The Mortgage and the Murder
This story was originally broadcast on Nov. 28, 2008. It was updated on May 23, 2009.
In August 2005, Renee Ohlemacher says she awoke to the screams of her mother. Both her parents had been shot and murdered inside the family's home. Following the murders, police initially focused their investigation on Renee, and even her own relatives cast a suspicious eye on her.
But several months later, the focus shifted to a mortgage broker. Could his drive to close deals and the pressures of the job lead him to commit a double murder? Or is the family right - is Renee really behind the murders?
Every August 2nd - on the anniversary of her parents' murder - Renee stays far away from the one place she says she wants to be: at her parents' gravesite in Santa Fe, N.M. "I don't want to run into any family members. I don't want to talk to them," she tells 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty. "They've hurt me way, way too much, and I'm not a forgiving person."
But more than a thousand miles away, at the gravesite, the rest of Renee's family gathers to mark the day that tore their family apart.
Spend any time with Renee's family and it's clear that deep suspicions exist on both sides. Renee's grandmother Dora thinks Renee could have had something to do with her parents' death. "She is my granddaughter but she was very nasty with me when I would ask her about her mom. She would say, 'I love my mom but I really don't miss her.'"
But Renee says, "They kept telling me, 'You know Renee, blood is thicker than water.' Well, if blood is thicker than water, then why aren't you supporting me? Why aren't you backing me up? Why weren't you there in my time of need?"
Renee is the only child of Bernadette and Greg Ohlemacher. The couple met when they were both in the U.S. Air Force. After retiring, they moved to Albuquerque and a neighborhood called "Paradise Hills."
Bernadette worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, while Greg worked at a local hospital.
Renee, 20 years old back in 2005, says she was sleeping when she was awakened by her mother's screams. "It was just one thing after another happened and then, before you know it, there's silence. My dog went silent. Everything went silent," she remembers.
At that point, Renee had squeezed herself into her crowded bedroom closet with her cell phone. She phoned police, but for some reason she first dialed a non-emergency number, not 911. It was the first in a series of missteps by Renee that made authorities and her own family suspicious.
Asked why she didn't dial 911, Renee tells Moriarty, "Because I thought that you could get through faster or something for some reason. I didn't know what to do. I was in a world of shock."
That explanation does not sit well with Renee's uncle Randy. "I think there are four-year-old kids who know that you call 911."
Randy began questioning Renee's every move. "I had to try to find answers and I felt like she knew more. She was the only one in that house who was still alive. She had to have information that would help figure things out that would help solve this."
Renee says she was distraught in the aftermath of the murders and could not understand why someone would shoot her parents.
In a video taken that morning, Renee appears so shaken, she has trouble walking. Police checked Renee's hands for gunpowder residue and blood spatter. There was none. Police also questioned her extensively.
Asked why she thinks police looked at her, Renee says, "Same question I ask every day. I was just like, 'Do whatever you want.' Go search my room you know. Do whatever you need to do. Figure it out. I had no hesitations. I had nothing to hide."
Renee soon began calling relatives but, again, the way she delivered the news made them wonder. Randy says Renee was very unemotional. "It bothered me. I thought it was a very cold message."
Police considered Renee a prime suspect, but there was not enough evidence to charge her. She went to live with her mother's family, who grew increasingly suspicious.
It was a tense time. Renee's aunts Jessica and Toni had always considered her spoiled and somewhat of a brat, and her behavior after the murders did nothing to change their minds. "When the funeral directors were taking the coffins out of her hearses, she was, 'Hi' to her friends, just happy to see them. It was like a social thing. When we were getting ready to make the procession into the church, the doors open and (snap) tears came out now. The tears were flowing, like she was on cue. Another one of my friends observed her texting during the funeral," Jessica remembers.
Jessica could not shake the feeling that Renee was somehow involved in her parents' murder. "I asked her, 'Did you have anything to do with this?' And her reaction to me was very calm and it was, 'No, no I didn't,'" she remembers.
Asked if she believed her, Jessica says, "I wanted to. I heard what she was saying, but her actions were speaking volumes different."
Renee began making inquiries about her parents' life insurance policies, and her aunt says Renee expressed delight at her impending good fortune. She says Renee even went to test-drive a BMW.
