Stefanie Silvey Investigates...Owensboro Mystery

John Reneer, in an earlier mug shot
John Reneer, in an earlier mug shot
John Reneer today
John Reneer today

Reporter: Stefanie Silvey

A 20 year old mystery still haunts Owensboro.

Just what happened in the summer of 1986? Three young people virtually vanished without a trace. Months later, one body would be found, increasing concern about what happened to the other two.

For the last two decades, when talking about what happened to Shannon Green, Dewayne Bell, and Angie Dickens, one person consistently remained the center of attention. A man with a sordid past, a man already convicted of murder, a man said to have known all three victims. But an old saying goes, "Sometimes things aren't always as they seem."

The summer of 1986. Singers gather together to raise AIDS awareness.

At the Reo drive-in, "Platoon" is the number one hit.

In Owensboro, however, a much more sinister summer. Sgt. Mark Saffron says, "It started off, there was girl by the name of Mary Dickens, everybody called her Angie Dickens."

Angie Dickens was last seen by two friends who drove the 23-year-old home from a bar in the early morning hours of June 17th, 1986. The friends dropped her off, but as they drove away they saw her talking to two men in an older model car. It was the last time she was seen alive. Because Angie didn't live with her family, she wasn't reported missing until nearly a month later when another young girl disappeared.

Sixteen-year-old Shannon Green was your typical teen...giggly, vivacious, and into boys. She would be 35 now, but her family is left with only home videos of her younger years. Shannon's aunt, Dorcas Nesmith says, "Can you imagine not knowing what happened to someone in your family for it's going on 20 years and seeing your sister, basically grieve herself to death?"

Lois Orr never gave up hope she'd find out what happened to her daughter..but died in 1997 before she could ever find out.

A week after Shannon's disappearance, police had another missing persons case on their hands. Eighteen-year-old Dewayne Bell was last seen riding his bike away from his sister's house. City, state, and county police all became involved.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain says, " John Reneer was initially listed as a potential suspect, by virtue of the fact, and it's no secret to anybody, that John had a very storied career, he had been convicted of a previous homicide, he had been a suspect in a number of felony offenses and he found himself running afoul of the law, pretty much all of his life."

John Reneer's house was known in the 80's as a place, where the younger crowd would hang out. His son was close in age to those later missing. Dewayne and Dewayne's father, David Bell, worked for Reneer and Shannon Green told her mother she was headed to Reneer's house to baby sit the day she disappeared.

Cain says, "So when an individual like that has known connections to all three of the victims, some of those connections in at least two of the cases were very, very close, I think the investigators would have been negligent if they had not pursued that potential lead."

"I can tell you this definitively, he was capable of doing any one of the three, if not all three at that time, very capable, and I think he'll tell you that."

For the first time in 20 years, John Reneer is speaking out publicly. "I believe they were so locked in on me being the one, that they weren't going to let it be anyone else, no matter what it took, and I believe that."

Reneer says the pressure only increased in October of 1986 when the remains of Angie Dickens were found in a Daviess County cornfield. Reneer says, "Here's what I've consistently said over all the years. Out of every interview they took, and all the evidence they have, if there is one shred, or even one hint of evidence that I did it, then where is it at for Pete's sake?"

But Reneer remained a suspect. He was never charged, but later went to prison for an unrelated incident. The missing persons investigation seemed to stall with Reneer behind bars, but that would all change after 2001 when Reneer was again a free man, or so he thought.

New detectives picked up the case and again had a renewed interest in Reneer. What they didn't expect was that he also had an interest in talking to them. Reneer says, "I'm glad the truth is finally out. I feel bad, I feel guilty for several reasons because I should have done this a long time ago...but I'm also mad and I'm trying to tell myself that the reason I didn't do it was because they were after me so hot..but I should have done it and I didn't do it."

Not only did Reneer tell the new detectives he didn't commit the crimes, he says he knows who did. "You know, I've never in all these years. No one has ever mentioned Shannon's name and I've never one time thought about Shannon without seeing that mother fu---r's arms......... Wrapped around her throat."

Tuesday night on Newswatch at Ten, John Reneer's account of what happened to Shannon Green, Angie Dickens and Dewayne Bell so many years ago. And a shocking alleged connection between all three cases.