KEESEVILLE — Police are looking for help from the public as they investigate who murdered a local father.
Robert Rennie, 45, of Keeseville was found dead near the closed iron footbridge on River Street at 6:14 a.m. Sunday, and State Police say an autopsy confirms it was homicide.
Rennie’s long-time companion, Michelle K. Blaise of Keeseville, died suddenly of a heart condition in 2008, leaving him to care for their two young daughters on his own.
“He loved his children,” said Rennie’s friend, Tracy Pray. “Rob was dedicated to them.”
Tracy’s brother, Bill Pray, attended AuSable Valley Central School with Rennie and maintained a relationship with him through the years. Bill said he is worried about what will happen to Rennie’s daughters now that both parents are gone.
“Everyone’s concerned about the children,” he said.
Keeseville Mayor Dale Holderman expressed deep sadness at the loss of a member of the community and said he especially feels for Rennie’s children.
“I know on many occasions, I would see them walking from the ice-cream shoppe with their father, and I would tease them about sharing some with me,” Holderman said in an email to the Press-Republican.
“Believe it or not they would.”
“I know they loved their father very much just by the way they looked to him, and I could see the same in return.”
Rennie, whom friends affectionately called “Barry Manilow” because they felt he bore a strong physical resemblance to the famous singer, was very well liked in the community, according to Tracy.
“I’ll never forget his laugh,” she said. “He had a contagious laugh.”
Keeseville Village Clerk Lynn Hathaway said Rennie’s death has shaken people.
“We, as a community, are struggling to make sense of this brutal and heinous crime,” she told the Press-Republican.
“Robert had such a kind and gentle spirit about him, with beautiful blue eyes and a huge smile. He was a father to two beautiful little girls who will suffer this loss the rest of their lives. So sad and so senseless. We will miss him.”
Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain said Monday that police are “in the process of tracing his location prior to his being found.”
“I would ask that anyone that has any information concerning the death of Robert Rennie or his whereabouts on Saturday or into Sunday morning, contact the New York State Police at 563-3761,” LaFountain said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
State Police are investigating multiple leads in the case and were at several locations throughout Keeseville Monday searching for evidence associated with the homicide.
“We urge everyone to use extreme caution until the person or persons responsible for Robert Rennie’s death has been apprehended,” LaFountain said.
It was a Press-Republican delivery person, Brian McNeilly, who found Rennie’s body.
McNeilly was driving past the bridge when an animal ran into the road, which prompted him to look toward the side of the street. It was then that he saw what appeared to be a body next to the footbridge.
McNeilly got out and went over to look at the man, whom he recognized as Rennie from having attended AVCS at the same time and from seeing him around the village for years.
“Oh my God, it was not something I wanted to see,” said McNeilly, who has delivered the paper for about two years.
He went to a customer’s house nearby and had them call for help. McNeilly said emergency responders arrived quickly.
“It’s an awful tragedy,” McNeilly said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org