Family of student charged in beating death of Arizona teen Preston Lord accused of ‘cover-up’

Details in the case of Preston Lord, the Arizona teen killed after being beaten at a Halloween party last year, have left his community shaken. 

The over 1,000-page police report about the Oct. 28, 2023 incident was released late last month as part of a public records request by The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY network. As people continue to comb through the lengthy report, which is filled with hundreds of witness statements, details about one of the accused teen assailants garnered some attention.

Talan Renner, 17, is one of the seven accused charged in the death of Lord. In the documents, it is reported that Renner was allegedly aided by his family, who moved him out of town following the attack. The allegations are made in the report by the ex-girlfriend of Travis Renner, Talan’s father.

The statement alleges that Renner attempted to cover up his son’s involvement in the crime, moving him to the family’s to the family’s $850,000 cabin three hours away and advising him to “let his hands heal” before returning home. 

Ashley Reynolds, a former employee of Travis Renner at Relentless Media Agency, also made claims about the alleged coverup when she spoke with The Arizona Republic in late February.

Family of accused Lord attacker accused of engaging in “coverup” 

According to a police document, Travis Renner’s ex-girlfriend chose to speak with police after witnessing what she saw as a lack of remorse on behalf of Talan following Lord’s death. 

Previously released video surveillance footage allegedly caught Renner bragging about getting away with Lord’s murder, boasting that the 16-year-old had to have a “closed casket” funeral due to the severity of the beating that killed him. 

She told police Renner was quickly moved out of town to the family’s cabin, where she alleges his father told him to stay until his hands had healed. She described the 17-year-old as a fighter” and “angry kid” who “holds in a lot of aggression.” 

Ashley Reynolds, Travis Renner’s former employee, also came forward to talk about the alleged coverup, telling The Arizona Republic she was an unwilling participant in the scheme. 

According to Reynolds, Travis Renner connected with his son after the beating on the night of Oct. 28 and quickly began working with his business partner to protect the boy and their business interests. 

Reynolds, who was an executive assistant at Relentless Media Agency at the time, accused Renner and his CEO Adam Kifer of openly plotting to keep authorities away from Talan, making plans to send the boy to live at the family cabin until visible injuries he sustained in the beating had healed. She claimed they also wanted to keep police from being able to interview the boy. 

She also told The Republic that electronic calendar data was backdated to make it appear the teen had left town before Oct. 28. She said that she heard discussions about the events of Oct. 28 between the two and she was told Renner’s son instigated the attack and threw punches.

She also said the pair referred to the attacks as a kind of “initiation,” saying that Renner’s son wanted to participate in. She also said the business partners made plans to pin the killing on another boy with the same first name as Renner’s son, although it is spelled differently. She claimed they wanted to use the names to confuse authorities about who did what and shift suspicion away from his son.

USA TODAY has reached out Renner, Kifer and Renner’s attorney. 

‘I can’t listen’: Community consoles each other after release of 911 calls in Preston Lord’s beating

Death of Preston Lord 

Preston Lord, 16, was a student at Combs High School and one of hundreds of teenagers who attended a Halloween party on Oct. 28, 2023, in Queen Creek, Arizona. 

Police responded to the party around 9 p.m. that night following reports of a “juvenile disturbance.” Upon arrival, they found teens walking in the streets, leaving the house they had been in. 

There were conflicting accounts of what happened next. Some witnesses told The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY network, that the party was out of control. Police said they did not see a party or indications of illegal activity when they arrived and were sent out to a “high-priority” call about a crime in progress elsewhere. 

At 9:49 p.m., police received a 911 call about an assault in the same neighborhood, a few houses from the earlier call. When they arrived, they found Lord lying in the roadway.

He died two days later, on Oct. 30, of traumatic brain injuries.

Prosecutors said they believe the theft of a necklace from Lord’s friend was the catalyst for a sequence of events but not the motive for the attack. Queen Creek police Chief Randy Brice told The Arizona Republic that the attack lasted seconds and was not stationary. He described the beating as unfolding as Lord moved through throngs of teenage partygoers.

Police report, 911 call shed details on attack

Last month, Queen Creek police released recordings of a dozen 911 calls from the night of Lord’s death, as well as a 1,162-page police report.

The contents of both have been described as disturbing, prompting Lord’s community to rally harder around his family and loved ones. 

In one call, a boy is crying, saying there were at least 15 attackers wearing ski masks at the party. He told dispatch that one of his friends had a broken wrist and another was on the ground unconscious. 

“I’m scared. I don’t know what to do,” he said in the 9:49 p.m. call. “Are people on the way? I need them to get here. I do not want my friend to die.”

In another recording, which came in only minutes later at 9:53 p.m., a teen tells a 911 dispatcher that a group of trained lifeguards was trying to administer CPR on Lord. The caller estimated that Lord had not been breathing for up to two minutes.

Text, Snapchat and other social media messages sent by the alleged assailants were also reviewed, including a screenshot seen by police in which one teen allegedly said: “I hit a kid and this kid feel [sic] hit his head and then they kicked his head in the ground, then I got word he died so idk.” 

Another screenshotted interaction included a discussion of a reportedly deleted video that existed of the fight, with one teen saying: “Yo tell me you didn’t delete the video of the dead kid. It’s 10k if you give to the popo [sic].”

Accused teen attackers appear in court

Following a Maricopa County grand jury indictment on March 6, Queen Creek police arrested three juveniles and four adults on charges of murder and kidnapping.

Treston Billey, 18; William “Owen” Hines, 18; Jacob Meisner, 17; Talan Renner, 17; Taylor Sherman, 19; Dominic Turner, 20; and Talyn Vigil, 17 were taken into custody in relation to the attack. Renner, Vigil and Mesiner were to be charged as adults.

All were charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and kidnapping. Billey, Meisner and Turner also were charged with aggravated robbery.

Some of the people charged in Lord’s attack have ties to the gang known as the “Gilbert Goons,” reported the Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY network. For more than a year, Goons have carried out assaults on teenagers in the southeast Valley, allegedly recording attacks they perpetrated in parks, parking garages, outside fast-food restaurants and at house parties.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell acknowledged the overlap of individuals involved in Goon attacks and Lord’s murder.

Hines, Meisner, Renner, Sherman, Turner and Vigil were arraigned on March 13 in Maricopa County Superior Court and all entered pleas of not guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping. Meisner and Turner also pleaded not guilty to aggravated robbery charges. Billey was arraigned the following day and also pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

An initial trial date is scheduled for November. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Family of teen Renner charged in Preston Lord death accused of coverup

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