Unsolved rape case poses safety concerns in the Chattahoochee Valley

Unsolved rape case poses safety concerns in the Chattahoochee Valley

New details emerge surrounding the high profile murder case of Renee Eldridge, a Columbus woman who went missing on the Fourth of July and whose body was found days later in Valley, Ala.

Officers originally accused a man of raping Eldridge months before her murder and even questioned him when she disappeared. That man is now suing the city of Columbus.

The attorney representing a U.S. soldier accused of raping Eldridge in 2014 told WTVM his client was cleared of all charges.

The soldier now plans on suing the city of Columbus for wrongful imprisonment, while concerns of who committed the heinous crime against Eldridge raise safety concerns.

In March 2015, defense attorney Kyle Fischer told WTVM he was concerned about safety in the valley when his client was falsely accused of raping Renee Eldridge, leading Fischer to believe an attacker was still at large.

Those were sentiments he echoed again Monday. 

"I am concerned that there is a rapist that is still walking the streets of Columbus," said Fischer.

Fischer's client, an Army soldier, maintained his innocence from the start and plans on suing the city for false imprisonment after a rape kit returned showing his DNA did not match.

However, the effects of the allegation still haunt him.

"As of a week ago, my client is still flagged for any promotions, he doesn't have his security clearance back, he doesn't have his back pay," said Fischer.

Just months after her rape, horror and tragedy would strike Eldrige's family again, as her early July disappearance turned into a murder investigation.

Stacey Gray, a friend of the family, has since been accused of the murder in which police say they found blood evidence in his SUV and say he used a burn barrel to destroy Eldridge's clothing.

Gray's criminal history of assaulting police officers and cruelty to children has sparked questions if Eldridge's rape and murder were related.

"If an individual has committed another crime, gone to jail, has his DNA in the database, then it would be simple for the Columbus Police Department to take the DNA profile that was obtained in December, and compare it to thousands of potential matches," said Fischer.

We reached out to the Columbus Police Department Monday, trying to figure out if officers ran Gray's DNA for testing in that rape case involving Eldridge, or if an attacker is still on the loose.

Our calls have not yet been returned.

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