COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - We have new information on what appears to be an extensive criminal history for murder suspect Stacey Gray, who has been charged with the murder of 25-year-old Renee Eldridge.
According to the Mahoning County Clerk's office in Ohio, Gray was charged with felonious assault of two Youngstown Police Officers, David Vukovich and John Payne. A jury found Gray guilty of causing both police officers physical harm with a deadly weapon, a gun. Both officers were not seriously hurt and survived the assault.
Gray was convicted by a jury and entered the Ohio prison system in January 1994. He spent nine years in prison before he was paroled in February 2003. He was released from his parole restrictions in 2004.
We have reached out to the Youngstown Police Chief to see if he can remember any more details about the case.
In Muscogee County, Gray has plead guilty to misdemeanor cruelty to children, simple battery and driving with a suspended license. He was also cited for driving without a license and ordered to pay child support.
The Valley Police Department says Gray was named a suspect early in their investigation. Police say Gray was a friend of Renee's mother and knew Renee as well.
On the morning of July 7, when Renee Eldridge's body was found, two separate witnesses came forward and gave information. The witnesses stated 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.
Chilling new details in the murder of Eldridge were revealed in the arrest warrant and deposition:
"On July 7, 2015 officers of the Valley Police department found the body of a white female, later identified as Nancy Renee Eldridge, in the Osanippa creek at the 1300 block of Hopewell Road Valley, Chambers County, AL. Eldridge had been reported missing on July 4, 2015 from her residence in Columbus, Ga. An autopsy performed by the department of forensic science medical examiner's office ruled her death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma."
Court records list some evidence police used to link Gray to the murder:
During the course of the investigation Stacey Demar Gray, alias was developed as a suspect based on the following evidence:
- A vehicle matching Gray's was seen at the scene of the crime by a resident of Valley, AL. on July 4, 2015
- A search of his vehicle revealed blood evidence inside.
- Surveillance video obtained near 46th Street Columbus, Ga. showed the suspect's vehicle near the victim's residence after she was last seen by friends.
- A search of Gray's cellular phone records contradict his statement of his whereabouts during the time in question.
- A search of Gray's residence revealed a burn barrel that was used to burn the victim's clothes. A piece of the victim's purse was discovered unburnt and was identified by family members as belonging to the victim. Brown hair, which was the hair color of the victim was discovered at the residence.
Police tell News Leader 9 that one of the witnesses stated the male was leaning over the bridge looking at the water below and was able to give police a partial tag number of the SUV. When investigators began talking to Renee's family and friends in Columbus, they found 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 on Friday, July 10.
That same day, 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, Ala. area.
Notasulga's police chief attempted to arrest him at a traffic stop on County Road 52 in Macon County near Notasulga on Monday, July 13.
Gray ran into the woods while 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.
A massive manhunt ensued, with dozens of law enforcement agencies, a helicopter and tracking K9 units flooding the Notasulga community to assist.
Gray was captured late Monday night on July 13 in Macon County following a 10-hour manhunt. The search ended when Macon County residents held the man at gunpoint until police arrived. Police say a 9 millimeter Beretta was tucked into Gray's waistband when he was arrested by police.
During the detainment of Gray, he was asked by News Leader 9's Elizabeth White if he killed Eldridge.
"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."
Police have not recovered a weapon and suggest Gray may have allegedly used his hands to beat Eldridge to death. Gray is currently being detained in the Chambers County Detention Facility on no bond.
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.
If investigators do find evidence she was allegedly sexually assaulted during her murder, the murder charge could be upgraded to capital murder.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more details.