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Man convicted in Ben Renick murder claims key witness testimony hearsay

michael humphrey doc
Dept. of Corrections
Michael Humphrey mugshot


The man convicted of helping kill a prominent snake breeder in Montgomery County is asking for a new trial.

Attorneys for Michael Humphrey filed his appeal on Jan. 26 in the state's Eastern District Court of Appeals. The appeal says Judge Jason Lamb should not have allowed a key witness to testify about what a co-defendant in the murder case of Ben Renick told him about who did it.

A jury convicted Humphrey in October 2021 of first-degree murder and armed criminal action for killing Ben Renick at his farm in 2017. Prosecutors changed his charge to second-degree murder and recommended a life sentence with parole in exchange for his testimony against Renick's wife, Lynlee Renick.

Lynlee Renick was convicted in December 2021 of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. She was sentenced to the jury's recommendation of 16 years in prison.

Special public defender Kevin Schriener said in his only point that Brandon Blackwell should not have been allowed to testify at Humphrey's trial. Blackwell told Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators that Lynlee Renick told him about the shooting when they started dating after Ben's death. Blackwell claimed Lynlee recruited Humphrey to help her get a gun and kill Ben as the couple struggled with their marriage.

Schriener said courts can't allow statements made about a defendant's possible participation in a crime after the fact without that person being present when made.

"Mr. Blackwell’s testimony that Ms. Renick had told him everything that she and Mr. Humphrey did was inadmissible hearsay as it was not in furtherance of the conspiracy and there is no evidence that Mr. Humphrey was present when Ms. Renick made it to Mr. Blackwell and acquiesced in its making," Schriener said. "Even without trial counsel objecting to this testimony, the trial court should have recognized its inadmissible nature and taken action to correct it."

Humphrey's attorneys did not object to Blackwell's testimony at trial, nor did they file a motion for a new trial. Appellate judges will need to find that Lamb committed plain error in allowing Blackwell to testify, which attorney Jennifer Bukowsky said is a higher bar than if the issue had been raised at trial.

Blackwell was in the Boone County Jail at the time of his 2020 interview with the patrol on accusations he violated a protection order Lynlee Renick had against him. A judge had ordered no bond for him, but lowered it following his talk with investigators. Those criminal charges were dropped following Lynlee Renick's sentencing. Lynlee Renick sued Blackwell for defamation in 2022, but the lawsuit has not yet been served.

Blackwell did not testify in Lynlee Renick's trial. Her attorneys said Blackwell invoked his Fifth Amendment rights during depositions before the case.

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.


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