Inside the Mysterious Murder and Burning of a Small-Town Fire Chief's Wife
On July 14, 2017, Steve Krentel was on duty at the firehouse when he got a frantic call from his cousin: The fire chief’s own house was on fire.
By the time he arrived 13 minutes later, his Lacombe, Louisiana, home was destroyed — and his wife of 22 years, Nanette, was dead. Firefighters discovered her charred remains inside with her beloved Chihuahua, Harley, lying next to her. “I was in total complete shock,” Krentel tells PEOPLE.
But what at first appeared to be a heartbreaking accident turned out to be a cold-blooded killing. A week later, on the day of Nanette’s memorial service, the coroner determined that the 49-year-old retired preschool teacher had died before the blaze erupted. Even more shocking, she’d been shot in the head.
Now, almost a year-and-a-half later, police are still trying to figure out who killed Nanette and why — and the mystery is featured on the premiere episode of the new season of People Magazine Investigates, entitled “Somebody’s Watching,” which airs Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery. (An exclusive clip from the episode of the award-winning show is below.)
“The case remains a priority,” St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Captain Scott Lee tells PEOPLE. “We have a family that’s looking for answers. We have investigators that are looking for answers.”
• 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.
Krentel, 50, says Nanette dazzled him from the start of their relationship. Even though Krentel was married and had a young son when they met, he and Nanette were wed a year later, in 1995, and eventually moved into a home he built in Lacombe, a rural town 50 miles north of New Orleans. “She captivated my attention from the minute [we met],” Krentel says.
But Nanette’s family and friends say she had become reclusive and paranoid prior to her death and that things between the couple weren’t as perfect as they appeared.
Nanette’s father, Dan Watson, says his daughter was considering ending the marriage after discovering Krentel was having an affair. “She was going to throw him out,” he says.
• For more on the mysterious murder and burning of Nanette Krentel, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
But Krentel — who later 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 — insists the couple had “worked through it.”
Police say Krentel is not a suspect at this time. He passed a polygraph test and was 17 minutes away at the firehouse.
As of now, police have precious few leads. Investigators were hoping that a video surveillance recorder inside the home would provide a picture of the killer, but the evidence was too badly burned to pull data from. And, while a fire-damaged gun of the same caliber used to kill Nanette was found near her body, police could not determine if it was the murder weapon.
Nanette’s friends and family still cling to hope that her killer will be brought to justice.
“After this happened I said, ‘We can’t let this go,’ ” says Nanette’s friend Lori Rando. “Nanette wouldn’t let it go until she found out who did this and make them pay.”
If you have any information about Nanette’s murder 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, Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.