Watch key clue in fatal shooting

Matt Renken

North Charleston police hope a missing luxury wristwatch will play a key role in solving the mysterious killing of a local businessman found shot to death last month.

Matthew Renken was seen wearing a gold Rolex before he arrived at Port City Liquors on April 22, but the watch was gone when his body was discovered the next day, Capt. Scott Deckard said. “We have not been able to locate it,” he said.

Investigators want the public to keep an eye out for the watch in case it turns up at a pawn shop, on eBay or somewhere else. Deckard wouldn't describe the Rolex in further detail, but he said the timepiece was very valuable.

Deckard said investigators believe Renken, 39, was fatally shot between 10 p.m. on April 22 and 1 a.m. the following morning.

Renken's stepfather found his body under a table inside the Dorchester Road liquor store after Renken did not return home to James Island. He had been shot once in the head. Broken Grand Marnier bottles and an unhooked phone were nearby.

A pistol owned by Renken was found by his side, but Deckard would not say whether police believe it fired the fatal shot.

The killer or killers appear to have entered the store through an unlocked door after Renken arrived to count the store's proceeds and prepare for the next business week, Deckard said. The store's alarm was working, but Renken turned it off after going inside, authorities said.

Renken regularly did bookkeeping on the weekends, but he switched up his hours from week to week, so his presence would not have been expected at that time, Deckard said. Investigators don't know whether Renken knew his attacker, but police did find signs of a struggle in the store, he said.

Investigators conducted a painstaking inventory to determine if anything was taken. None of the store's proceeds were taken, but detectives did note the missing Rolex.

Other items appear to be missing as well, but they are not as distinguishable or easy to trace as the watch, Deckard said. He declined to identify the items.

Police say they have been working through a long list of potential suspects and have eliminated several people from that pool. The killer, however, remains at large and no clear motive has been found.

Surveillance video obtained from surrounding businesses indicated that a number of people passed through the area around the time of the killing, Deckard said. Police hope someone will come forward and provide more information about what happened.

“We need the community's continued support and assistance in this case,” Deckard said, “There is a lot of information out there that we haven't gotten yet.”

The crime scene was complex, leading to initial questions over whether the shop owner's death was a homicide or suicide. Friends took some small comfort on May 4 when the coroner finally ruled the death a homicide.

They remain anxious for answers, however, knowing that his killer is still out there.

“Matthew was one with no enemies,” Pat and Jess Howard, his aunt and uncle from Greenville, said in a joint statement to The Post and Courier. “Charleston and the surrounding areas have benefited from Matthew's short life. ... He was most accepting, giving, kind, loving and faithful.”

“We are putting our trust in the investigators handling this case,” his aunt and uncle said, “with the sincere hope his killer will be found and punished.”

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.