Stacey Demar Gray, who was arrested in connection to Renee Eldridge's death, now faces capital murder charges for kidnapping and rape connected to the case.
Gray only was charged with murder on July 14, but authorities upgraded the charges Wednesday. Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon said he couldn't release many details concerning the upgraded charges.
"We haven't received all of our forensic reports yet," Gray said. "But based on the evidence we already had, we feel those were the appropriate charges."
Weldon said Gray is now eligible for the death penalty, but the Chamber County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on whether or not they plan to push for it in this particular case.
Never miss a local story.
"Everybody is innocent until they're proven guilty, but similar type cases are the ones we have normally tried to seek the death penalty on in the past," Chief Assistant District Attorney Damon Lewis said.
Police confirmed that the kidnapping charge was issued because they believe Gray abducted the 25-year-old woman from Columbus.
Renee Eldridge's family reported her missing from her 46th Street home on the weekend of July 4. Ricky Eldridge, the victim's father, said the last time he saw his daughter alive was when her friends dropped her off at her residence around 3 a.m. July 4.
The father said that it was around 10:30 a.m. the following morning when Renee's mother Nancy Gray discovered she was gone and that her room was in disarray.
The victim's body was found in Osanippa Creek off of Hopewell Road on July 7. She was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma to the head, according to authorities.
Valley Police Maj. Mike Reynolds said two separate witnesses came forward on the morning of July 7, and told police that at two different times during the weekend of July 4 they saw a black male in a dark SUV parked at the bridge where Eldridge was found. One witness said the man was leaning over the bridge looking at the water, Reynolds added.
Authorities said they learned that Gray owned a dark SUV with the same partial tag number given by witnesses. Investigators said they also discovered evidence "in plain view within the vehicle," though they have not said what that evidence is.
Police said they interviewed Gray and were able to disprove much of his alibi, allowing them to execute search warrants for his vehicle and Russell County address. Evidence found at his address led to the warrant for his arrest, according to the release.
When police received a tip that Gray and his brother were in a vehicle in the Notasulga area, they attempted to stop the vehicle on July 13, according to the report.
Police said Gray, a passenger in the vehicle, fled into the woods. His brother, whose name has not been released, stayed in the vehicle and was arrested for possession of a firearm by a felon after 10 weapons were found in the vehicle, according to the release.
Gray was found by local residents in a yard on Lily Lane in Notasulga and held at gunpoint until police took him into custody July 14 at 12:45 a.m. ET.