911 call: Phone off hook found near man’s body

Renken

The relative who found a 39-year-old businessman dead at his North Charleston liquor store told police the body was lying face down beneath a table and next to a gun and a phone that had been dislodged from its receiver.

In a 911 call, Matt Renken’s stepfather described the disheveled and bloody scene Monday morning when he walked into Port City Liquors on Dorchester Road. The recording, which was released under a Freedom of Information Act Request, reveals why detectives have considered his death suspicious.

Medical officials have not ruled that Renken, who suffered a fatal gunshot wound, was slain, and the North Charleston Police Department remains silent on the issue.

“Somebody broke in sometime last night,” Nick Wackym told a dispatcher in describing what he thought had happened. “The back door was unlocked, which is strange.”

Wackym and his wife, Linda, last heard from Renken in a telephone call around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the 911 recording. Renken, who owned the store and an event-planning business, was not married and lived with his mother and stepfather on James Island.

Officials determined that he died sometime that night.

Concerned because Renken never came home, the Wackyms went to the store to check on him after 8 a.m. Monday.

“There’s a gun laying beside the body, and there’s blood all over the floor,” Wackym told the dispatcher after walking through a back door and into an office. “The phone’s off the hook. The cordless phone is on the floor.”

Officers also wrote in an incident report that a case of Grand Marnier had been toppled onto the floor, causing alcohol to spill. Much of the blood had dried in a pool around Renken’s head.

A van emblazoned with the liquor store’s name and logo had been parked in front of the strip mall overnight, according to business neighbors. Nearby shop workers, who didn’t want to be identified, said Renken was at the store to make a late-night deposit.

Police department spokesman Spencer Pryor declined to comment further on the case.

“Investigators have no new developments in the death,” he said. They “are still working to determine the manner of death.”

Charleston County Deputy Coroner Kelly Kraus also said Thursday that experts have not made any further rulings to that end.

Renken was a lifelong resident of the Charleston area and attended St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. He was a graduate of Bishop England High School on Daniel Island and Wingate University in North Carolina.

He once owned the Gateway House Inn in downtown Charleston.

Hundreds of people have expressed sentiments about the loss to Renken’s family, according to Wackym.

“His sense of humour was so unique and his laughter contagious,” Christophe Drumain wrote on an online memorial page. “He always had a sweet word for everyone.”

In a telephone conversation with The Post and Courier on Thursday, Wackym said Renken’s death had startled those friends and family members.

Wackym hesitated to comment further, saying the circumstances surrounding his stepson’s death remain a mystery.

“He’s a very-much-loved guy in the community,” he said. “That’s common knowledge. But I can’t talk about anything that I suspect.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

Andrew Knapp is editor of the quick response team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.