Jessica says that just months before the murders, Bernadette increased the amount of her life insurance and made Renee her primary beneficiary.
Jessica believes her niece was aware that she'd benefit financially if her parents died. "Her mom told her everything. Her mom didn't keep any secrets from her."
But Renee tells Moriarty she only learned of the insurance policy increase and her being the sole benefactor from police.
"Police let me know that. They asked me, 'Why would she increase her insurance, Renee?' 'I don't know. I don't know. That's not my information to know,'" she recalls.
"But, you do understand then why somebody would look at the only person who survives…and who's inheriting money?" Moriarty asks.
"Right," Renee acknowledges.
"I mean, so, that was fair, right?" Moriarty asks.
"In my eyes no. I'm the only child," Renee says.
Because the accidental death clause was triggered by the murders, police say, Renee stood to inherit nearly $1 million, if she was cleared.
And she says she did push for police to try to clear her. "There was no reason for me to be a suspect."
But in fact, Renee remained the lead suspect. It wasn't just her behavior that made police detectives suspicious; it was a phone call she made right after her parents were killed.
"All of the evidence indicates that the killer knew the house, knew the people, knew their habits, and went there for one purpose," says Albuquerque defense lawyer Joseph Riggs, who is following the case closely.
But it is not clear how the killer entered the house. There was no sign of forced entry, but Greg had left a ladder leaning against the home that could have provided access to the couple's bedroom.
Police recovered fingerprints on the ladder and one footprint at its base, but couldn't identify them.
Some neighbors did hear the gunshots, but curiously no one remembered hearing the family's dog, Sammy Jo, barking. That, says Renee's family, is a little hard to believe. "She barked at us every time we went to visit. She was a great dog, a very, very protective pet," Jessica says.
Renee has always said it was her mother's screams that awakened her. When asked, Renee says it's a possibility that the dog may have been familiar with the person in the house.
Police collected four shell casings at the crime scene fired from a 9mm Ruger, but didn't find the weapon.
John Walsh of the Albuquerque Police Department says detectives turned their attention to the victims themselves. "You look at the victim and you see where they've been, who they've had contact with, what are the motivating factors in their life, both in their private life, their work life, and their social life."
Investigators kept coming back to Renee. When they looked at her cell phone records from the day of the murder, they wondered why one of the first calls she made was to a Mike Allen.
Renee says Mike Allen was a good friend of her mother. But police were hearing rumors that he was more than just a "good friend."
Renee doesn't believe her mother had an affair, but Phil Hayes, a friend of Greg, says Greg did think Bernadette was involved in a relationship with Mike Allen.
"Greg suspected that they had a tryst over at the house," Hayes says. "He had a key. He knew the alarm code. He had the alarm code because he did watch the dog, Sammy the dog.
But Lucille Nadborne, who worked side by side with Bernadette for years at the FAA, doesn't believe there was an affair. "He's just a very, very good kind-hearted man. He wanted to be there to help Bernadette if she needed help."
And apparently, she needed a lot of help: cell phone records show that Bernadette called Mike Allen 23 times in the month leading to her death, including the day before.
"The interesting thing about Mike Allen is that he shows up at the crime scene very quickly. He hangs out for the day, and the next day he's on an airplane going back to Chicago and driving to Wisconsin or something," says Greg's brother Randy.
Mike Allen refused 48 Hours' request for an on-camera interview, but told us that he and Bernadette were just friendly co-workers.
Police said Allen was interviewed "exhaustively" and never asked for a lawyer. Weeks passed with no arrests. There was nothing - say police - to tie Allen or anyone else to the murders. They said they had no probable cause to search Allen's home and never bothered to check whether he owned a 9mm hand gun.
Meanwhile, Randy was exasperated by what he says was sloppy police work. "They left things behind that might have been key evidence. They left the home computer that was just by the entire family sitting right where it was at. They left a home phone, and answering machine."
And Renee says she was "enraged" that police didn't look through the house more thoroughly, considering she was the main suspect. "If they would actually open up their eyes and do their job in the first place, maybe they would have got other evidence. Maybe they would have found something else, instead of lollygagging around and pointing the finger at me."
Police even investigated Renee's former boyfriends but came up with nothing.
But about nine months later, police had a break in the case, with a new suspect no one had ever considered.
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