GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- The murder of Eva Kay Wenal is not a case without clues. It is not a case without leads. But still, after seven years, her murder remains a mystery. Investigators hope a new wave of social media attention can break the case.
The Millionaire's Wife
Eva Kay was a model and a Playboy cocktail waitress when she met millionaire businessman Hal Wenal. They married and spent two decades traveling the world and living a a happy life of luxury together. That ended in 2008 when someone got into the Wenal home when Eva was alone.
The Murder Scene
Hal and Eva had lunch together May 1, 2008. It was their last meal together. He left home for just six hours.
When he returned that evening, Hal made his way through their Sugar Lake Court home, towards the kitchen. That's where he found his 60-year-old wife in a pool of blood. He ran to a neighbor's house and called 911.
She was murdered in the middle of the day in an upper-class suburban neighborhood.
"He noted her face was swollen. He even implied she had been beaten. Punched in the face. And when you slit somebody's throat that's personal. So are we looking at a crime of passion here as good possibility," forensic death investigator Joseph Scott Morgan told 11Alive's Vinnie Politan. "They noted some blood spatter immediately adjacent to that, which you'd expect from her bleeding out. But the rest of the area essentially clean. So it happened right there"
"They [the detectives] felt the person was very angry. That he actually knew Kay and Hal. Kay more so than Harold," Gwinnett County Police spokesman Jake Smith told 11Alive in a past interview about the case.
Hal was quickly cleared of any suspicion. "He came home at 6:00, but investigators believe the murder took place some time between 1:00 and 3:00. He was cleared within weeks." He later offered a $100,000 reward for information about his wife's killer.
Two months after the murder, with the case quickly growing cold, Gwinnett County Police released a sketch of an unidentified white man considered a "person of interest". He was spotted near the Wenals' home the night before and the night after her death.
In 2012, as an effort to heat up the cold case, Gwinnett County Police released new evidence. It included a copy of a letter sent to the Atlanta Journal Constitution just after the murder.
The letters making up the note were cut out of a magazine. The anger-filled, expletive-laced letter laid out the motive for Eva's murder: a wronged lover. If from the real killer, the note supports the police's assumption the killer knew both Hal and Eva:
I loved her. She said we could be together. She told me she hated her house and that fat miserable lying [expletive] husband.
She said she loved me, but that was a lie too. I told her this would happen if she didn't keep her [expletive] promises to me.
His money was more important than our love. We could have been so happy together.
"Maybe she tried to break it off. Maybe it started out as an obsession, that lead to an affair, and she tried to break it off and he said no," former detective Mike Brooks suggested. "If I can't have you, no one can."
Pam Sleeper, Eva Kay's sister, believes the man who wrote the letter is the man who killed her. "I realized for the first time I read that letter that I really think the man that murdered Kay is the one that wrote that letter," she said. "There's things in there that he wouldn't know otherwise."
Pam spoke to her sister two to three times a week. He sister never mentioned anything about another man. Pam wonders if the relationship was all in the killer's imagination.
"Kay was friendly, if somebody mistook her for maybe wanting to have an affair with him or something, I don't know," she said.
SEE THE EVIDENCE | WARNING! The letter contains vulgar language
After Hal's death, family members were going through old photos and they found a few that looked familiar. It wasn't someone they knew, it was that person of interest from the 2008 police sketch. Family members passed the photos around, but no one knows who he is.
One of the photos is time stamped at 1987, more than two decades before Eva's murder.
A group of private investigators sat down with Politan and looked at the photo and sketch.
"Both of the Wenals knew this person in the photo and that's really significant," Criminal investigator Charles Mittelstadt said since some of the photos included the mystery man, Hal, and Eva.
He said the similarities are there, but he also has some questions. He points to the photo, where the receding hairline is almost gone, and the sketch (more than twenty years later) showing some hair. "There's several things noticeable about this the hairline: the hair loss. I would presume by now that person would be completely bald."
"Look at the hair or toupee or could it possibly be hair plugs? When someone gets hair plus what do you notice it gets very thin. That's also a possibility," Brooks said.
Forensic death investigator Joseph Scott Morgan points out another distinctive feature: "He has got distinctive-- what I believe to be-- acne scarring that ranges from his temple area all the way down the side of his face." He points to another photo: "If you look closely here, it's hard to tell if this is a wrinkle here from smiling or is this area scarring and its covered with a beard?"
A Sister's Plea
Eva Kay's murder has baffled investigators for seven years. Those years have taken a poll on her sister, Pam Sleeper. Her nightmare began with a late night phone call.
"About 20 'till 12:00, on a Thursday night, May 1st 2008, we got a phone call from my brother-in-law. I answered the phone and he sounded really distraught and I asked if everything was okay and he said, 'No, Pammy. Kay is dead.'"
Sleeper shared details of what family members were told about the crime scene. "Evidently, what the guy did was he walked in---Kay answered the door and he walked into the house and hit her in the face and there were some cuts and definitely big bruises on her face. And then it looked like she ran into the kitchen to grab the phone and then he slit her throat," she said.
"There were no footprints, no fingerprints, and the blood was from the kitchen door, all the way across the kitchen," she said.
Despite the clues: a sketch of a suspicious man, a letter sent by the alleged killer, and photos of a man that may match that sketch, the case remains cold.
Pam believes someone knows what the clues mean. "There's somebody that knows something and I'm just begging them to come out and let us know. It doesn't really give you closure, but it'll help," she said.
It's something investigators hope could change with a new wave of attention from social media.
"Really the key to solving this case is social media," Mittelstadt said, pointing to the photo of the mystery man. "The only viable lead we have is talking to this person right here."
If you know something about Eva Kay's murder, you can contact the investigator in charge of her case: Sgt. Richter at (770) 513-5387 or the Gwinnett County Police tip line: (770) 513-5480.
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