MACON COUNTY, Ala. – The Macon County Sheriff’s Office is confirming to News 3 that Stacey Gray is in their custody. They say he is suspected in the murder of previously missing Columbus woman Renee Eldridge.
Notasulga Police offficers and Macon County deputies, with the assistance of The U.S. Marshall’s Fugitive Recovery Unit found and arrested Gray around 12:45 Tuesday morning. Local residents actually spotted Gray in a yard on Lily Lane in Notasulga before alerting police. Officials say the residents held Gray at gunpoint until he was detained by officers. Gray was found to have a semi-automatic pistol on his person at the time of his arrest. He was handed over to Valley Police, who proceeded to take Gray to Chambers County Detention Facility.
Gray has denied any involvement in the murder, though authorities made the connection from Gray to Eldridge through her mother.
Eldridge originally went missing on July 4th from her home in Columbus. Her body was found in Osanippa Creek in Valley last week. She was discovered to have died from blunt force trauma to the head. Eldridge’s family realized she was missing when her mother came home Saturday morning and found their window screen torn off and the back door open.
Gray’s arrest comes after a 10-hour man hunt by local and federal officials, authorities say. The investigation lead to Gray by way of two witnesses who gave police information about Gray’s whereabouts during the Independence Day holiday weekend. The witnesses say they saw a man fitting his description in a dark SUV with part of Gray’s Yukon’s tag number parked at the bridge where Eldridge was found.
Investigators say they were able to execute search warrants for both Gray’s vehicle and Russell County residence due to seemingly inculpable statements. They eventually found evidence sufficient enough to arrest Gray on murder charges. Officers believed Gray and his brother to be traveling in his black Yukon in Notasulga. Once officers found the two near Cooper Road, they proceeded to make a traffic stop. However, Gray escaped from the passenger side of the SUV and ran into the woods nearby to evade authorities.
Gray’s brother remained in the vehicle, where he was arrested on felonious firearm possession charges. Investigators confiscated ten weapons inside the vehicle.
Authorities say this homicide investigation has spanned two states and four counties, lasting about a week and a half.