After jogger kidnapped, murdered, Utah sheriff implores women to be safe

Sep 9, 2022, 6:00 PM
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FILE: Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera (Paul Nelson)
(Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a 34-year-old wife, mother and teacher, was violently abducted last week in Memphis, Tenn.; her body was found Monday behind a vacant duplex.

Cleotha Abston, 38, is accused of abducting and killing Fletcher. He faces a charge of first-degree murder in the kidnapping. Abston also has a prior kidnapping conviction, according to CNN.

The mother of two was jogging around 4:30 a.m. when a black GMC Terrain SUV passed by her, according to surveillance footage obtained of the incident. A man was seen getting out of the vehicle and running toward Fletcher and forcing her into the passenger side of the SUV as reported by CNN.

2019 Runner’s World survey found that 84 percent of [women joggers] had experienced some kind of harassment while running that made them feel unsafe, including groping, being followed or flashed, as well as subtler catcalls, honks and lewd comments.

The story is being used as a teaching opportunity for the first female sheriff elected in the state of Utah. Sheriff Rosie Rivera spoke to KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic about ways women can be safe and protect themselves from danger while alone. Especially in the dark hours.


Some women have constant fear about staying safe

Debbie said every time she goes out alone — even with her dog Riley — she has a constant nagging fear hanging over her like a dark cloud of worry about her safety. She doesn’t walk or jog with headphones or earbuds. When she walks out her front door she looks both ways, not because she is stepping into traffic.

“I want to make sure that creepy man is not standing there by my front door,” Debbie said.

She asked the sheriff if she has felt the same fear.

“You’re a cop, you have a badge and you’re trained,” Debbie said.

“I absolutely have, and I can tell you most women do feel that fear,” Rivera said. And she noted that there are few news reports of men being attacked while jogging or sexually assaulted.

“However, rather than spending our life fearful, we have to be prepared. And I make sure that I’m prepared. My daughter’s prepared —  anybody I can talk to that we are prepared,” Rivera said.

“Look around, know your surroundings, but also change your route. If there is a perpetrator that knows your route every single day, you just make it easier for them.”

Be prepared when you are alone

“Just know there’s certain areas of the body that you can defend yourself. Poke their eyes, punch him in the throat or in the groin, those kinds of things. You have to run those through your mind prior to going out on a jog,” Rivera said.

Debbie said while in college she took a self-defense class and was trained to use a key like a knife by placing the key between the index and the middle fingers.

“But now we use key fobs. And oftentimes I go out for a walk in the evening without keys at all because we don’t need them anymore for the door,” she said. “It just feels so overwhelming to live with this fear every day. How do you psychologically manage it?”

“If you do not want to be that victim, you have to be prepared,” the sheriff said. 

Rivera listed other tips for women’s safety:

“We can’t change society in the sense that women are the victims of these types of crimes, but we can be prepared,” the sheriff said.

Related news:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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After jogger kidnapped, murdered, Utah sheriff implores women to be safe