What we know about Stephanie Eldredge and the man charged in her death

Crime Watch

IDAHO FALLS — Mystery surrounded the killing of 21-year-old Stephanie Eldredge for years.

She disappeared from her apartment in 2007, and her body was discovered nearly three years later. But it wasn’t until Friday that someone was charged in her death.

More details about the homicide will become available as the case progresses, but this is what we know so far about Eldredge and Kenneth Ryan Jones, the man charged with second-degree murder.

Disappearance and death of Stephanie Eldredge

Stephanie Eldredge was the mother of three children who, family members say, were her pride and joy.

In a 2010 Post Register article, her family said Eldredge had struggled with drug addiction. But after two and a half years of sobriety, Eldredge was working to reunite with her two oldest daughters, who were in the custody of other family members.

“She had worked so hard with so much determination to get those girls back,” Dale Burns, Eldredge’s grandfather, told the paper.

Eldredge was even planning on attending Eastern Idaho Technical College, but on Aug. 20, 2007, the young mother vanished from her apartment on Holbrook Drive in Idaho Falls.

Left behind were Eldredge’s baby daughter, cell phone, car keys, purse and even her shoes. Investigators believed foul play was involved, but nothing was ever proven.

Her body wouldn’t be discovered until three years later on April 23, 2010, badly decomposed and buried in a shallow grave in the foothills just east of Idaho Falls.

“Her remains were so depleted that they couldn’t gather enough forensic evidence to actually determine even the cause of death, much less the identity of the people responsible,” Burns told EastIdahoNews.com in a 2016 interview.

In 2016, Eldredge’s family began to hope a deck of cards could help find her killer.

Crystal Douglas, the founder of East Idaho Cold Cases, decided to distribute cold case playing cards to Idaho’s inmates in the hope of getting tips. Eldredge’s picture and a short description of the case were featured on the six of diamonds.

RELATED: She was murdered nine years ago. Her family hopes a deck of cards will find the killer (2016)

Douglas said she hoped the cards could bring in new tips regarding various cold cases from the inmate population.

“This is the second case in less than five weeks resulting in an arrest involving a cold case from Idaho. Both victims were featured in the first-edition cold case playing cards which have been in circulation at Idaho Department of Correction facilities since January of 2016,” Douglas told EastIdahoNews.com.

In 2014, then-Idaho Falls detective Jessica Marley was assigned to Eldredge’s case. In 2017, Marley, who had been promoted to sergeant, gave the department a briefing on the investigation.

IFPD Chief Bryce Johnson said during that briefing, Marley said she believed the case could be solved if given the time to dedicate attention exclusively to it.

Marley reviewed all the information gathered in the case. In November 2018, she was placed on the case full time. She worked with her fellow detectives and with “Cold Justice,” a true-crime television series that helped fund and expedite the testing of old evidence with modern technology.

On Friday, the IFPD called a news conference to announce Kenneth Ryan Jones, 30, was being charged with second-degree murder in Stephanie’s death.

What we know about Kenneth Ryan Jones

RELATED: Man arrested in 12-year-old Idaho Falls cold case

Kenneth Ryan Jones, 30, has a criminal history. When he was charged with second-degree murder Friday, he was already serving prison time in Boise on a probation violation related to a 2011 arson in Bonneville County.

It’s not clear what evidence finally gave authorities sufficient cause to charge Jones in the homicide; however, during Friday’s news conference Johnson said Jones has been a part of the case since the very beginning.

It’s unknown what the relationship between Eldredge and Jones was, but Johnson said they lived in the same house in 2007.

Jones’ criminal history starts in 2006 with a DUI arrest in Jefferson County. Misdemeanor drug and resisting arrest charges were brought against him in 2008 and 2009 in Bonneville County, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he was charged with a felony — third-degree arson.

Court documents show that on March 24, 2011, law enforcement was dispatched to a residence on North Deborah Drive in Idaho Falls.

Bonneville County Sheriff’s deputies were responding to a report of harassment. While en route they were told IFPD was also responding to the same location regarding a suicidal man threatening to burn down his mother’s home. According to court documents, they believed he was the same man who was sending harassing text messages.

Deputies contacted the person who reported the harassment. She told them she was in fear for her safety and the safety of her child because of Jones. She said Jones had been sending her threatening text messages.

Investigators spoke with Jones’ mother. She told them Jones was “freaking out.”

“If officers respond, he will kill everyone and burn the house down,” she said.

The victim said Jones had been living in her and her fiancé’s home for around two months. That day, Jones and the victim’s fiancé got into an argument. In the victim’s written statement, she said she was caring for her 4-year-old daughter and overheard Jones threaten to burn the house down.

She said her fiancé tried to push Jones out of the house, and a fight broke out. The victim was able to end the fight and her fiancé decided to leave the home because he felt things were spinning out of control. As fiancé left, he told the victim to call the police.

The victim said she and her daughter left the home. After she got into her vehicle, Jones came out of the house and told her to call the fire department because he had started a fire. She went back into the home and found a pile of clothes burning.

She stomped on the pile and put the fire out. Jones was arrested that same day.

He was sentenced on July 18, 2011, for third-degree arson. Jones was given 10 years with two years fixed and eight years indeterminate. District Judge Dane Watkins suspended the sentence and placed Jones on five years of probation.

Jones violated his probation several times, eventually landing him in state prison.

Courts documents regarding the murder charge are expected to be made public in the next few days.

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