Authorities release details of Renee Eldridge murder, suspect’s involvement

Authorities have released new details in the murder investigation involving a previously missing Columbus woman.

After arresting Salem man Stacey Gray after a 10-hour manhunt on murder charges, officers released the deposition containing the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and murder of Renee Eldridge.

The deposition says the murder occurred at approximately 3 a.m. on July 4 in the 1300 block of Hopewell Road in Valley. Eldridge’s family first reported that Renee went missing on July 4.

Three days later on Tuesday, July 7, Valley police officers found the body of a female they later identified as Eldridge. Eldridge’s body was found in Osanippa Creek in Chambers County. An autopsy done by the Department of Forensic Science Medical Examiner’s Office says Eldridge died of blunt force trauma to the face and head.

Renee was last seen by friends at her house the morning of July 4th after her sister says she went to hang out at Acer’s Grill & Bar, where she worked for a few months. Renee’s former co-worker and family friend, Vincent Jones, says Gray was at the bar the night Renee went missing and had also been to Renee’s house where she lives with her mother, Nancy. Jones says Gray and Renee were friends and had no other relationship.

Valley investigators, along with Columbus and Russell County officials, gathered enough evidence to name Gray as a suspect in the homicide. One man recognized a vehicle at the scene of the crime similar to Gray’s brother Willie’s black SUV. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators looked inside the vehicle to find blood evidence. Investigators also received surveillance video that showed Gray’s vehicle near Eldridge’s home after she was last seen by friends.

Though officers questioned Gray about his involvement in the murder, he denied any involvement in the homicide. However, his cell phone records were found to have contradicted his statements about where he was during the murder. A search of Gray’s home revealed a burn barrel that was allegedly used to burn Eldridge’s clothes. Authorities say they also found a strand of what they believe was Eldridge’s hair and a piece of her purse at Gray’s home. They say Eldrige’s family identified the purse as having belonged to Renee.

Macon County officials discovered both Stacey and Willie Gray in a black GMC Yukon with a tag partially matching the description of the vehicle found at the crime scene. The two were stopped in Notasulga, but Stacey ran away from the vehicle and proceeded to run into the woods nearby. After a 10-hour manhunt involving both federal and local authorities, Gray was taken into custody. He is currently being held at Chambers County Detention Facility. Meanwhile, his brother Willie remained in the car. A search of his vehicle revealed ten weapons to be in the car. Willie Gray has initially been charged with felonious weapon possession charges.

Stacey is mostly likely to see a judge sometime this week.

 

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