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Suspect in Renkas case won’t get protective order

ONE OF THE billboards for Nancy Renkas, a Florence, Wis., woman who disappeared July 18, 2016, after last being seen in the Super One parking lot in Iron Mountain. (Daily News file photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — A judge this week turned down a request for a protection order by a woman who claimed she is being harassed in connection with the 2016 disappearance of Nancy Renkas.

The woman said she repeatedly had been targeted by Shelly Kaminski in online posts about the Florence, Wis., woman who went missing July 18, 2016, after last being seen getting into a white SUV at the Super One Foods parking lot.

Most recently, a post on the anniversary of the disappearance July 18 noted “4 years later and a ‘suspect’ is still living free while her family, friends and children have zero answers …”, then went on to state that Renkas last had been seen July 18, 2016, at Super One Foods in Iron Mountain with the woman, listing her by name.

Other posts provided the woman’s maiden name, year of birth and where she worked, the woman and her attorney, Jeffrey Paupore, told Circuit Judge Mary Barglind in a hearing conducted Tuesday via YouTube in Dickinson County Court.

It’s caused the woman and her family “great distress, humiliation,” including at her workplace, Paupore said.

The Daily News is not publishing the woman’s name because she has not been charged with a crime.

But Dickinson County Sheriff’s Det./Lt. Derek Dixon, who is leading the investigation, testified in court Tuesday morning the woman is, in fact, a suspect in the case, that the department had impounded her vehicle — a white SUV — and that a surveillance video showed Renkas getting into that vehicle.

In July 2018, Dixon and Undersheriff Scott Metras confirmed a suspect in the case that knew Renkas and may have had a strained relationship with her. They did not name the suspect at that time.

On the day she went missing, the 47-year-old Renkas had mentioned meeting with the SUV driver to go look at a camper, Metras said at that 2018 news conference. The fact she left perishable meat and groceries in her vehicle indicated she believed it would be a quick trip.

She never returned to her vehicle or the home in Florence that she shared with her sons, according to a previous news release.

The SUV driver was a “person of interest” early on in the investigation and was interviewed by both Florence and Dickinson county law enforcement, Metras said in 2018, adding authorities later determined that person provided “false and misleading” information regarding contact with Renkas on the day she disappeared.

The suspect then retained an attorney and did not cooperate further with law enforcement, Metras said in 2018.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Kaminski said the posts were not an attack or malicious toward the woman but intended to maintain awareness about the Renkas case “because she’s still missing and a family needs to know.”

She disagreed that including the woman’s name in the July 18 post essentially portrayed her as a suspect, pointing out they were in different paragraphs.

Kaminski’s attorney, Nancy Finch, said the posts didn’t meet the higher standard needed to obtain a non-domestic personal protection order.

Barglind agreed, further noting Dixon had confirmed “there is nothing in that post that is untrue.”

The judge did caution Kaminski that future posts could get into the realm of harassment or stalking that would allow the woman to again seek a court order, advising “there’s a fine line” here between exercising and exceeding free speech rights.

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