When Steven Edward Riley Jr, 51, learned that he was going to receive a surprise $30m inheritance from a distant relative, he had a plan; buy up some land, and split the money between himself and his sons.
His girlfriend of 10 years, Ina Kenoyer, was reportedly not a part of his plans.
Believing he was going to take the money and run, Ms Kenoyer allegedly poisoned his drinks with antifreeze. Her boyfriend died on 5 September, and she has since been charged with his murder.
While the couple was busy allegedly backstabbing each other, neither realized that the impetus for their conflict was, itself, a fabrication. There never was any money. It was a scam.
Ryan Riley, the victim's 21-year-old son, said his father received an email from an individual claiming to be a lawyer representing a distant relative, according to the New York Post.
The "attorney" informed Mr Riley that he had come into a $30m inheritance, and asked him to meet him at the Minot Airport in North Dakota to sign off on the cash transfer.
“He wasn’t suspicious before he went to the airport, but he was convinced he had inherited the money and was going to receive it when the supposed lawyer landed," the younger Riley said. “He planned on getting acres of land, giving me and some of my brothers a chunk, then opening his own auto shop. But the supposed lawyer never showed up. It was a scam. It was a stranger who managed to trick my dad into believing it was true, unfortunately.”
Ms Kenoyer was apparently not part of Mr Riley's long-term planning.
The couple's relationship reportedly had been rocky for some time, according to investigators and the victim's son.
“They weren’t too happy [and] my dad wanted to leave her for a while,” the younger Riley said.
He claimed that "she just never worked" and was "leeching off" his father.
Ms Kenoyer's social media posts corroborated the younger Riley's observation that the couple was not happy; in 2021, she posted a photo of Mr Riley along with the caption "I hope you all get what you deserve you f***."
Another photo showed Mr Riley next to the caption saying "Watch out for this man, he'll bleed you dry and spit you out."
She reportedly believed that, as Mr Riley's "common-law wife," she would be entitled to the money if he died, according to the New York Times.
North Dakota does not recognize common-law marriages, so her plot was not likely to work even if the money existed. But she allegedly proceeded to poison Mr Riley with antifreeze anyway.
On the day Mr Riley left to pick up the money he began feeling ill. He was sick for nearly an entire day before Ms Kenoyer called for medical assistance. Friends of Mr Riley's wanted to call for medical assistance, but she reportedly assured them that he was just suffering from heat stroke.
“Witness stated they wanted to obtain medical treatment for John Doe, but Ina Thea Kenoyer was adamant that John Doe was suffering from heat stroke and just needed to go home and rest after the airport,” an affidavit in the case stated
By the time police found Mr Riley on 4 September, he was unresponsive. He died the next day in the hospital.
Follow-up investigations at the house uncovered a beer bottle and a thermos which allegedly smelled of antifreeze. When questioned, Ms Kenoyer told police that her boyfriend likely died of heat stroke, and said the symptoms sometimes were mistaken for poisoning. She also suggested that perhaps he had smoked a cigarette that had fallen into antifreeze.
She also admitted to serving him sweet tea throughout the day on 3 September; the taste and scent of antifreeze can be masked by sweet drinks, according to police.
Mr Riley's friends and relatives told police that Ms Kenoyer had poisoned him, and said she had made comments before and after his death about using antifreeze to poison him.
One of Ms Kenoyer's friends told police that they saw her dumping Mr Riley's belongings outside of their home on the day he fell ill, according to a court affidavit. They also told police Ms Kenoyer had previously expressed anger that Mr Riley was planning to leave her once he had his money in hand.
She was charged with murder on Monday and is now being held at the Ward County Detention Centre.