Valley Police investigate motive in Renee Eldridge's murder

Valley Police investigate motive in Renee Eldridge's murder
Renee Eldridge (Credit: Columbus Police Department)
Renee Eldridge (Credit: Columbus Police Department)
Stacey Demar Gray (Credit: Valley Police Department)
Stacey Demar Gray (Credit: Valley Police Department)

VALLEY, AL (WTVM) - The man who has been named as a suspect in the Renee Eldridge murder case was captured in Macon Co., AL, following a 10-hour manhunt for him, that ended when Macon County residents held the man at gunpoint until police arrived.

The Valley Police Department also revealed that Stacey Demar Gray was named as a suspect early in their investigation upon the discovery of Renee Eldridge's body.

The Macon Co. Sheriff Andre Brunson says they caught  Gray in a residential area on Lily Lane in Notasulga, where he was held at gunpoint by some residents in their yard until investigators could arrive at the scene and arrest him around 11:45 p.m. CT on Monday. Gray did have a gun on him at the time of his arrest, a 9mm Beretta, in his waistband.

Grey has since been transported from Macon Co. to the custody of the Valley Police Department to be questioned, and now faces murder charges in Eldridge's death.

According to the Valley Police Department, Gray was developed as a person of interest early in the investigation. On the morning of July 7, when Eldridge's body was found, two separate witnesses came forward and gave information stating that, at two different times during the Fourth of July weekend, they saw a black male in a dark SUV parked at the bridge where Eldridge was found.

One of the witnesses stated that the male was leaning over the bridge looking at the water below. When investigators began talking to family and friends in Columbus, they found that Gray owned a dark SUV that had the same partial tag number given by witnesses. Investigators also discovered evidence in plain view within the vehicle.

Gray was interviewed at that time and he denied any involvement in Eldridge's disappearance or murder. Based on his statements, investigators were able to disprove much of his story and executed search warrants for his vehicle and for a residence that he had in Russell County. Evidence found at the Russell County residence led investigators to issue a warrant for the arrest of Gray for murder.

A request for assistance from the U.S. Marshall's Fugitive Recovery Unit was made in order to track and arrest Gray.

On July 13, information was received that Gray and his brother were in a vehicle in the Notasulga area.

During the detainment of Gray, he was asked by News Leader 9's Elizabeth White if he killed Eldridge, or if he has anything to say.

"No," Gray said. "No ma'am, I did not."  When asked if he had anything to say to the Eldridge family, Gray said, "I didn't kill her."

"About 11:45 p.m. we received a call from a citizen had this young man in custody. Chief Knowles and a deputy went over there and found this citizen with the young man at gunpoint," Brunson said.

The Valley Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Gray in the Renee Eldridge murder investigation on Monday.

"Based on the evidence we recovered to this point, all indications are that Stacey Gray did commit this crime," Maj. Mike Reynolds said, Valley Police Department.

Police attempted to arrest him at a traffic stop on County Road 52 in Macon County near Notasulga, AL on Monday. Gray ran into the wood; his brother, Willie, who was driving the car, was arrested for felon in possession of a firearm after law enforcement officials say 10 weapons were found in the SUV he was driving.

Renee Eldridge, a 25-year-old Columbus woman, was discovered missing from her home on 46th Street in Columbus on July 4. Her body was found in the Osanippa Creek under the Hopewell Road Bridge on July 7.

Gray is currently being detained in the Chambers County Detention Facility.

So far investigators have not revealed a motive in the murder, and they can't say if Eldridge was sexually assaulted prior to her death by blunt force trauma to the head.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more details.

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