Stefanie Silvey Investigates...Caught On Tape?

Published: Nov. 2, 2005 at 11:20 AM CST|Updated: Aug. 12, 2008 at 2:38 PM CDT
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For two decades, Owensboro police have wondered what happened to three people who vanished in the summer of 1986. Go with us as we continue our investigation into the disappearance of Angie Dickens, Shannon Green and Dewayne Bell.

The remains of Angie Dickens would be found months later in a rural Daviess County cornfield, leaving investigators to worry even more about the fate of the other two. For years police suspected one man, but as Stefanie Silvey learned, things may not always be as they seem.

Stefanie first began talking to John Reneer in 2003 and she says, "Reneer has long been a suspect in the Owensboro disappearances, so when I first began speaking with him, he was slow to respond. But once he began to open up to me and new police investigators assigned to the case, the story he told was something you would expect straight out of Hollywood."

John Reneer is waging a war. With a camera as his weapon, he's battling Louisville-area sex shops and finding some shops aren't going down without a fight. It's the last thing you'd expect from a convicted sex offender and convicted murderer. "Sodomy. It's not something I'm proud of. If I could have never gone to prison this last time and stayed out and had all the fun, all the women and all the drinking I ever wanted and been that way now, or I could have gone to prison for 13 1/2 years then come out the way I am, then I'm glad I went. That's the truth."

But not everyone is a believer. Reneer's reputation remains a bad one in Owensboro, where he has long been suspected of killing Angie Dickens, Shannon Green and Dewayne Bell."I was absolutely no good. I was really bad news. I had hurt alot of people over the years, and as I told you once, I had killed a guy and you asked me if he was the only one I killed, and I told you yeah, but I thought once is enough. It's too much really."

Reneer says he is guilty of one thing back in 1986: Not coming forward with information that would have kept Shannon Green's mother, Lois Orr, from always wondering if her daughter was still alive."They said that Lois used to get up every morning and put some change in an envelope and put it on the porch with a note, hoping that maybe she would come home and call her."

Melnita Moore says, "That's what she would do. This went on for I don't know how long after Shannon disappeared. It was a long time. That's really sad, isn't it?

Lois Orr's sisters say not knowing put her in an early grave. Determined to find answers at any cost, they did a very unlikely thing, they contacted the one man who they thought knew.Stefanie asks, "What was your family's reaction to that decision?"

Dorcas Nesmith says, "Oh, I think they thought we were crazy. In fact, some of my children were like 'Mom!', but now they are glad we did it. But their reaction at first was, they thought we were 'off the deep end.'"

And they had good reason. Shannon told her mother she was headed to Reneer's house, to baby sit, the day she disappeared.

Reneer tells Stefanie, "The last time we heard from Shannon? The morning of July 6th. She had called our house and indicated she might come over and I told her we were having a barbecue down at my mother's and wouldn't be there, and she said maybe she would come or call back later that night."

Reneer says he never saw her again. Wanting to set the record straight, he reluctantly agreed to meet with Shannon's family.

Dorcas Nesmith says, "When we met him, one of the first things he said to us was, 'Do you mind if we pray first?'"
Melnita Moore explains, "Our mother was a good, Godly woman, and if anyone could reach God, she could. Momma could and she did. She didn't know anymore than we knew about John Reneer, but she prayed until the day she died, that John Reneer would find God. And she always said, if John Reneer finds God, we will know what happened to Shannon."

But even prayers couldn't prepare the family for what they were about to hear. Reneer said he didn't hurt Shannon, but he knew who did. "He took me to the location where Shannon was and that's why I'm so aggravated and frustrated now. It's not like we drove by and said, 'Shannon is in that field.' It's not even like we stood out there in the field and he said, 'I buried Shannon right there.' Because when we got in there, we parked the car and he walked me in there - over the tracks and into the field. And he had just a little bit of trouble finding the spot, but after a minute or so he found the spot, and I could tell it had been freshly dug, He said 'That's where she's at', and I said 'Show me', and he had a shovel - we had shovels, and he dug down less than 18 inches, probably 16 inches, and sure enough - he uncovered what looked to me like this area. And I could see the cloth and I could see the skin, and I said 'Alright, cover it back up.' That's all I needed to see."

