Chambers County Judge details how DA’s evidence failure led to Eldridge Murder case dismissal

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CHAMBERS COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A Chambers County Judge’s order is shedding new light on why the case against Stacey Gray, the man accused in the Kidnapping, Rape, and Murder of Renee Eldridge, was suddenly dropped ahead of Tuesday’s jury selection. Circuit Court Steven Perryman’s order indicates the trial’s inability to proceed falls directly with the District Attorney’s Office’s failure to provide court-ordered data involving DNA evidence to Gray’s defense team.

“Therefore, the court could only conclude that the failure of the State to comply with the court’s order of January 14, 2021, was either willful or due to incompetence,” wrote Perryman.

Chambers County District Attorney Jeremy Duerr told the Valley Times, charges were dismissed after a court ruling excluded DNA evidence found on the body of Eldridge. However, why the DNA evidence was tossed is explicitly explained in an order filed Tuesday night by the presiding judge in the case, Steven Perryman. The entire order can be read below:

ORDER
ELECTRONICALLY FILED
6/1/2021 7:49 PM
12-CC-2016-000057.00
CIRCUIT COURT OF
CHAMBERS COUNTY, ALABAMA
LISA BURDETTE, CLERK
DOCUMENT 253

This matter came before the court on defendant’s Motion in Limine seeking to exclude
certain DNA evidence due to the State’s failure to comply with a discovery order concerning said evidence. On February 27, 2017, the defendant, through counsel, requested production of DNA testing data in this matter. Specifically, the defendant’s counsel requested the raw data and processed date related to this case in the possession of the State of Alabama.

On January 2, 2020, the defendant’s counsel filed a Motion in Limine to exclude DNA
evidence in this matter. The defendant alleged that the State of Alabama had refused to provide the requested DNA data. The court notes that this is a capital murder case; therefore, all parties are aware that the defendant is entitled to all evidence in the possession of the State of Alabama.

In lieu of the court granting the Motion in Limine, the court on January 14, 2021, ordered
the State of Alabama to deliver to counsel for Stacey Gray (erroneously called Stacy Gray in the indictment) the requested DNA data within ten days from the date of the order. The order
further provided that the State of Alabama would be prohibited from utilizing in any way DNA
evidence in the trial if it failed to comply. The State willingly violated this order and to this day, some one hundred and thirty days later has failed to comply.

At the hearing this day, the State acknowledged that it had not provided the DNA data.
The State added that the failure of the State to comply was due to inability to comply or
unwillingness to comply to the court’s prior Order. The District Attorney’s office later informed the court that it could provide the requested data this day. Therefore, the court could only conclude that the failure of the State to comply with the court’s order of January 14, 2021, was either willful or due to incompetence.

The trial in this matter had begun before the State informed the court that it could now
provide the data. Therefore, the defendant was placed in a position where it would have been
impossible for the defendant’s DNA expert to analyze the data . The actions or inactions of the
District Attorney’s office alone resulted in the necessity to grant the defendant’s Motion in
Limine.

DONE this 1st day of June, 2021.
/s/ STEVEN R PERRYMAN
CIRCUIT JUDGE

News 3 reached out to the Chambers County District Attorney’s Office for a comment, but we have not heard back.

Investigators with the Valley Police Department were ready to begin the case on Tuesday. Valley Police Major Mike Reynolds called the dismissal “disheartening” in a statement provided to WRBL News 3:

On June 1, 2021, charges against Stacy Gray for the murder of Renee Eldridge were dropped by the State after a ruling by the Court that would have precluded the introduction of DNA evidence during the trial. This ruling was not based on any actions taken by the investigating officers during the gathering, submission, or testing of DNA evidence. The ruling was based on a procedural error that was outside the scope and purview of law enforcement.

While it is disheartening to see a case such as this dismissed, we understand that there must be rules to be followed in the prosecution of crimes as there are rules that must be followed in the investigation of those crimes. We will continue to work with our prosecutors to ensure that the victims of our community receive justice.

Major Mike Reynolds
Valley Police Department

On July 4th, 2015, investigators say 25-year-old Renee Eldridge was discovered missing at her Columbus, Georgia home. July 7th, her body was found in the creek, under the Hopewell Road Bridge in Valley, Alabama. Stacey Gray, who knew Eldridge and her family, was arrested after evidence linked him to the crime.

With Tuesday’s case dismissal, justice for Renee Eldridge remains undetermined by a jury. As of Tuesday afternoon, Stacey Gray remains behind bars at the Chambers County Detention Facility, awaiting potential warrants from other law enforcement jurisdictions.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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