Jury finds man guilty for role in Ben Renick killing
MEXICO, Mo. (KMIZ) -
Michael Humphrey's head dropped as twelve people told a court they thought he helped commit a murder.
The jury from southeast Missouri's Cape Girardeau County found Humphrey guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action on Wednesday night in the 2017 killing of Ben Renick. Humphrey drove the person law enforcement and Humphrey's own defense team said killed Renick - his wife, Lynlee Renick.
Prosecutors argued Humphrey also gave Lynlee the gun to use in the shooting, which Humphrey's team denied. Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner, who tried the case alongside special prosecutor Kelly King, said he was pleased with the jury's verdict. He declined to say anything further due to Lynlee's upcoming trial. Sam Renick, Ben's brother, said he would reserve comment until the end of Lynlee's trial.
Humphrey left the courthouse around 9:45 p.m., about 15 minutes after the jury returned its verdict. Two sheriff deputies escorted him to a Montgomery County Sheriff's Office car to take him to that county's jail. Judge Jason Lamb will sentence him on Jan. 3.
Defense attorneys T.J. Hunsaker and Brianne Besheer declined to comment, as did family members of Humphrey.
The jury began discussing their decision in the trial around 4:30 p.m. The state rested its case at 2:35 p.m. on Wednesday after three and a half days of evidence, while the defense presented no evidence.
Zoellner said Humphrey's story that he knew nothing of Lynlee Renick and her co-worker, Ashley Shaw's, plot to kill Ben "doesn't fly with common sense." Zoellner pointed out text messages Lynlee and Humphrey traded hours after Ben was shot. The texts appear to show the two arranging for Humphrey to set up another massage appointment at Lynlee's former Columbia spa.
The jury watched an interview Humphrey did with the Missouri State Highway Patrol on the day of his 2020 arrest. Humphrey told Master Sgt. Marcus Reynolds he did not know of Lynlee Renick's plan to kill her husband when the two traveled to the Renicks' farm.
Prosecutors claim Humphrey drove Lynlee Renick to the property from her Columbia spa on June 8, 2017. The two allegedly worked with Shaw, a spa employee that testified on Tuesday that she helped Lynlee come up with the plot. Zoellner said Humphrey also gave Lynlee Renick the gun to use.
Defense attorney T.J. Hunsaker focused on Lynlee and Shaw's role in the plan. He said the two came up with the details of the plan and left Humphrey out of most of it, other than to recruit him to drive to the property. He criticized the highway patrol investigators for latching onto Shaw's version of events she gave after striking a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges.
Humphrey's two-hour interview in 2020 with Reynolds instead puts the gun in Lynlee's hands when the two arrived on the Renicks' property near New Florence. Humphrey said he went with Lynlee, his ex-girlfriend, to help her collect her stuff as she ended her relationship with Ben. Humphrey said he was there to make sure "things didn't get out of hand." Humphrey said when they got out of the car, Lynlee Renick tried handing him a gun, which he pushed away. Humphrey said he did not see the gun after that. Investigators have not recovered a weapon they believe was used in the shooting.
Zoellner questioned why Humphrey continued on with the interaction at the Renick property after Lynlee tried handing him the gun.
"What do we think of people who help people commit murder?" Zoellner asked the jury to consider when deliberating.
Humphrey said he and Lynlee met Ben at his snake barn, where the breeder kept thousands of his pythons and anacondas that made him a renowned and soon-to-be-wealthy businessman. Humphrey said it was only 10 seconds after they walked into the barn that he heard the first gunshot. He ran out of the building back toward the car, according to his interview.
"I didn't know what was going to happen at all," Humphrey said.
Shaw testified before that she and Lynlee Renick tried recruiting Humphrey to kill Ben. The two women previously tried to kill Ben by crushing up more than a dozen Percocets and placing them in a protein shake.
Prosecutors pointed out in opening statements that Humphrey's story on his involvement changed as investigators spoke with him. He first told the highway patrol he had car trouble the day of Ben's death and met with Lynlee that day to get a massage.
Lynlee Renick's trial is set to start in December in Boone County.