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Woman Convicted of Murdering Snake Breeder Husband Sues Ex-Boyfriend for Allegedly Defamatory Tip That Put Her Behind Bars

Lynlee Renick appears in a Missouri Department of Corrections mugshot.

Lynlee Renick appears in a Missouri Department of Corrections mugshot.

Less than a month after a jury convicted a Missouri woman of killing her snake-breeder husband, the now-convicted murderer filed a lawsuit claiming that her ex-boyfriend made false statements to law enforcement authorities — statements that led to her prosecution, conviction, and incarceration. In the suit, Lynlee Jo Renick alleges that Brandon Blackwell knowingly lied to investigators in order to implicate her in the murder of her husband, 29-year-old Benjamin Renick.

Benjamin Renick, a well-known reptile dealer, was fatally shot in the back at his snake breeding facility on June 8, 2017.  Lynlee was in December 2021 convicted on a charge of second-degree murder in his death following a highly publicized criminal trial. She was sentenced to 16 years behind bars.

According to a petition for defamation filed last month in Boone County Circuit Court, Lynlee was only charged, prosecuted, and unanimously convicted for murder by a jury because of allegedly false claims Blackwell made prior to her criminal trial. Those statements are alleged to have taken place between Jan. 14, 2020 and Jan. 16, 2020.

“The statements made by Defendant were known to Defendant to be false and were made without justification or cause and were made maliciously for the purpose of causing injury to Plaintiff’s reputation and subjecting her to arrest, incarceration, criminal prosecution and loss of custody of the child Plaintiff and Defendant have in common,” the petition claims. “As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s false and defamatory statements, the reputation of Plaintiff has been damaged, and she was subjected to prosecution.”

Court documents show that Blackwell first sat down for an interview with Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators in January 2020 after claiming that he had critical information about an unsolved murder in the New Florence area, the Columbia Missourian reported. Over several interviews, Blackwell reportedly explained that he and Lynlee had been romantically involved and said that at some point during the course of their relationship Lynlee admitted to him that she fatally shot her husband.

That tip reportedly breathed new life into the investigation, which had not seen much progress in the nearly three years since Benjamin Renick had died.

In light of her 16-year prison sentence, Lynlee further alleges in the petition that Blackwell’s statements to investigators left her deprived of “her freedoms of movement and association” as well as “the love, comfort, affection, and companionship of her three children.”

Lynlee is seeking actual and punitive damages in excess of $25,000 as well as court costs.

Lynlee Renick ahead of sentencing

Lynlee Renick in court during her criminal trial.

Columbia NBC affiliate KOMU-TV reported that Blackwell spent time in jail on two counts of first-degree stalking and five counts of violating an order of protection against Lynlee. The order was terminated in Nov. 2021.

She and Blackwell reportedly had an affair prior to Benjamin’s murder and had a child together following his death. Online court records show that in May 2019 he was ordered to pay Lynlee $760.00 in child support.

Lynlee’s attorney, Connie M. Sullivan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Law&Crime.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, prosecutors said that Lynlee was the mastermind behind a plot to kill her husband and allegedly recruited the help of Ashley Shaw, a friend from work, and Michael Humphrey, Lynlee’s ex-boyfriend, to carry out her alleged plans.  A jury in October 2021 found Humphrey guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the subsequent death of Benjamin Renick.

Lynlee and Shaw had initially planned to kill her husband by lacing his protein shake with Percocet, prosecutors said. When that didn’t work, Lynlee sought out Humphrey and tried to hire him to take out Benjamin. Lynlee testified at trial that Humphrey was the one who fatally shot her husband.

But both Shaw and Humphrey testified that while Lynlee brought them in on the murder plot, she alone shot and killed Benjamin. Both of them cut deals with prosecutors. Shaw dodged charges outright, while Humphrey managed to get his first-degree murder conviction knocked down to second-degree murder.

Blackwell does not have a lawyer listed on the court docket as of the time of this report.  Therefore, Law&Crime could not reach a Blackwell representative for comment.

According to online prison records maintained by the Missouri Department of Corrections, Lynlee Renick remains locked up at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Mo., a rural town about an hour and 45 minutes northwest of St. Louis.

Read Lynlee’s court filing below.

[image via Law&Crime Network]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.