Man sent to prison for killing Stephanie Eldredge in 2007
Published at | Updated at
IDHAO FALLS — The 2007 killing of Stephanie Eldredge that went cold for over a decade finally reach a conclusion Thursday.
District Judge Joel Tingey ordered Kenneth Jones, 32, to spend a total of 10 to 21 years in prison after Jones confessed to killing Eldredge. Jones pleaded guilty in October 2020 to felony voluntary manslaughter, felony concealment, and alteration or destruction of evidence, and misdemeanor resisting and obstruction. As part of a plea agreement, the charges were amended down from second-degree murder.
“She was taken from me, one of the things I have a right to — my mom,” one of Eldredge’s daughters said in a victim impact statement. “… No matter how much time you serve, just know you’ve ruined the lives of so many but most of all … you ruined your own.”
In 2007, Eldredge, a mother of three, disappeared from her apartment on Holbrook Drive on Aug. 20, 2007. Left behind were Eldredge’s baby daughter, cell phone, car keys, purse and even her shoes. Investigators feared the worse, believing Eldredge met with foul play but were initially unable to prove it.
“I would do anything to go back and change that day,” Jones said before Tingey handed down the sentence. “I’m sorry for what happened. I’m sorry for what happened afterward and I’m even more sorry for the three little girls who grew up without their mom. It was a very cowardly act holding this in for all these years.”
At the time of her death, Eldredge was living with her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s mother and her boyfriend’s half-brother, Jones. Documents indicate that 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,” police wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Authorities learned more in 2009 when Jones, while in jail for an unrelated crime, told his cellmate that he had violently killed Eldredge, according to what the cellmate later told investigators. To read more about that investigation, and the statements made by the cellmate, click here.
Investigators found Eldredge’s decomposed body bound in electrical tape on April 23, 2010, buried in a shallow grave in the foothills just east of Idaho Falls.
While authorities had the jailhouse confession and Eldredge’s body, authorities said they felt like there was not sufficient evidence to charge Jones with the death, and the case went cold.
But in 2014, then-Idaho Falls police 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. During the 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 March 23, 2019, the IFPD announced Jones was being charged with second-degree murder in Stephanie’s death. Since then, Jones has sat in the Bonneville County Jail awaiting trial as well as serving time for a felony third-degree arson case, which he was already in custody for from 2011.
During his change of plea hearing, Jones said the day he killed Eldredge the two were in a fight. Jones said he pushed Eldredge. She fell back and hit her head, which led to her death. Jones said to his “great shame,” he did not know what to do and “panicked” after she died. He then hid the body.
“This has been an open wound for 13 years without any resolution and to an extent without any hope of resolution,” Tingey said. “Hopefully this can bring some conclusion, some closure to what has been again an open wound for so long.”