When tourists found a black Jeep 30 feet down an embankment in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, they thought they had come across a gruesome accident. But when police arrived at the scene and found Kelly Lovera lying dead in the back of the car with severe head trauma, they started looking for murder suspects. It was an investigation that eventually led them to Kelly’s widow, Shayne Lovera.
Shayne Lovera (née Good) was born in Appalachia in 1966 and was the only daughter of teenage parents who split a few years after her birth. Her mother remarried a local bank president, and Shayne went from struggling to living a very prosperous life. Shayne was a party girl who went on tons of dates, but she was also the editor of the yearbook and the president of the ski club.
In May of 1984, Shayne’s stepfather committed suicide following an investigation of unethical loan practices at his bank.
Shayne’s friend, Jamie Satterfield, told Oxygen’s “Snapped,” “You had not only dealing with the death but he killed himself over financial irregularities with the bank. So you had all this scandal. So she went from being in a wealthy family with good standing to being surrounded by allegations and suspicions.”
Shayne and her mother were left with debt and tremendous financial burdens. She was devastated and had to drop out of university due to financial reasons.Still reeling from her loss and instability, she managed to enroll in a small college in Missouri, where she met Kelly Lovera, a tall, good-looking, very charming 24-year-old who played in the marching band.
Kelly and Shayne were immediately drawn to each other. One month after their first date, the couple moved in together. Kelly gave Shayne a sense of security she had been craving since her stepfather’s death. Kelly also craved the stability as his parents had just gone through a nasty divorce.
Six months later, they were married. Shayne and Kelly spent the following five years in Missouri together. Kelly graduated from college and became a teacher, while Shayne put her career on hold to have their first child in 1987. The couple then had a second child and decided to move to Shayne’s hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee. Kelly’s parents told “Snapped” that he loved the outdoors and dreamed of living in a cabin the woods.
Unfortunately, the couple accumulated a lot of debt over the years, and Shayne was largely responsible.
Kelly’s stepmother told “Snapped,” “She came from money and Kelly’s dream was not to have all the money. She seemed to have a different level of needs and desires than he did.”
Kelly got a job at a local community college, and with his teacher’s salary and debt, they could only afford a small apartment in “Frog Alley,” which was a big downgrade from their last home in Tennessee. The neighborhood was known for its party lifestyle, and it was full of young singles and couples who loved to gamble. Shayne and Kelly jumped right in, and in 1994, Kelly’s friend said he needed to think about what effect the partying was having on his children.
Kelly decided to slow down, but Shayne had a hard time doing so. She often hosted parties at their apartment and flirted with other men, including an ex-Navy guy named Brett Rae who recently moved into Frog Alley. Brett had had a successful career in the Navy until he punched an officer and got 30 days in the brig and a dishonorable discharge. Being the son of a newspaper publisher, he also had a strong financial history. He was unambitious, however, and all he wanted to do was drive around in his pickup and raise hell on Saturday night.
Shayne’s friend Jamie Satterfield told “Snapped,” “I immediately thought Brett’s the sort of guy that Shanye would go for. They were both wild.”
Brett came to all of Shayne’s parties, and she gave him enough attention that friends and family started to notice that Kelly was having a very rough time. Friends talked to Kelly about filing for divorce, but he allegedly told them, “I will not leave my kids.”
On November 5, 1994, it was unseasonably warm, and Shayne wanted to throw another party. Friends from all over came by, and motorcycle gangs dropped in. According to “Snapped,” Kelly got pretty hammered at the party and fell asleep on the couch at around 1 AM. The next morning, Shayne went knocking on all her neighbors’ doors looking for Kelly. It seemed, according to Shayne, that he was missing.
A little after 9 AM on November 6, two tourists in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spotted Kelly’s Jeep. The park rangers who found the body thought the death seemed suspicious, so they immediately contacted investigators. Kelly’s body was not behind the steering wheel; he was found in the back seat, which suggested he hadn’t been driving.
At noon, investigators knocked on the Loveras’ apartment door and told Shayne that Kelly had passed away in a car accident. Shayne told detectives about last night’s party and that when Kelly had fallen asleep on the couch, she went out to get burgers with Brett. When she returned around 3 or 4 AM, Kelly woke up demanding to know where she had been. He was in a jealous rage, and they argued at 4:30 AM. She was very sure of the time. Shayne insisted to Kelly that Brett was just a friend, but Kelly didn’t believe her and finally drove off in his Jeep. She told investigators she didn’t chase him because the kids were asleep.
