Inside the mysterious disappearance of Lori Slesinski and the trial of Rick Ennis, a man with a criminal past, accused of her murder.
On Saturday, June 10, 2006, Lori Ann Slesinski, 24, disappeared from Auburn, Alabama.
Lori Slesinski was a recent Auburn University graduate. On the night she disappeared, she planned to visit her best friend Lindsay Braun's home for a girls' night.
A final conversation
"We were going to have drinks at my house ... and watch a movie," Lindsay Braun told "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant.
Braun says Lori called around 6:30 p.m. that night and said she had to stop at the store and then she would head over.
Lori Slesinski had company
Lindsay Braun says she could hear another friend of Lori's in the background of that call – Rick Ennis. But at the time, she didn't think much of it. "They were friends," Braun said. "So, I wasn't concerned."
What happened to Lori Slesinski?
Police would later recover this Walmart surveillance - the last known image of Lori Slesinski. It showed that Lori did make it to the store. But Lindsay Braun says Lori never made it over to her house after.
Lindsay Braun says her worry grew the next day. "I called her house several times throughout that weekend, left voicemails on her home answering machine."
Then on Monday, June 12, Lori was a no-show at work. At the time, Lori Slesinski and Braun were both employed at a local mental health facility
A no-show at work
When Lori Slesinski failed to show up to work for a second day, on Tuesday, June 13, Lindsay Braun and another coworker went to Lori's home to check on her.
Checking on Lori Slesinski
Lori Slesinski lived in a manicured trailer park that was popular with students. When Lindsay Braun arrived, she noticed that the door was unlocked, and Lori was gone. Lori's car was also missing.
A strange scene
Lindsay Braun also noticed that Lori's dog Peanut was in his crate. She says he seemed happy and well-fed -as if someone had been taking care of him. Even more incredibly, she says, his crate was not soiled—even though by this point, Lori had been missing several days. Lindsay felt something was wrong since Lori would never have
According to Lindsay Braun, Lori had three rugs on the floor of her kitchen, which she had set down because her dog wouldn't walk on tile. Braun says these rugs were now missing. She also noticed that Lori's outside trash can was missing.
Lori Slesinski's worried mother arrives
Lori's mother, Arlene Slesinski, says on June 13 day another one of Lori's coworkers made her aware of the situation. She immediately left work and headed to Auburn. She also alerted her husband, Casey, that their daughter was missing. When she got to Lori's trailer, she noticed the phone in Lori's bedroom was missing its long cord.
Lori Slesinski officially reported missing
On Tuesday, June 13, Arlene Slesinski reported her daughter missing. Auburn Police responded to Lori's trailer and interviewed several of Lori's friends.
Police question Rick Ennis
Rick Ennis was a friend who met Lori Slesinski when she was still a student.
He confirmed that he was at her trailer the day she disappeared but insisted she was fine when he left her.
Ennis told detectives that he and Lori grew marijuana together. He suggested Lori may have gone off to sell her share of the weed and added that she may have been dealing with unsavory characters.
Police searched Lori's trailer but found no evidence at all that Lori was dealing drugs.
Lori's car explodes
On Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - four days after Lori went missing - at around 4:40 a.m., her car was found fully engulfed in flames on a deserted cul-de-sac, close to the bowling alley where Rick Ennis had formerly worked.
The investigation now shifted from a missing persons case to a possible homicide.
Investigators say the blaze destroyed any evidence that may have been in the car, but Lori was not in the vehicle.
A cigarette butt
Investigators report that a hand-rolled cigarette was found on the ground near Lori' Slesinski's burned car. It was collected, but was not initially tested.
The gas can
Investigators also found a gas can in the woods close by. They say it looked similar to one of the gas cans which was missing from the bowling alley whereRick Ennis had worked
When detectives re-interviewed Rick Ennis later that day on June 14, they noticed scratches on his arms and hands. According to investigators, he did not explain them – and they say, Ennis had inconsistencies in his statements to police.
