IDAHO FALLS — Recently filed court documents reveal disturbing details about Stephanie Eldredge’s death and the man accused of killing her.
Investigators determined “the investigation that began in 2007 and continued through 2018 developed sufficient evidence to name Kenneth Ryan Jones, 30, as the only person responsible for the murder of Stephanie Ann Eldredge on August 20, 2007.”
According to court documents, in 2009 Jones allegedly told his jailmate, whom documents name as Eddie, that he killed Eldredge. Eddie told investigators Jones referred to Eldredge as his girlfriend and said he “had her all to himself now.” Eddie said Jones told him he was in love with Eldredge.
The statement of probable cause says in August 2007, Eldredge was living with her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s mother and her boyfriend’s half-brother, Kenneth Jones.
Documents say Eldredge’s boyfriend and her boyfriend’s mother were both cooperative and forthcoming with authorities after she disappeared.
“However, it became immediately apparent that Kenneth R. Jones was not being truthful, and the investigation focused on Jones as a potential suspect,” the statement of probable cause says.
A changing story
Jones allegedly changed his story multiple times about what happened the day Eldredge disappeared. When first questioned, he told investigators he left for work at 10:45 a.m.
He later told them he woke Eldredge up to use her phone at 8:30 a.m. before leaving for work. He said he came back around 10 a.m and Eldredge was in the shower with her baby. He said she left at 10:15 a.m. and said she would be right back. Jones left for work again and came back home at noon. That is when he said he learned Eldredge was missing.
Jones’ boss told investigators he never showed up for work that day, and none of his co-workers saw him.
Jones then said he didn’t go to work because he went to a friend’s house to buy some weed. That person in question told investigators Jones never went to his house and his wife didn’t see him either.
The statement of probable cause lists other discrepancies in Jones’ testimony.
Initially, he told investigators he’d never argued with Eldredge. He later said he lied about going to work because he needed to “put himself away” from the house due to an argument between him and Eldredge.
In 2010, he again told investigators he’d never argued with Eldredge.
At one point Jones was questioned about hair found in his car that investigators believed was Eldredge’s. Jones said he had a speaker box he would take in and out of the house, saying that was how the hair got into his vehicle, since Eldredge had never been in it.
In 2018, Eldredge’s former boyfriend — Jones’ half-brother — said Jones hadn’t taken a speaker box in and out of the house. He said he is positive he would remember something like that.
In a 2011 interview, Jones told a detective the hair got into his car by means of a sleeping bag he kept in his trunk that he would take in and out of the house. According to documents, investigators never found a sleeping bag.
The evidence points to him
On Aug. 20, 2007, the day Stephanie Eldredge went missing, multiple people, including investigators, noticed scratches on Kenneth Jones’ neck.
Jones said he got the scratches from a branch on a bush near his job. According to documents, investigators had a hard time believing the scratches came from a branch because they were vertical. If Jones had walked into a branch, the scratches would likely have been horizontal.
Also, on the day Eldredge disappeared, her boyfriend said he saw Jones driving through the intersection at Sunnyside Road and Ammon Road around 11:45 a.m. He said he saw Jones turn east toward where Eldredge’s body was discovered three years later.
Eldredge’s body was found on April 23, 2010, wrapped in a blanket and a fitted sheet in a small grove just off of a dirt road. She was buried in a shallow grave in the foothills east of Idaho Falls.
Black electrical tape bound her hands at the wrists and completely wrapped her head and face.
The Ada County Coroner’s Office couldn’t specify a cause of death, saying it was “undetermined violence with binding of the body.”
During the investigation in 2007, Jones took detectives on a drive to show them where he had been the day she disappeared. At one point, he drove toward the foothills where Eldredge’s body would be found.
Jones said he was familiar with the area, having ridden motorcycles through there.
When his car was searched, investigators noted a light film of dust covering the vehicle, except for areas on the trunk where it appeared the dirt had been rubbed away. Investigators also noted weeds stuck to the undercarriage of the car.
The search uncovered bits of black electrical tape and reddish-brown hair in the trunk. A DNA test confirmed the hair could belong to Eldredge; however, it could have also belonged to anyone from her maternal line.
According to documents, a little over a year before Eldredge’s body would be found, Jones was in the Bonneville County Jail, where he allegedly told another inmate he had killed her.
The incident according to Eddie
From Feb. 24 to March 5, 2009, Jones was in the Bonneville County Jail on an unrelated charge and shared a section of the facility with Eddie.
According to the statement of probable cause, Eddie told investigators about the conversations he had with Jones where Jones told him he killed Eldredge.
Eddie said Jones hit Eldredge in the back of the head while she was in the bathroom. Jones got on top of her and held her down, said Eddie.
Jones allegedly told Eddie he suffocated Eldredge and hit her with his fist.
When Jones “snapped out of it,” Eldredge wasn’t breathing.
He then wrapped Eldredge in a blanket and put her in the trunk of his car. In the trunk was a sheet he wrapped her with.
Eddie said Jones told him he had to tie his trunk closed after putting Eldredge’s body inside and said he put her in a shallow grave but wouldn’t tell Eddie where.
Investigators were able to confirm parts of Eddie’s story. Investigators also found Jones’ car trunk had been tied closed with a bungee cord.
Investigators interviewed Eddie again in December 2018. He recounted the same details he told them in 2009 and said he also remembered Jones calling Eldredge his girlfriend and saying that he was in love with her.
Finally, Eddie said Jones told him his mother knew what he had done.
Jones’ half-brother said when he saw Jones return home on Aug. 20, 2007, he and their mother burst into tears because they knew Jones had done something to Eldredge. He said they knew because of Jones’ behavior and the scratches on his face and neck.
Facing second-degree murder
Jones was in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction in Boise for an unrelated probation violation on March 22, 2019, when he was served with an arrest warrant for allegedly killing Stephanie Eldredge.
He is charged with second-degree murder and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
Idaho code defines first-degree murder as willful, deliberate and premeditated. Any murder that isn’t willful, deliberate and premeditated is second-degree.
“There’s no evidence contained in the investigation thus far that supports a first-degree charge,” Bonneville County Prosecutor Daniel Clark said during a news conference Friday. “As the case proceeds, there’s a good chance that evidence will become available or become known. We always have the option to reevaluate the decision.”
Jones will be transported to Bonneville County before court proceedings can begin. Future hearing dates have not been set.