Newton County, Ark. authorities identify 2 bodies found in house fire; ruled murder-suicide

Published: Oct. 27, 2019 at 9:53 PM CDT
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The Newton County Sheriff's Office identified two bodies recovered in a house fire investigation.

Sheriff Glenn Wheeler says Dianne Reno, 71, and Dustin (Cody) Reno, 33, died in the fire.

Wheeler said when firefighters arrived on scene they noticed two vehicles had been parked in a strange manner very near to the house with the gas doors open and both gas caps removed. Firefighters also saw blood on the front porch and discovered the door was locked. When his deputies recovered the bodies it was immediately obvious both people and the dog had suffered gunshot wounds to their heads. Deputies also recovered a .380 caliber handgun and other evidence before the fire became too intense for them safely remain in the house as they had been forced to make entry without protective gear to save the bodies.

Wheeler said based on evidence at the scene it appears that Dianne Reno was sleeping on a cot in the living room when Cody Reno placed a pillow over her head and shot her. It appears he then shot a small dog on the front porch near its food bowl then carried it back into the house and placed it on the cot with his deceased mother. Cody Reno then apparently set the house and an outbuilding on fire, possibly using the gasoline from the cars as an accelerant then returned to his mother’s side and took his own life. The location of the gun in relation to his body and other physical evidence supported him being the shooter. Investigators sent both bodies to the Arkansas State Crime Lab’s Medical Examiner’s Office to confirm causes of death and other details.

“This is just a heart-wrenching situation on so many levels that no family should ever have to endure,” Wheeler said “my thoughts and prayers are with the family and all my personnel involved, as well as the other first responders who had to deal with it. I have to say, Deputy Marc Lowery and Investigator Mikel Blocker went well above and beyond the call of duty to enter that house and recover those bodies. They initially did so out of respect of the deceased and put themselves in harm’s way to do so. That action led to the recovery of evidence that gives us a pretty clear picture of what took place. We otherwise would have probably never known.”

Sheriff Wheeler said his Investigators were able to conduct interviews with people close to the two victims and were given statements and evidence to support the theory of Cody Reno having a history of behavior and other indicators leading up to such a tragedy.