A love letter
Lindsay Braun told investigators that before she disappeared, Lori had confided in her that she received a love letter from Rick Ennis. Braun said that Lori told her she wasn't interested in Rick romantically and was going to talk to him about it. Ennis admitted to police that he had written the letter, and investigators say, he told friends that Lori had rejected him.
Searching Rick Ennis' car
Investigators turned their focus to Rick Ennis. When they searched his car, they found this knife.
They also collected these handcuffs from Rick Ennis' vehicle.
Bleach and cleaning products found
Rick Ennis also had these cleaning supplies in a box in his car.
Digging deeper into Rick Ennis
Investigators continued collecting evidence from Lori' Slesinskis trailer. And they also discovered something unimaginable about Rick Ennis' past.
A deadly encounter
On March 3, 1993, when Rick Ennis was 12 years old, he murdered his mother and stepfather. Investigators say Rick shot his mother in the face and then beat her to death with a baseball bat in the trailer where they lived in north Montgomery, Alabama. According to investigators, Rick said that after she died, he covered her face with a velvet blanket and placed a rose on her chest.
A second victim
When his stepfather, Eddie Joe Flowers, came home from work, investigators say Rick Ennis shot him in the face using a shotgun.
Rick Ennis then took the family car for a drive and crashed into a fence on the side of the highway. Alabama State Trooper John Clark (pictured) spotted a young boy walking along the highway and stopped him.
"I asked him 'where are your parents?'" said Clark. "He said 'I killed them.'"
At the time, Rick Ennis told investigators he was mad at his mother, Dolly Flowers, because she wanted to move to another town and Rick did not want to leave his school.
However, when "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant spoke to Ennis in 2022, Ennis said that there was a deeper reason why he killed his parents. Rick says his mother molested him and he snapped. "48 Hours" could not corroborate Rick's abuse allegation.
Rick Ennis serves time
Because Rick Ennis was a minor, he was held in juvenile detention for the murders for nine years. He was released after he turned 21 years old. After his release, he ended up moving to Auburn and meeting Lori Slesinski.
Lori Slesinski's case goes cold
After Lori Slesinski disappeared, Rick Ennis became the prime suspect. But despite what investigators knew about Ennis' past, without direct evidence and without a body, police didn't have enough to charge Ennis for Lori's murder. Shortly after police interviewed Ennis, he moved away from Auburn.
Lori's case went cold.
Re-investigating the case
A decade later, in 2016, Mark Whitaker, a special agent with the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation, started a cold case unit and began to investigate Lori Slesinski's disappearance. After examining the evidence, Rick Ennis became his main suspect.
"His inconsistencies in his statements made no sense whatsoever. We knew Lori was not a drug dealer," Whitaker told "48 Hours." "She vanished off the face of the earth when he's the last one to ever see her."
Critical evidence found
Looking through the case files, Agent Whitaker's partner, Agent JW Barnes, found an important piece of evidence. The results of a forensic report from 2007 showed that Ennis' DNA had been identified in semen found on Lori' Slesinsks bedsheet, and in blood on the interior of Lori's front door
The missing rugs
Investigators say they also recovered the three rugs that were missing from Lori' Slesinski's trailer when a former roommate of Rick Ennis' turned them over to police. The rugs were sent to the lab to be tested and Ennis' blood was found to be on one of them.
Where was Rick Ennis?
Prosecutors built their case against Rick Ennis and indicted him for Lori' Slesinski's murder in August 2018.
Investigators located Ennis where he was living in Pilot, Virginia. He was working for a company making portable living structures called yurts. Rick was also engaged to a school librarian.
Rick Ennis arrested
On August 6, 2018 – 12 years after Lori Slesinski went missing - a taskforce of U.S. Marshals arrested Rick Ennis.
