Why Fire Chief Wife's Death in Her Burned-Down House Is the 'Perfect Story for Social Media Trolls'
More than a year after Nanette Krentel's death in her burned-down home in Lacombe, Louisiana, and it still baffles investigators
Sex. Murder. A burned-down home and a fire chief under suspicion amid sexual impropriety.
“You name it, it is there. It has every buzz word you can imagine,” Steve Krentel says of the unsolved slaying of his wife, Nanette Krentel.
“This is a perfect story for the social media trolls,” he tells PEOPLE.
More than a year after Nanette’s death and it still baffles investigators.
On the afternoon of July 14, 2017, her body was discovered inside her rural home in Lacombe, Louisiana. The 49-year-old former preschool teacher had been shot in the head before a fire destroyed her house — along with any clues as to who killed her.
Whoever it was, they were also responsible for the deaths of Nanette’s beloved cats, Baby Kitty and Smokey and her Chihuahua, Harley, who was found dead nearby.
“There is a cold-blooded killer in our midst and that should be of great concern to every citizen of St. Tammany Parish,” Nanette’s father, Dan Watson, later wrote on a Justice for Nanette Facebook page. “This monster has complete and total disregard for life.”
The blaze at Nanette’s home was so fierce that it ravaged a video surveillance recorder that may have provided a picture of her killer. It also obliterated any chance of discovering if the fire-damaged gun found near her body was the same weapon used to kill her.
• For more on this story, see “Somebody’s Watching,” the first episode in the new season of People Magazine Investigates, premiering Monday, Nov. 5, at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.
“Ultimately a lot of things, which under normal circumstances would have been collected as evidence, were completely destroyed or lost,” St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s Capt. Scott Lee tells PEOPLE.
Even surveillance footage from a local fast-food restaurant that seemed to show Nanette’s car and a woman who looked like her picking up food earlier that morning provided precious few clues.
The fire’s cause also remains unclear: As of this writing, police say they still haven’t received the findings from the Louisiana Fire Marshal.
The case — which is featured on the premiere episode of the new season of People Magazine Investigates, airing Monday night on Investigation Discovery — has become a magnet for countless theories about who could be responsible.
“You would just not believe the rumor and speculation that takes place on social media with a case like this,” says Capt. Lee. “It does make it very difficult to conduct an investigation with information that’s being put out that’s not necessarily verified and factual.”
RELATED VIDEO: Preview of Monday’s People Magazine Investigates Season 3 Premiere, “Somebody’s Watching”
The Case So Far
As police began to investigate, suspicion quickly focused on Steve, then the 49-year-old fire chief for St. Tammany’s district 12, who admitted cheating on his wife of 22 years with a colleague.
Nanette’s family says she was considering ending her marriage, but Steve maintains the couple had worked through it.
Police were able to confirm that at the time of Nanette’s death, Steve was at the fire station about 17 miles away. He also asked for and passed a polygraph test.
Capt. Lee says that he “has been ruled out as a suspect at this time.”
(Steve eventually resigned from the fire department after an internal review found he’d had improper relationships with two female employees and allegedly took air-conditioning units from ambulances.)
Those closest to Nanette say she was terrified of Steve’s brother, Brian, an ex-con who had recently been released from prison. Steve says Brian blamed the couple for turning him in after he wrecked his mother’s car.
However, police ruled him out after security video placed him at his mom’s house on the day of the killing.
Investigators also turned their attention to Steve’s son, Justin, after Nanette claimed on Facebook that he owned multiple guns — but police say he was out of state at the time.
Adding to the ongoing mystery, family members say Nanette believed she was being followed by a car before death her.
“She said something about ‘things are coming to a head very soon, I can feel it,’ ” her sister Kim Watson tells PEOPLE. “I thought, ‘I don’t like that.’ ”
Police say Nanette’s homicide is their top priority and are “cautiously optimistic that we are going to have information that ultimately is going to come forward,” according to Lee.
But, he says, “This is not 48 Hours, where we solve a case in 60 minutes or less.”
Anyone with information about Nanette’s death is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 504-822-1111 or detective Daniel Buckner in the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office at 985-726-7835.
People Magazine Investigates: Somebody’s Watching airs Monday (10 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.