Original article no longer available
Journal Star (Peoria, IL)
October 15, 1992
Author: BOB MORROW
OTTAWA — A coroner’s jury here Wednesday ruled the Sept. 21 stabbing death of Lawrence B. “Larry” Zenor, 22, of Spring Valley, a justifiable homicide and recommended no further investigation in the case.
Zenor was stabbed by his estranged wife, Rainey Zenor, 26, several hours after he abducted her and the couple’s 2 1/2-year- old daughter from the woman’s Oglesby apartment.
LaSalle County Sheriff’s Capt. Tom Templeton testified at the inquest and wove a scenario of terrifying and bizarre events that led to Zenor’s death. The episode began at 6 a.m., Templeton said, when Zenor, armed with a large hunting knife, a razor blade and a pick, broke into his wife’s apartment. After cutting the phone cord, Zenor bound the woman with the cord, cut up several pieces of furniture, then sexually assaulted her, Templeton said.
After the assault, the woman talked Zenor into going to a mental health facility in Peru. Zenor agreed, Templeton said, but asked that she first drive him to his home in Spring Valley. Rainey Zenor waited while her husband ran into his house, Templeton said, but when he returned to the car, he became upset again and ordered her to drive him to Ottawa Community Hospital, threatening to kill the couple’s child if she did not comply.
On the way to Ottawa, Templeton related, Zenor ordered his wife to pull over on a rural road near Utica. There, Templeton said, Zenor told his wife that he was “evil” and that she would have to kill him or he would kill the child and her. When she refused, Templeton said, Zenor swallowed the contents of a bottle of Prozac, a prescription anti-depressant drug, and threatened her again.
A struggle ensued, Templeton said, and Rainey Zenor stabbed Larry Zenor in the heart with his own hunting knife.
At the time of Zenor’s death, authorities indicated the couple’s relationship had been turbulent in recent months. Early this year, Rainey Zenor had obtained a court protection order prohibiting contact by her husband. On March 27, Zenor broke into her apartment, assaulted her and threatened to kill himself.
Zenor pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful restraint for that offense, according to authorities, and served 108 days of a 180-jail sentence. He was also ordered to seek counseling at Zeller Mental Health Center in Peoria.
Zenor’s mother, Pamela Lawniczak, of Spring Valley, who attended the inquest, said her son’s trouble stemmed from an automobile crash a year ago, in which he suffered brain damage as a result of severe head injuries.
Lawniczak blamed mental health officials for failing to take her son’s case seriously and for refusing to treat him on a long-term basis. He was turned away from Zeller after a brief interview, she claimed, with one mental health official calling his behavior “just a phase.”
Rick Brittingham, of Arlington, Zenor’s uncle, said, “We wanted him put up for his own protection.”
Brittingham described Zenor as “totally nonviolent, a pacifist,” before the car crash, and said his nephew worked as an aide at a nursing home in Harvey before he was hurt.
LaSalle County Coroner Marion Osborne reported that no trace of toxic substance, save for the prozac, was found in Zenor’s body during an autopsy. Before the coroner’s jury retired to deliberate the case, Osborne told the six-member panel, “This is definitely a homicide, definitely self-defense, and definitely justifiable.”
Asked if charges are pending against Rainey Zenor, Templeton replied, “No. The evidence we’ve seen and gathered supports a justifiable homicide.”
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Copyright (c) 1992 Journal Star
Record Number: 0000049626