Agent Whitaker told "48 Hours": "It was the highlight of my career to make the phone call to Arlene Slesinski that morning to tell them … 'We just took Rick Ennis in custody in Virginia for Lori's murder.'"
For Arlene Slesinski, the moment was bittersweet because she says, it meant she had to finally accept that Lori was never coming home.
A new witness comes forward
Terry Booth, a man who says he was friends with Rick Ennis, called Agent Whitaker's task force after reading about Rick's arrest. Correspondent Peter Van Sant also interviewed Booth, who told "48 Hours" that the arrest brought back a conversation he'd had with Ennis years earlier at a bar. "He [Rick] just mainly said, I had to get rid of a b****," Booth said. Booth says he thought Ennis was messing with him then but now he realized Ennis was serious
New leads in the case
Agent Whitaker's team continued submitting evidence to the forensic lab for testing - including that cigarette butt investigators had reported finding near Lori's scorched car. The results showed that the cigarette butt matched Rick Ennis' DNA. Investigators say this evidence was critical because it tied Ennis to the burn scene
More loss in the Slesinsky family
In 2020, Arlene's son (Lori's brother) Paul Slesinski, succumbed to cancer. Later that year, Arlene's husband, Casey, died of COVID.
Rick Ennis' trial begins
The pandemic temporarily ground the courts to a halt. But the trial of Rick Ennis finally began in March 2022.
Making a case
Lee County district attorney and prosecutor Jessica Ventiere called Lori' Slesinski's mother and friends to the stand, and they testified that Lori was reliable and would never take off unannounced. Terry Booth also testified, telling the jury that Rick told him "he had to strangle a b****."
Blood on the door
The jury also heard testimony that Ric Ennis' DNA was found in blood on the door of Lori Slesinski's trailer.
Blood drop on the rug
Forensic experts testified that Rick Ennis' blood was found on one of the rugs investigators believed were originally Lori Slesinski's kitchen.
More forensic evidence
There was also testimony that Rick Ennis' semen was found on Lori Slesinski's bedsheet and that his DNA was found on the cigarette butt investigators said they found near Lori's burned car.
Rick Ennis' defense
Rick Ennis' defense said that cigarette butt didn't come from the burn scene. Defense attorney William Whatley argued that police could have taken the cigarette from Ennis' home and planted it at the crime scene. The defense also tried to portray Lori Slesinski as a drug dealer.
Rick Ennis takes the stand
Rick Ennis testified in his own defense, insisting he had nothing to do with Lori Slesinski's disappearance. He admitted to writing her a love letter but claimed even after, he and Lori were intimate.
As for those items in his car, Ennis explained that had nothing to do with Lori – he said he was moving and packing. He also explained that the scratches he had back in 2006 were caused by his dog. As for the rugs in question, Ennis said he bought them at Target. And he said he "had no idea" why his DNA was found in Lori's home.
The jury deliberated for two days and came back with their verdict. Rick Ennis was found guilty of the murder of Lori Slesinski. He faced the death penalty. However, Arlene Slesinski and the DA agreed to take the death penalty off the table.
Arlene says she felt agreeing to a life without parole sentence for Ennis would save her from years of potential appeal hearings and would ensure Ennis would never be free. On April 14, 2022, Judge Walker sentenced Ennis to life without parole.
Despite the long-awaited victory, DA Jessica Ventiere says it was bittersweet because Lori' Slesinsk's remains were not found.
"I didn't find Lori," Ventiere told "48 Hours". "I mean, it - it's one piece of a puzzle, but … Lori wasn't part of the deal. And I wish that I could've brought that to them."
Justice for Lori Slesinski
After the sentencing, Arlene Slesinski went home and spent time in Lori's trailer, which she now keeps on her property in her backyard. Arlene told "48 Hours" that she had a conversation with Lori that day. She said, "Lori, justice has finally come. We've waited for this for a long time."
Far from over
Rick Ennis maintains that he is innocent. He is appealing his conviction.