But he says that's not all he did see. Reneer says the man confessed to killing Dickens in the cornfield after the two had gone there to fool around. And the killing didn't stop there.

"He told me that he had left Angie laying there face up in the field, and the next day he had seen an airplane coming over that direction, from the airport, and it scared him because he was afraid someone in an airplane or helicopter could look out and see her. So he went and took a bicycle, he said, and rode down there and covered her up with cornstalks. He wouldn't lie about things like that. He wasn't lying to me. How would you even think about that to lie about it?"

He also admitted killing another woman and her child from Tennessee. "I said what about the woman and kid, where are they at? And he was facing Angie's bones there and he said, 'Right back there, in that ditch.'"

Reneer's account was shocking, but Shannon's family was even more shocked at who Reneer claimed did all the killings: The third missing person, Dewayne Bell.

Reneer says, "I wanted to kill him then - and would have if no one had seen us leave together. I had intended to kill him if he had hurt Shannon, and I was going to kill him. I know that sounds horrible to you, but that was life back then, for me."

Back then, Reneer was known as someone to fear, particularly if you hurt someone he cared about. Dewayne's account of what happened to Shannon was simple. She came over and was hanging out with Dewayne and his father David when Dewayne got rough, made a move and Shannon refused."She said you mother f--ker, I'm telling Johnny." and I think, as bad as that is, that's probably what got her killed."

He says that's when the fight apparently became deadly."According to Dewayne, she was trying to get away and Dewayne had her around the neck and she was fighting Dewayne. And to be honest, she could have probably whooped Dewayne, but David got her arms and pinned her arms and said, according to Dewayne, he said 'Choke her harder, choke her harder' and they killed her there and took her out there and buried her."

It's an image he says he'll never forget."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 f--kers arms wrapped around her throat."

Reneer says he was ready to kill both Dewayne and his father David, but with police watching his every move, he never got the chance. Days later, Dewayne Bell disappeared and Dewayne's father suddenly moved to Arizona.

Reneer is curious, "Whatever the heck that is about. I thought then, 'You know, Dewayne has told me the truth here, because if he was my son and he had been missing for a week and people are popping up missing, I not only wouldn't leave town - you couldn't drag me out of town."

Despite Reneer's violent history and bad reputation, Shannon's family believes him. And they aren't alone. New police investigators assigned to the case are also taking notice. So much so, they've had numerous digs in recent months in the cornfield where Reneer says he last saw Shannon Green's body. At these digs Shannon's family and John Reneer now stand side-by-side.

Dorcas Nesmith says, "I think of him as somebody that has been truthful to tell his story and we are so thankful for that, and I intend to stay in touch with him for the rest of my life."
John Reneer says, "I don't know how they could possibly be friends to me, 'cause I've told them everything I've told you and more, but we are committed here."

But you may ask why is everyone taking the word of an ex-con with a sordid past?Dorcas Nesmith knows, "Well, the tape, my word." Detective Saffron explains, "Everything he told me was on that tape. It confirmed it."

You see, John Reneer doesn't just have a story - he has a tape to back it up.

Dewayne: "Well, I'm going to tell you the truth. They can't go to the police."
Johnny: "Why can't they?"
Dewayne: "Because I killed one of - I killed them."

Owensboro investigators have a bombshell tape on their hands. A tape of an alleged confession. What's on it and why is it coming out now?

Stefanie asks, "Did you know about the tape before John Reneer?"Nesmith says no. "Never. Never had heard a thing about a tape. Didn't know a thing in the world what he was talking about."

Wednesday night on Newswatch at 10:00, you'll hear for yourself the taped confession, that current investigators say, backs up Reneer's claims.