Liza Fletcher remembered: Memphis community honors slain teacher by finishing her morning jog

By | September 9, 2022

Hundreds of people gathered at a Memphis church Friday morning before dawn, huddling for a moment of silence in honor of Eliza Fletcher, the local teacher and mother of two who was abducted from her morning jog a week ago.

“We’re just here today to run in honor of Liza, and also to show that women in this city have a right to run at 4 o’ clock in the morning or 10 at night or any time of the day,” organizer Danielle Heineman told the crowd just before things kicked off at 4:20 a.m. CT. “And we don’t have to completely cover our bodies while we run. There should be no excuses.”

Fletcher was kidnapped and killed in the course of her morning run last week. The suspect, Cleotha Henderson, is being held without bail on charges that, if convicted, could make Henderson eligible for the death penalty.

“We’re out here today to honor Liza and to finish her run,” Heineman told the gathering.

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By 3:45 a.m., a group of an estimated 200 something people in running gear had gathered outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Central Avenue, 4 miles down the road from where Fletcher was abducted. The crowd grew to roughly 1,000 before the run began just after 4:20 a.m.

Another 1,000 or so gathered at the same time at the other end of the four-mile route.

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Two women were talking about teaming up for the buddy system, worried about their safety even amid a throng of fellow runners. Police closed off several blocks to traffic and stood guard.

Doug Christofferson told Fox News Digital he came down to support his wife, who took part in the run as he remained on the steps of the church.

“This started as a movement a couple of days ago, with a couple of girls on Facebook, I believe, and the word got out,” he said. “They were expecting a couple of hundred people to maybe come out and run, and word of mouth…it looked like there was probably 700, 800 people, maybe even a little bit more. And it’s fantastic.”

When his wife, a habitual runner, told him she wanted to go, he said he offered to drive from their home in Germantown.

“We all have to go out and live our lives, and you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “I’m sure Eliza was, too, the best that she could. [But] evil is going to happen — and you just can’t let that dictate what you do and what you don’t do.”

A group of cyclists rode in, prompting a cheer from the gathered runners. They showed up in support of the runners.

Many of them are friends with Fletcher’s husband, Richie, who was an avid cyclist and took part in an annual Ride 2 Rosemary trip from Memphis to Rosemary Beach, Florida, one of the riders, who gave his name as William, told Fox News Digital.

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“It’s a 500-mile bike ride over five days from here to Rosemary Beach in support of women’s cancer research,” he said. “Richie was a part of it. That’s how I got to know him.”

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Volunteers handed out yellow safety vests for the cyclists, who were expected to flank the runners on the edges of the route.

Organizers of “Let’s Finish Liza’s Run” had asked many of the participants to refrain from speaking with the media, most of those who did asked for their names to be withheld, including a woman who said she turned out in solidarity with the Fletcher family because her own daughter had been murdered in Memphis.

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She was carrying a sign that read, “because she can’t” — made by her daughter’s high school friend.

“This is not a memorial run,” Heineman wrote on a Facebook post. “This is about finishing a run Liza couldn’t.”

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Before the run, Heineman and another woman delivered remarks and asked the gathering to observe a moment of silence for Liza Fletcher.

“I know you need this; I know Memphis needs this; I know we’re stronger together; I know none of us are alone, and whatever it is we’re grieving this morning, start your watches,” one of them said.

She continued, “Turn your lights on; get your GPS; get your buddy; if you didn’t come with one, make one; respect our course marshals, the residents along the way. And for God’s sake, if you see a law enforcement officer, thank them.”

The run ended before sunrise, with many participants having run eight miles total, down the route and back to the starting point. They filed out in groups, ready to start a new day in Memphis.

Fletcher, 34, will be laid to rest Saturday, Sept. 10, after a funeral at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis.