Overview of Renee Welka
Renee Welka was a marketing student at Eastern Michigan University. Renee put herself through college by working as a waitress at Mountain Jacks, a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Renee was described as a ray of sunshine. She exuberated charisma, positivity, and her sassy humor was enough to draw a smile on anyone's face. She was a special young lady who brightened any room she walked into.
However, everything changed in the Summer of 1994. On July 29, 1994, Renee worked a Friday night shift at Mountain Jacks and then returned back to her apartment at the Glencoe Apartment complex. She stayed at her house for sometime before going out again. Renee and a girlfriend returned back to the parking lot of the Glencoe Hills apartment complex at 2:00am in the early morning of July 30th in her white Ford Escort. Before they were able to park, a unknown male suspect approached their vehicle and shot through the back windshield of the driver seat, hitting Renee in the back and fleeing the scene. Renee slammed her foot on the gas pedal and drove her Escort a short distance before she collapsed at the wheel. The car didn't make it out of the parking lot.
Police arrived minutes after and found Renee unconscious, slumped over the wheel of the car; Renee was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 3:10am on July 30th, 1994. When police arrived at the scene, Renee's girlfriend identified a suspect in the crowd of onlookers that matched a resemblance to the shooter. Police arrested 18 year old Clarence D Powell at the scene of the crime. In addition, new sources mentioned that another male witness said he saw the shooting and provided police with "valuable information."
Clarence also lived in the same apartment complex as Renee, but they did not know each other at the time of the event. Clarence told police officers and news sources that he heard the commotion, rushed outside to see what was happening, and arrested immediately; he pleaded with law enforcement that he was innocent and that the real killer was getting away. Captain John Phillips made a comment to the media that Powell is to be arraigned Monday, August 1.
On August 1, 1994, Clarence is arraigned at 1:30 pm in the 14A District Court on one charge of open murder and one charge of committing a felony while in possession of a firearm. His preliminary hearing was set for August 11, and District Judge Betty Widgeon denied Clarence bond, causing him to be held in the Washtenaw County Jail. Clarence was supposed to be traveling in a few weeks to attend college, but his plans changed as soon as he became the lead suspect in this case.
On August 7, about 75 of Clarence's friends, families, and supporters gathered at the parking lot of the Glencoe Apartment complex to stage a rally and brainstorm ways to clear his name. They didn't believe that he was capable of committing murder. During Clarence's preliminary examination on August 11, 1994, his case was dismissed and all charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence. The preliminary examination lasted less than 5 minutes, Clarence walked out of jail a free man, Renee's case had a major setback, and her family was left with countless unanswered questions. The evidence against Clarence was primarily eyewitness accounts, which was not enough for prosecutors to proceed with the case.
Between August 12 and the 31, 1994, newspaper articles quoted police, who stated they were waiting on ballistics' test . These tests would demonstrate that Clarence had gunshot residue on his hands at the time of the crime. Police say that Clarence is still the main suspect in the case.
On August 5, 1998 nearly four years later, police were quoted in a newspaper article stating that they are no farther in Renee's case than they were when she was first murdered; law enforcement also neither confirmed or denied the results of the ballistics tests, and still retain Clarence as the main suspect of the case.
In March of 2000, a task force was formed by the Michigan State Post to investigate Renee's case and other unsolved homicides. On July 30, 2004, the 10 year anniversary of Renee's murder, Lt. Ray Hagen states that Renee's case is "being actively investigated and many new piece of information are being developed". Yet, there has been no update regarding Renee's case since and her case remains open.