By Janie Jones
For more than 25 years, the unsolved murder of Pamela Felkins haunted a lot of people: her family and friends, the people of Greenbrier where she lived and died and the investigators who would catch a lead only to see it vanish in the wind. Was her killer a stranger? Or was he standing next to you in the grocery check-out line?
When it was announced in October 2018 that advances in DNA testing had caught up with the killer, the residents of Faulkner County familiar with the case were relieved but also anxious to learn details of the development.
An entire generation had grown up since the cold, rainy night of February 2, 1990, when Pamela Faye Felkins was the only clerk on duty at the Crossroads Video Store in Greenbrier. Her husband, David Felkins, was supposed to pick her up when she got off work. But when he arrived shortly before the 9 p.m. closing time, Pam wasn’t there. On the counter were an ashtray with a burning cigarette and a warm cup of coffee. Money was still in the cash register. Pam’s purse, keys and coat were in the store, but she was nowhere to be found. David reported her missing, and a search party was soon looking for her.
Officials and volunteers looked for the missing 32-year-old mother of two until inclement weather made it impossible to continue. The search resumed at dawn and progressed into the afternoon. Then two of Pam’s cousins made a grisly discovery off Clinton Mountain Road, two miles south of McGintytown. There, at an old trash dump site, they found Pam’s lifeless body. She had several cuts on her legs and had been beaten about the head and shoulders with a blunt object, the fatal injury being a blow to the head. She had also been raped, and a DNA sample was obtained from the semen inside her.
The closest thing to a witness was a young couple who was leaving the store just as a man was entering it around 8:40 p.m. He was a tall, heavy-set, white male in his thirties or forties with a tattoo or other distinguishing feature on his left arm.
Someone eating at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant next door to the video store reported seeing a vehicle there around the time of the abduction. It was described as a light blue Chevrolet with a white panel and a white camper shell. Everybody within 100 miles was on the lookout for that truck, but it never surfaced.
One of the first officials working the case was Faulkner County Sheriff’s Investigator Marty Montgomery, who had gone to school with Pam. He also went on to serve five terms as sheriff himself.
Authorities thought the rape took place in an abandoned mobile home on Heath Lane in Greenbrier. When asked what led them to that location, Montgomery said, “We received a number of intelligence reports from several sources.”
The only person of interest ever named publicly in the early years of the investigation was John Mosley. He was a convicted sex offender and is currently serving a 40-year sentence for a rape he committed in 1995. He lived near the mobile home on Heath Lane and, in fact, was once arrested for stealing things from that same mobile home. But Mosley’s DNA didn’t match the sample taken from the victim.
Tips from the public were mostly rumors. Somebody mentioned that the truck referenced above was destroyed in a car crusher at a site on Wilson Bottoms Road or in that vicinity, but according to Montgomery, “People were making up all kinds of stories to impress someone with their access to ‘inside’ information. We literally spent hundreds of hours chasing stories like that one only to find out someone had made it up.”
Alibis and polygraph tests cleared the people who were brought in for questioning. Officials interviewed other potential witnesses and processed physical evidence. Within days, however, the investigation stalled. Bob Blankenship, who was then Faulkner County Sheriff, said that unless officers found a smoking gun, the investigation might take a long time. Truer words were never spoken. Faulkner County would elect five more sheriffs before DNA named the murderer.
By 2018, DNA technology had advanced to the point where forensic genealogists could search through ancestral databases for matches to DNA samples found at crime scenes.
In the October 2018 news conference, Faulkner County Sheriff Tim Ryals said, “We were able to use DNA genealogy with a 99.99% accuracy to locate the owner of the DNA collected from Pam. By using the unknown DNA, a family tree building technique was used to identify Edward Keith Renegar.”
Ryals went on to say that investigators had collected DNA from Renegar’s biological daughter, which also confirmed a 99.99% match.
Renegar had a history of sexual assault of women and served 10 months in prison for the 1994 kidnapping at knifepoint of a Cleburne County woman, who managed to escape. Sometime after his release in May 1995, he moved to Utah, where he lived with his father. Renegar, a former truck driver, died of cancer in 2002. His daughter told authorities that Renegar had been abusive toward his two ex-wives. One had a restraining order against him. Renegar lived in Greenbrier at the time of the Felkins murder. He had been a customer at the video store many times, but she didn’t know him and neither did her friends or family.
Solomon Graves, the Public Information Officer and Legislative Liaison for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, confirmed that Renegar had a surgical scar on his left forearm. This may or may not have been what the couple saw on the man who was entering the video store as they were leaving it.
Officials aren’t closing the case just yet, and they have been choosing their words carefully, calling Renegar the “primary suspect” in the case, not the killer. They would like to have more corroborating evidence, such as a murder weapon or something that belonged to Pam that ended up in Renegar’s possessions. Investigator Kent Hill couldn’t comment on whether they suspected Renegar had an accomplice. Felkins was only 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. Renegar was 6’4,” so he could have easily overpowered her, but that doesn’t rule out a partner in crime.
Other questions remain. What was Renegar doing in all those years he was living as a free man? Were there more victims like Pam Felkins? Does anyone have information that could put all of the puzzle pieces together?
Sheriff Ryals asked for the public’s help in learning more about Renegar, who worked at Virco Manufacturing in Conway from 1988 to 1990 or ’91. After his release from prison, he attended welding school at the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ryals said, “We are asking for anyone who may have known Renegar or has any information about his personal life or people he was associated with to contact either Investigator Kent Hill or Investigator Johnny Fowlkes at the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office Major Crime Unit, and that phone number is 501-450-4917. You may know something you don’t realize you know.”