Police continued investigating the car accident a suspicious death. As previously mentioned, the body had been found in the backseat, and while he may have been thrown from his seat in the crash, his blood told a different story. Investigators found large pools of blood in the car, but the blood was leaking out the back tailgate. This was odd because the car had crashed into a tree headfirst.
The detectives believed Kelly had been severely beaten prior to being loaded in the back of the Jeep. They thought his killer then might have driven the Jeep into the mountains looking for a sharp curve with a steep drop.
Police Chief Robbie Fox told “Snapped,” “Obviously it was a fake and [...] you had to have pulled over the curb to get to the embankment.”
Investigators were then looking to talk to Brett, but before they brought him in for questioning, police received a tip from one of Brett’s friends, Jim Burney. Jim told police that he had received a call from Brett before dawn asking for a ride because he was stranded. When Jim picked him up, he was covered in dirt.
Jim asked Brett why was all dirty, and he allegedly said, “Well I just ran, uh, Kelly off the side of an embankment.”
Brett also apparently told other people what he had done, and he admitted to Jim that he was deeply in love with Shayne. The next morning, police booked Brett on murder charges. Brett claimed he last saw Kelly at the party and that he had no idea what happened to him. Next, investigators brought Shayne in to ask her questions, but she quickly lawyered up, which ended the interrogation.
By November 7, the autopsy confirmed that Kelly had not died in the accident and had been severely beaten around the head. The blows knocked him unconscious and swelled his brain, which caused him to become brain dead. According to the medical examiner, it looked as if Kelly had been beaten with a baseball bat.
Investigators then returned to visit Shayne, but this time they came with a search warrant and a bottle of Luminol, a chemical that glows when it comes in contact with blood enzymes. It was clear that there was blood everywhere, even on the glass frame of Kelly’s masters degree on the wall.
With each spray of the Luminol, the detectives followed a blood path of a body being dragged through the hallway and out through the children’s bedroom window.
Detectives also found a recording on Brett’s answering machine that confirmed their affair, which gave investigators a motive. As they spoke with more people in the apartment complex, it was clear Shayne was having an affair with another man as well.
The morning after the murder, Shayne also called Kelly’s friend, Alberta Boring.
“She called, wanted to talk to me. And the first thing she asked was how much life insurance he had,” Boring told “Snapped.”
Detectives found out that Kelly’s life insurance paid double if he died in an accident. On December 13, more than a month after the murder, Shayne was arrested in connection with the slaying of her husband. The two both made their bail, and the town was on edge.
On March 26, 1996, Shayne and her co-defendant, Brett, walked into the courthouse. The prosecution had strong evidence and witnesses to testify against Brett since he had bragged to his friends about what he did, but the evidence against Shayne was entirely circumstantial.
The prosecution had argued that they both conspired to kill Kelly since Shayne wanted out of the marriage, and they wanted to make money from the life insurance policy. Shayne’s defense argued that yes the murder happened, but Brett had done everything and wanted Kelly dead so he could have her to himself. She claimed she went to sleep that night, and Brett came over and murdered Kelly with a baseball bat.
Brett had told his lawyers not to make an opening statement and to not deny anything. He was still in love with Shayne and was willing to do anything to keep her out of jail.
The prosecution, however, found another man Shayne had been having an affair with in the building, Wade Hill, and he was willing to testify.
Prosecutor Al Schmutzer told “Snapped,” “She talked to him about, uh, killing her husband; wanted to talk to him about types of poison that might not be detected in the system. He thought at the time, of course, that she was joking.”
The prosecutor argued she moved on from Wade in order to find a man who was willing to kill for her, and she had found that in Brett. Meanwhile, Brett sat in the courtroom and said nothing, which took many people by surprise.
Both Brett and Shayne were found guilty of first-degree murder, but before the sentencing, they both cut deals to plead guilty for their crimes in exchange for parole in 25 years. Despite her plea, Shayne never admitted to the crime. Both Shayne and Brett will be eligible for parole in 2025. Kelly’s mother got custody of Shayne’s two children.
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