends Second Presbyterian Church in East Memphis. Her pastor, George Robertson, noted in an interview Friday that Fletcher’s kidnapping was not the first in Memphis this year.
“Someday we’ll eliminate this kind of tragedy,” Robertson, the senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church said. “We also grieve the abduction that occurred a couple of days ago near Wolfchase. We grieve all of this kind of violence and evil in our city. It just makes us grieve. We grieve for ourselves, we grieve for the Fletchers and we also grieve for our city. Our whole city is hurting.”
Fox13 reported this week that a mother and her one-year-old were abducted last weekend near Wolfchase and forced to withdraw money from an ATM before being released. WREG reported on Aug. 18 that two kids were kidnapped and later recovered by police.
There have been at least 100 incidents classified as kidnapping in Memphis this year, according to public safety data posted on the city’s website.
Fletcher is well-known teacher at Memphis school
On social media, word of Fletcher’s disappearance spread quickly, with a Facebook post by the Memphis Police Department being shared 2,500 times by 10:30 a.m. She is a teacher at St. Mary’s Episcopal School.
Fletcher is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Joe” Orgill III, the Memphis hardware businessman and philanthropist who has supported causes including Dixon Gallery and Gardens and Church Health.
She married Richard Fletcher III at the Dixon in 2014, Memphis Magazine reported. The story describes her as “outdoorsy, athletic, and warm.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.