, a “rock star” of the reptile world, was found dead in June 2017. Investigators initially suspected one of his prized serpents had killed him, but they realized something more heinous was responsible.
June 8, 2017:
A deadly snake bite?
Montgomery County, Missouri, sheriff’s deputies were called to a snake breeding facility with more than 3,000 snakes and a man lying in blood. Deputies thought a deadly snake was on the loose.
Renowned Missouri snake breeder Ben Renick was 29 years old when he was found dead at his breeding facility.
Ben’s wife, Lynlee Renick, found Ben dead and called his brother, Sam Renick, for help. Sam was the one who had told investigators that a snake might have been responsible.
When Coroner Dave Colbert arrived and took a closer look around, he found shell casings. “When I saw that shell casing on the shelf just above his head, I knew this was not from a snake,” he said. “This was something much more heinous.”
The investigation into who might have wanted Ben Renick dead began and one of the focuses was on Lynlee Renick.
2010: Renick Reptiles Inc.
Ben Renick had an interest in snakes at an early age. He started Renick Reptiles Inc. in 2010 and sold his snakes to buyers all over the world, from the UK to Japan.
2011: Lovers and business owners
Ben and Lynlee met as teenagers and reconnected in 2011. The couple got married in 2014 and eventually had a child together. Lynlee Renick helped Ben at the snake breeding facility.
April 21, 2017: Snakes and the spa
By 2017, Ben Renick made a million-dollar deal to sell some of his pythons and anacondas. Lynlee and Ben opened a second business. It was a day spa called Ascensia Spa Inc., but the business, which Lynlee oversaw, was struggling financially. Facebook messages show Ben and Lynlee argued about finances. He told Lynlee she was backed up on loan payments, rent and staff payments.
May 17, 2017: Marriage troubles
About three years into the marriage, Lynlee was unfaithful to Ben with at least two other men. Messages between the couple show that Ben was suspicious. The relationship was struggling.
May 23, 2017: Poisonous shake
Investigators would later learn that a month before Ben Renick’s murder, Lynlee had made her first attempt to kill him. Lynlee had told a spa employee that Ben had been abusive. Lynlee never filed any police reports about the alleged physical abuse. The colleague would later tell police she felt sorry for Lynlee and wanted to help her. They plotted to kill Ben by giving him a poisonous protein shake laced with 15 Percocet pills. Ben was very sick, but survived. He had no idea he was poisoned.
June 8, 2017: Suspicion
Investigators would learn about that first murder attempt via Percocet smoothie much later in the investigation.
In the days after Ben Renick’s murder, police questioned Lynlee. They tested her hands for gun residue, but the results were negative.
June 2017: Family, snakes and deals
The reptile community was left shaken by Ben Renick’s death and wanted to help. They raised and donated money to support Ben’s family. Ben’s prized snakes were dispersed and sold to various reptile experts and enthusiasts.
June 21, 2017: Widow life
Almost two weeks after Ben Renick’s death, Lynlee was prepared to sell the 72-acre Renick property. She was also set to inherit a million-dollar life insurance policy. Investigators learned that Lynlee was the beneficiary of that life insurance policy. Witnesses told police that Lynlee called the life insurance company days after Ben’s death to find out when she could cash out.
October 5, 2017: Cold scales
Lynlee Renick was interviewed by investigators six times. On October 5, 2017, the Missouri State Highway Patrol administered a polygraph test. They informed Lynlee that she failed. But investigators didn’t have hard evidence that she had murdered Ben and she walked away and remained a free woman for almost three years.
January 14, 2020: A jailhouse tip
A tip comes in from a jailhouse. The witness claims to have information about Ben Renick’s murder. He tells Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators that Lynlee had shot Ben and that she had plotted with an old ex-boyfriend.
January 16, 2020: Snake breeder’s wife arrested
Almost three years after Ben Renick’s murder, Lynlee Renick and her ex-boyfriend, Michael Humphrey, were arrested for Ben’s murder. But after their arrests, Lynlee and Humphrey would both point the finger at each other. Who had really pulled the trigger?