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Indiana Woman Masterminded the Death of Her Stepfather With Help From Her Own Daughter's Friends
“I don’t think it took too much for Johnetta to snap," Jeremy Arnold, former Scott County Sheriff's Detective, said on Snapped.
An Indiana woman spun a web of lies — and a murder plot — as part of a master plan to get revenge and money for her mother in a divorce.
Johnetta Hall was convicted of being the mastermind behind her stepfather Bill Reynolds’ murder. Although she never pulled the trigger herself, she managed to talk her daughter, Amaris Bunyard; Bunyard’s boyfriend, Kerry Heald; and Heald’s roommate, Jacob Mathis into planning and carrying out the murder.
“I kept pushing Kerry … what would she have ever said to you to make you want to do this?” said Valerie Lockard, Heald’s mother, on Snapped, airing on Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “And he said, ‘She painted such a picture of such a monster.’ And that’s what he fell for.”
What was Bill Reynolds' relationship with Dalene Cates?
A mechanic called 911 in Scott County, Indiana on Sept. 27, 2015 to report he’d showed up for a job, only to discover a dead man was laying on the ground in the middle of the driveway to his home. The caller identified the victim as his old friend, 69-year-old Bill Reynolds.
Reynolds had died from a gunshot wound to the head, although the gun was not found by police, which ruled out suicide.
Police needed to contact his family. The Vietnam veteran had married Dalene Cates in 2013, and she and her grandkids frequently lived with him, as Cates’ daughter, Johnetta Hall, was a truck driver and often on the road.
Reynolds’ sons from his first marriage immediately pointed the finger for their father’s murder at their stepmother. They alleged to police that after their father came home from battling cancer in the hospital in 2015, Cates had changed.
“He starts noticing there’s pretty peculiar things going on,” Henry Reynolds, Bill’s son, said on Snapped. "There’s a bunch of his clothes packed up. Dalene was acting very odd and strange, and he could just tell something’s not right here.”
Reynolds’ sons told law enforcement that Cates was their father’s power of attorney, and while he was in the hospital, she put his car titles in her name, and put their home title in both of their names.
“She was hoping he would die in the hospital,” William Reynolds Jr., Bill’s son, claimed on Snapped.
Bill Reynolds filed for divorce from Dalene Cates after he returned home. That’s when things between the couple took a turn for the worse. Reynolds was forced to leave his home when Cates got a restraining order. Reynolds then accused Cates of stealing his property, which included a NASCAR memorabilia collection valued at over $100,000. In August 2015, Reynolds was awarded possession of the home, and Cates was ordered to vacate by Sept. 20 — one week before Reynolds was murdered.
Reynolds’ sons even told police Cates had gotten revenge for the court order when their dad moved back into his home.
“We go back over there, and all his NASCAR [memorabilia] was gone,” William Reynolds Jr. said. “His truck was gone. Everything was gone. We walk into the house and there’s animal feces everywhere through the whole house.”
Reynolds also discovered a threat left by his soon-to-be-ex: a can of gun oil on his chair.
“He kept saying, ‘They’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me,’” William Reynolds Jr. said.
Cates’ granddaughter, Amaris Bunyard, admitted her grandmother was upset about the court order and pending divorce.
“Dalene was extremely mad about the fact that she was not awarded the house,” Bunyard said on Snapped. “She believed it was completely and utterly unfair to her. She cussed, ranted, and raved about it multiple times a day.”
Cates was emotional when police told her about her husband’s death. She said she’d been cleaning her new home with her daughter, Johnetta Hall, on the day of the murder, and told police Hall had left to get groceries around 2 p.m. She also admitted to owning two guns, one of which she believed to be in storage or a moving box.
When police talked to Hall the night of the murder, they were surprised by her reaction to finding out her stepfather was dead.
“She did not ask, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’” prosecutor Chris Owens said on Snapped.
But a check of her phone GPS records confirmed Hall’s story that she had been helping her mother, then at a storage unit and the grocery store, and then driving around.
How did police link the murderer of Bill Reynolds to Johnetta Hall?
Suspicious of Dalene Cates and her daughter, Johnetta Hall, but unable to prove anything, police got a new lead when they checked the surveillance video from the storage unit and grocery store Hall said she’d visited the day of the murder. The video showed she wasn’t alone, but rather with two men. A license plate taken from the storage facility surveillance linked their vehicle to Jacob Mathis.
When questioned by police, Mathis let slip that the other man with him on surveillance was his roommate, Kerry Heald — who happened to be the boyfriend of Johnetta Hall’s daughter, Amaris Bunyard.
Eventually Mathis confessed everything to police.
“[Mathis and Heald] drove about 30-45 minutes to a rural area…and Jacob stated that Kerry shot Bill Reynolds in the driveway,” Jeremy Arnold, former Scott County Sheriff’s Detective, said on Snapped. “When they got back in the car, Kerry handed Jacob the gun, and said, ‘Wipe that off.’”
Mathis also admitted to attending meetings plotting Reynolds’ murder with Heald, Bunyard, and Hall. He pointed to Hall as the person who hired Heald to carry out the murder.
When questioned by police, Heald also admitted to being hired for the murder by Hall and confessed to kissing Reynolds. Additionally, Heald told police Hall had provided the murder weapon: her mother’s gun — taken without her knowledge. He alleged she was supposed to pay him $100,000 for the hit, from the sale of Reynolds’ NASCAR collection.
“Kerry told me while we were in the car, he said, ‘I just came back from killing your grandfather,’” Bunyard said. “He said, ‘I walked right up to him. I put the pistol between his eyes, and pulled the trigger.’ They left him in the driveway. Just left him there.”
Bunyard said although she attended the murder plot meetings, she never took the plot seriously, and was stunned the killing had actually been carried out.
“If I could turn everything around, if I could change what I did and didn’t do, I would,” she said. “I hate myself every day for not being there for the one person who did love me.”
Police determined Hall had also told a damning lie to get Heald to carry out the murder.
“She had indicated that Bill Reynolds had been sexually assaulting Amaris Bunyard,” Owens said.
An investigation from law enforcement proved that wasn’t true.
“She manipulated those kids,” Don Campbell, former Scott County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy, said on Snapped. “She used them to do something that she couldn’t do herself.”
Bunyard took a plea deal, and ultimately will end up serving 15 years in prison for her part in the murder plot. Mathis is serving 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. Heald is serving 55 years in prison for murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.
In September 2020, a jury found Hall guilty, and sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Watch all-new episodes of Snapped on Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen, and the next day on Peacock.