Mom vanishes while pursuing divorce; foul play suspected

Renee Pernice is pictured here with her two sons and husband, Shon.
Renee Pernice, a 35-year-old mother of two young children, vanished from her home in Kansas City, Missouri, shortly after New Year’s this year. She hasn’t been heard from since.

Police believe foul play is involved, yet they have not found her body. No one has been arrested in the case. Police have not named her husband, Shon Pernice, as a person of interest or a suspect in the case. However, “he’s the last known person to see her alive,” said Doug Niemeier, a sergeant with the Kansas City Police Department. Six months after Renee Pernice disappeared, police say they still have questions about her husband in the days after her disappearance, including why he allegedly accessed a local fire department’s hazardous materials building around 4:30 a.m. January 3. “It should be noted that multiple types of cleaners, solvents and cleaning supplies are stored at Station #5,” a police affidavit says. Attorneys for Shon Pernice declined to comment for this story. Police and family say Renee was pursuing a divorce around the time she disappeared. A local firefighter, Shon Pernice has said he was not involved in her disappearance. He told a local activist in March that “I didn’t harm my wife one bit. Not at all.” In that interview, one of the few in which he’s referenced his wife’s disappearance, he added, “It’s gut-wrenching thinking that either she’s got a rich-ass doctor boyfriend somewhere and she’s happy, or she’s dead.”

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Since his wife disappeared, Shon Pernice has been arrested twice on unrelated charges: once for allegedly stealing a neighbor’s gun and another time for disturbing the peace in an incident with that same neighbor this past July Fourth weekend. “As everybody knows, my wife has been missing since January 2,” he told CNN affiliate KCTV5. “This is what it stems from. Basically what the media … has portrayed of me — of the whole situation. There’s a lot of people that don’t like me.” The couple’s two sons, ages 6 and 9, remain in the care of the father, although Renee Pernice’s mother has sought custody of them. “There is a lot that just isn’t right,” said Rick Pretz, the missing woman’s father. “It’s not a stable environment for the children.” Renee Pernice was known for being a caring mother, a talented nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital and a gentle animal lover always surrounded by dogs. Neighbors say they last saw her in her backyard with her dogs the morning of Friday, January 2, 2009. When police searched the home, they say they found her purse, coat and other items still in the house. Her car was in the garage. Police say her cell phone was missing from the house. A homeless man found the phone in grass about 15 miles from her home, in an area Renee Pernice was not known to frequent, police say. It was found around midnight January 3, the affidavit says. Since then, police and volunteer teams have searched the area extensively, but they have found nothing.

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“Family members and common friends of both Shon and Renee told police that Renee was not the kind of mother who would separate herself from her children for any reason,” the affidavit says. “Family members advised that finding Renee’s purse at the residence was highly unusual as she never went anywhere without her purse.” According to the affidavit, investigators watched Shon Pernice drive away from the home with his wife’s dog and drop it off at a park a few days after he reported his wife missing. The affidavit also alleges that a drop of blood was found in the garage. However, authorities have not released whether it matched Renee Pernice or her husband. According to Renee Pernice’s family, she was not the kind of person to take off on her own without letting her family know where she was. “I spoke to her just the night before at 7 p.m. on the phone,” her father told CNN. “She would never leave her two sons like this.” The family is offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of Renee Pernice. A white truck that could be related to her disappearance was captured on a surveillance tape in the area where her cell phone was found, and police have released a photo of it. Anyone who may have lent such a truck at the time the surveillance image was taken is being asked to come forward. Renee Pernice is white, stands 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and has brown hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information is urged to call the Kansas City Police Department at 1-816-474-TIPS.