Family, friends remember Renee Eldridge a year after body recovered

Family, friends remember Renee Eldridge a year after body recovered

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Purple and white balloons painted the skies over Parkhill Cemetery, where family and friends came together to remember Renee Eldridge's life and spirit.

Renee's brother James Eldridge said these are just the colors his little sister would have picked.

"She loved purple," James said.  "It was definitely her favorite color."

At the moment the crowd let the balloons fly, some felt an all-too-familiar pain and anguish, knowing a little over one year ago, Renee was last seen alive in Columbus.

James said the memorial still reminds him his baby sister isn't here to talk over the phone.

"Anger. Hurt, you know," James said, reflecting on the moment the balloons were let go. "It's hard to explain. It really is."

Police began their search for Renee the Fourth of July last year. They found her three days later, under a bridge by a creek in Valley, AL.

All this time later, some still miss talking to a good friend like Renee.

"I knew if I talked to her by the end of the day, it's like you knew someone cared about you," said Verrisia Hawk, who called Renee one of her closest friends.

"She was not only my baby sister, but she was also a very very good friend," James said. "I could talk to her about anything. It didn't matter what it was. She was always there to listen."

Dozens attended the vigil, giving thanks for having a beloved sister, daughter, aunt and friend. Loved ones said they will forever remind others of the lives Renee touched in the Columbus area.

"She was loved," James said. "I mean, it was hard not to love her. She was just a joy to be around."

"I want people who didn't know her to know she was a real loving and caring person," Hawk said.  "If you knew [Renee], you'd love her to pieces."

As family and friends remembered Renee, her suspected killer and rapist, Stacey Gray remains behind bars at the Chambers County Detention Facility on no bond.

His trial date has not been set, but the criminal term in Chambers County begins in October.

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