A Massive Inheritance, Then an Alleged Murder

North Dakota woman accused of poisoning longtime boyfriend in scheme to get millions
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2023 12:00 AM CDT
Woman Fed Boyfriend Antifreeze, Killing Him: Cops
Ina Thea Kenoyer   (Booking photo)

Authorities say a North Dakota woman used antifreeze to fatally poison her boyfriend of 10 years in the hopes that she could then claim half of his inheritance. Ina Thea Kenoyer, 47, has been charged with murdering Steven Edward Riley Jr., 51, the New York Times reports. At her first court appearance Tuesday, she was ordered held on $1 million bond, KFYR reports. Riley became ill on September 3 while meeting with a lawyer to finalize his collection of a $30 million inheritance; after he almost collapsed in pain, the friends who were with him urged him to see a doctor, but, those friends told authorities, Kenoyer insisted Riley was just suffering from heat stroke and needed to rest. It was at least 12 hours before she sought medical attention for Riley, authorities say. Emergency responders were called to the home September 4 to find Riley unresponsive, and he died in a hospital the following day.

An autopsy found he died from poisoning by ethylene glycol, antifreeze's main ingredient. Authorities say Kenoyer was upset because she had learned Riley planned to break up with her following his receipt of the inheritance, the New York Post reports. Kenoyer allegedly told investigators that she was entitled to half of the inheritance, with Riley's son getting the other half, because she was his "common law" wife; investigators say she was "incensed" when they explained that North Dakota does not recognize "common law" marriages. Friends and relatives of Riley say they heard Kenoyer talk about poisoning him with antifreeze both before and after he died, and one friend says Kenoyer threw Riley's belongings outside of their home on September 3.

She's also accused of lying to both friends and investigators about the days leading up to Riley's death, claiming he had suffered heat stroke on September 2 and was drinking alcohol all day on September 3—a friend says that's not true, and there was no alcohol in his system when he died—as well as claiming he was at a walk-in clinic on September 4 when a friend checked every clinic and ER in the area and found out he hadn't been to any of them. Kenoyer also acknowledged giving Riley sweet tea on September 3; sweet drinks can disguise the taste of antifreeze, which authorities found in a Windex bottle in the couple's house. In another recent case in Indiana, authorities say a man was fatally poisoned by his wife and stepdaughter, who allegedly used ethylene glycol they ordered online, the Messenger reports. (More North Dakota stories.)

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