Two November shooting deaths in Hamilton and Palo Pinto counties are believed to be a murder-suicide, according to the investigating Texas Ranger.
Sgt. Jess Ramos said John William Cornelius, 39, a Mineral Wells native who reportedly committed suicide in a field near Oran around Nov. 21, is the only suspect in the killing of “Bob” Robert Renick, 66, found dead Nov. 17 at his residence in Hamilton County.
“I have no reason to believe anybody else was involved,” Ramos said.
The relationship between the two men, former business partners in Johnson County, was very close according to accounts from investigators and Cornelius’ family. Renick reportedly mentored Cornelius and was like an older brother to him.
Based on information from an interview with Cornelius in the days before his death, Ramos said he believes the motive may have been money related or possibly another disagreement.
Ramos said many questions remain unanswered.
According to Cornelius’ mother, Donna Cornelius, John Cornelius cared for Renick and transported him to doctor appointments after Renick received leg injury from birdshot during a mysterious shooting on Nov. 8.
“The initial call [Nov. 8] indicated a hunting accident had resulted in an injury to the resident,” according to the a statement from the Hamilton County
Sheriff’s Office. “While en route deputies were updated that an unknown assailant had fired a shotgun at the resident.”
A search of the area with tracking dogs turned up no scent or suspect, according to the sheriff’s office.
After Renick did not return several calls from investigators attempting to follow up on the original report, they showed up at his house Nov. 17 and found the back door open and Renick’s body on the floor.
Renick had a small-caliber gunshot wound to the chest and two to the head, according to Ramos. The ballistics report has not yet come back, Ramos said Monday.
Investigators interviewed Cornelius and he took a polygraph test but Cornelius was not detained or arrested, Ramos confirmed.
No evidence has tied Cornelius to the first shooting, Ramos said.
Cornelius was found near his truck in a pasture in the 300 block of Farm-to-Market Road 52 less than half a mile north of State Highway 254 around noon Nov. 21 with a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Investigators said they believe he shot himself during the early morning hours and found no signs of foul play.
His death was ruled a suicide by Justice of the Peace Jerry Mitchell after an autopsy.
Cornelius’ mother and brother both told the Index in November they don’t believe he had anything to do with Renick’s death, emphasizing the long-time, close friendship of the two.
The Index was unable to contact the family Tuesday.
Cornelius began working for Renick in the fencing business in Johnson County and later bought the business from Renick, according to Donna Cornelius.
Her son came by almost every week, taking her to the grocery store and helping her since her husband died and she had five major surgeries, Donna Cornelius said.
“He was a great boy and would do anything for anyone,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius told the Index in November she saw her son days before his death.
“I really do think there was something going on the last [several weeks before Renick’s death involving] his ex-boss,” Cornelius said. “I know there was a problem.”
However, Cornelius said she didn’t believe the problem was with Renick himself.
Though the investigation is still open, Sgt. Jess Ramos said he currently has no other significant leads at this point.
Staff writer Christin Coyne can be reached at (940) 325-4465, ext. 3428, or firstname.lastname@example.org.