LAWRENCEVILLE -- With elements that play like a fictional murder mystery, including a cut-and-paste confession letter, the unsolved slaying of Lawrenceville resident and former model Eva "Kay" Wenal has attracted the attention of venerable television programs that specialize in high-profile true crime.
Following a flurry of local coverage last week, Wenal's family has been contacted by producers with "Unsolved Mysteries," "America's Most Wanted" and "Dateline NBC," among other programs, her sister Pam Sleeper told the Daily Post. Like Sleeper, police hope the national spotlight will breathe life into a four-year investigation bogged down by myriad dead ends.
The recent attention came after police released to the Daily Post a vulgar confession letter and photos of a man they have not been able to identify.
On Tuesday, Sleeper was traveling from her home in middle Texas to New York City for a taping of the Fox News Channel's "Justice with Judge Jeanine." A prime-time episode featuring the Wenal case is scheduled to air June 30, said Sleeper's husband, Earl. Solid plans for tapings and interviews with the other programs are pending, he said.
"It's just amazing, all the interest," Earl Sleeper said.
Wenal died of a brutal knife wound to her neck in her Lawrenceville kitchen, sometime on the afternoon of May 1, 2008. She was married to prominent shopping center developer Hal Wenal, who died of a heart attack at age 75 in 2010. At one point, Hal had ponied up $250,000 of his own cash for information leading to the conviction of his wife's killer.
"Even with the reward, Hal didn't get much information there in (metro) Atlanta," Earl Sleeper said. "Maybe this national coverage will click a bell for somebody."
Hal was the president of Flexxon Operating in Sugar Hill, which boasted six shopping centers in the Atlanta area, including two retail centers in Lawrenceville. Flexxon had other projects in Florida, New York, Illinois, Texas, California and the Carolinas. Hal's earlier dealings stretched around the globe.
The photos in question first became of interest to police when they found them in Hal's personal belongings after his death. Investigators are calling the unnamed man in the photos an obvious acquaintance of the Wenals whom they simply want to speak with at this point. Two photos appear to date back to the late 1980s.
Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said coverage from metro Atlanta media has yet to generate any valuable tips, though investigators remain optimistic.
"Hal did business all over the (United States) and world, so hopefully national exposure will generate some leads," Smith said Tuesday. "We're looking forward to the national attention, especially regarding the photos of the unknown white male."
Earl Sleeper said he and his wife do not recognize the man in the photos. After Hal's death, the Sleepers showed the photos to every associate of the Wenals they could find, including Hal's business colleagues, to no avail. He believes the photos date to a time when the Wenals lived in California and frequented Las Vegas.
As for the profanity-riddled letter, it paints Kay as an unhappy, deceptive housewife in the tone of a jilted lover turned killer.
Gwinnett police have had the unsigned letter in evidence since two months after Kay's killing. It was received as part of a suspicious mail package at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Gwinnett bureau in Norcross. FBI profilers felt the letter was legitimately from the person who committed the crime.
Police have stopped short of drawing comparisons between the man in the photos and a "person of interest" depicted in a rendering released weeks after the killing, though they acknowledge there are similarities. The rendering came from the recollections of the Wenals' neighbor, who spotted a man with glasses walking in their cul-de-sac the day before, and day of, the killing.
There was no evidence in the Wenals' home of forced entry or sexual assault, nor was anything missing in a home loaded with valuable televisions, electronics and jewelry. Hal was extensively interviewed and excluded as a suspect.
The Wenals each left behind one adult child from previous unions. They share a plot at a cemetery near Lake Lanier.