SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - A day after the St. Tammany Parish Coroner ruled the death of the wife of a parish district fire chief a homicide, the parish sheriff announced Thursday that the main suspect in the case has been cleared of involvement in her death.
At a Slidell press conference Thursday morning, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith said parish detectives are still actively investigating the July 2017 death of Nanette Krentel but have cleared her husband, St. Tammany Fire District No. 12 Chief Stephen Krentel.
"At this time, our initial primary person of interest, the victim's husband, has been cleared. Stephen Krentel has been fully cooperative with this investigation," Smith said. "We have worked this case tirelessly and aggressively as a homicide since day one, and will continue to do so."
FOX 8 News spoke with Stephan Krentel off camera. He said me he's relieved he's been cleared. He also said he fully cooperated and even gave police a polygraph test. He said this case is about a wonderful woman who lost her life, and he he wants investigators to find the person responsible.
Krentel's father, Ken Watson, said his biggest fear is that his daughter's killer will never be found.
"It's not consistent with the kinds of investigations that I've been accustomed to up North," Watson said. "I'm not saying that I know how it works down here, because I do not really feel good, but it just has a really bad feel to it."
Sheriff Smith said the circumstances surrounding Krentel's death and the intensity of the fire is making the investigation lengthy and difficult. Smith also said detectives are still awaiting final lab results on evidence from the scene.
Just after Preston released the findings of three separate autopsies, Smith released a statement saying he did not "necessarily support the Coroner's conclusion in this case."
Smith said he was not disputing Preston's findings and expert opinion regarding Krentel's death, but he was concerned about the timing of the release of the autopsy results.
Nanette Krentel's family says they're confused about how this investigation is playing out, and on Thursday they asked a judge to preserve all evidence in the case.
Smith said St. Tammany detectives will continue to work with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office until all leads are exhausted.
"We will do everything in our power to bring justice for Nanette Krentel and closure to the family," Smith said.
Dr. Charles Preston said in a statement released Wednesday that his office has treated the case as a homicide from the beginning, but extensive damage to the remains required significant examination in addition to the initial autopsy.
After the coroner's office conducted its autopsy, Krentel's remains were sent to the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Lab at LSU.
There, anthropologists studied the remains and issued a report in early September.