CHAMBERS COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - Horrific new details surface in the murder case of a young Columbus woman.
Law enforcement believe that the suspect, Stacey Gray, used nylon rope and a cement block in an effort to hide the body of Renee Eldridge by sinking her in a creek.
The new information was described during Gray's preliminary hearing on Tuesday. Valley investigators presented their case in graphic detail. A Chambers County judge decided there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury in January.
Police testified that Eldridge, 26, was found July 7 face down in the creek under Hopewell Road bridge. They say her neck, feet and hands were all tied together with a green nylon rope. Police also said that a rope with a cement block was tied at her feet.
"It's very difficult to relive the stories that we heard," said Eldridge's aunt, Lisa Bryant.
Investigators say Gray, Eldridge, her mother and friends were drinking at a Columbus bar until the early morning hours of July 4. Police say cell phone records show Gray was near Eldridge's home when they say he kidnapped, raped, and beat her to death.
"Because of the nature of the case, the rape, the kidnapping, and due to the heinous actions of Mr. Gray, we are seeking the death penalty," said Chambers County Assistant District Attorney Roland Sledge.
Police say a burn barrel at Gray's home contained charred clothing and Renee's purse.
Phone records and witnesses place Gray at the Hopewell Road Bridge, just before police discovered the body in the creek. Blood found in Gray's Russell County home and SUV is still being tested by forensics, so is green nylon rope found in the back of Gray's SUV.
Police say the rope looks like the same rope used to tie Renee's neck, hands and feet to a cement block, before she was discarded into the creek.
As for Renee's family, they refused to comment on Gray, determined to keep their focus on Renee and how she lived, not how she died.
"She was a sweet young lady, now she is a beautiful angel; she will see us through this trial, [and] she will see justice will be done," said Bryant.
The judge denied bond for Gray, who remains at the Chambers County Detention Facility until trial. For now, court proceedings are happening in Chambers County, because that's where her body was found.
However, police are still waiting on evidence to come back, which could place the location of this murder in a different county. If that happens, the trial could be moved.
Investigators say Gray is also charged with raping Eldridge in December 2014, before her murder. She did not know her attacker and another man was arrested, but cleared of the crime.
Columbus police looked at the case again after her murder, and say they matched Gray to DNA in the rape kit.