Columbus soldier plans to sue for false rape arrest

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COLUMBUS, Ga. — One man says he plans to sue the city for false imprisonment in connection to a rape report made by Renee Eldridge.

Defense attorney Kyle Fisher says his client was a suspect for Eldridge’s rape even after he was cleared by DNA evidence.

Last week, WRBL News 3 investigated a theory given to us by Renee Eldridge’s sister — that the man who raped Renee late last year may have been responsible for her disappearance and murder.

A police report obtained by News 3 says Eldridge implicated a Fort Benning soldier for her attack. In the report, Eldridge said on December 20, 2014, she was surprised, tied up and raped inside her home.

Police say they arrested the man Eldridge identified as her attacker, but he was released after his DNA did not match the sample found on Eldridge at the scene of the crime.

Renee Eldridge was found Tuesday, July 7 in a Valley creek. She died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Wednesday, the unnamed soldier’s lawyer said the Columbus Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit kept his client as a suspect even after he was cleared.

“It was a false imprisonment, he did not commit this crime and they did not test the DNA, I believe, quickly enough,” says Fisher. “He lost 2.5 months worth of pay, his career suffered, he was flagged, he lost security clearance [and] in addition he was jailed for 2.5 months.”

Police would not confirm whether or not the soldier was a suspect when Renee Eldridge disappeared earlier this month.

The Columbus community was in shock after Eldridge’s body was found on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 floating in the Osanippa Creek in Chambers County. The coroner later confirmed Eldridge had died from blunt force trauma to the head on July 4th — the day she went missing.

Valley police say they have since found enough evidence to charge 45-year-old Stacey Gray of Salem, Alabama with Renee Eldridge’s murder. Police say they have blood evidence and surveillance videos to tie him to the crime. Columbus police say they cannot comment on whether or not Gray is linked to Eldridge’s rape.

Fisher says he sent a certified letter to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson on June 22nd that claims the Columbus Police Department was negligent in their investigation. He says he believes the mayor has a month to respond before he and his client file paperwork to sue the city.

Mayor Tomlinson responded to News 3’s questions Wednesday saying the city’s attorney is looking into the matter.

This is an ongoing investigation. WRBL News 3 will bring updates as events progress.

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