Greg Fleniken was spending the evening of September 15, 2010 like he spent most weekday evenings. He was in a hotel room at the Eleganté Hotel in Beaumont, Texas. He was a landman for the company he co-owned with his brother. He spent a lot of time on the road and had a long-standing routine.
Part of his routine was to watch tv while he smoked cigarettes and ate candy bars. It’s hot in Texas and Greg like to sleep in a cool room, so he usually turned the air conditioner way down.
This evening’s selections were a Reese’s Crispy Crunchy bar, a root beer and Iron Man 2. At some point in the evening, Greg had attempted to make popcorn, but his microwave tripped the breaker. He called down to the front desk and they sent someone up to resolve the issue.
Greg corresponded by email with his wife, Susie, earlier in the evening. She was at the couple’s home in Lafayette, Louisiana. The couple had been married, then divorced, and then married again. They had been together, for the second time, for more than a decade.
On the morning of September 16, Susie hadn’t heard from Greg. They talked on the phone every morning when he was on the road. Worried because her calls to him had gone unanswered, she called his office. He hadn’t shown up there either, so a couple of guys from the office went to check on Greg.
When he didn’t answer the door to his hotel room, the co-workers went down to the front desk. A manager unlocked the door and found Greg dead on the floor. His cigarette was still in his hand and the room was incredibly warm.
On the outside of Greg’s body, there was little to no evidence of his cause of death. The medical examiner noted a small wound on his scrotum and rugburn on his cheek.
When he opened Greg up, it was a very different story. His internal organs were a mess. There were tears in his liver, stomach, intestines and heart. He also had two broken ribs.
The only conclusion the medical examiner could come to was that Greg had been beaten to death or crushed by a heavy object. The cut on his scrotum must have come from a kick with a steel toe boot. The medical examiner determined that Greg bled internally to death in less than one minute. His manner of death was deemed a homicide.
Immediately, this case seemed odd to detectives. It was unlikely that Greg had been beaten, because he didn’t have bruises. He wasn’t found under a heavy object. If he was beaten or crushed elsewhere and then brought back the hotel room, there was no evidence on the surveillance video of the hallway. Why would someone put him on the floor of his hotel room and then place a cigarette in his hand? Lastly, his neighbors hadn’t heard a thing.
Greg didn’t seem to have any enemies. His marriage was solid and he was good at his job. He stayed at The Eleganté often, but didn’t often come out of his room when he wasn’t working. No one seemed to have a motive.
Police started investigating the neighbors. On the night of Greg’s murder, a group of electricians were also staying in the hotel while they worked for an oil company. They frequented the hotel bar and often congregated in each others’ rooms.
One of those rooms was next door to Greg. Video from the third floor of the hotel showed at least 3 men in that room that evening. The room was registered to Lance Mueller and Tim Steinmetz. One of their visitors was Trent Pisano.
Greg’s family hired a private investigator. He worked closely with the police. They searched Greg’s hotel room again. Then, the PI noticed an indentation in the wall. He wondered if there was a matching one in the electricians’ room. There was. More interestingly, it had been patched with toothpaste.
The two holes lined up and marked the trajectory of a bullet. It entered the wall in the electricians’ room and exited in Greg’s. A laser showed that the bullet would have struck the bed.
Greg was laying in that bed. He had been shot in the scrotum and the bullet had bounced around inside his body causing all the damage. The police and PI couldn’t examine the body because Greg had been cremated, but they scoured the autopsy report. They shared their hypothesis with the medical examiner, who agreed with them.
It had been almost a year since Greg’s death when Tim and Trent were called in to visit with police officers. They had returned home to Wisconsin and Texas investigators had flown out for the interview. Eventually, the two men told investigators what had actually happened the night Greg died.
The men had been drinking with Lance in his room. Trent went to Lance’s car to get a bottle of whiskey. Lance asked him to grab his gun while he was down there. When Trent returned, Lance took the gun from him and pointed it at Tim, then Trent. The gun discharged, narrowly missing Trent, and the bullet hit the wall.
Lance took the gun back to his car, Trent got out of there as fast as he could and when Lance got back, he and Tim went down to the hotel bar. The next morning, Tim saw Greg being wheeled away on a gurney. He knew Lance had killed him. Tim admitted that none of the men had checked to see if anyone was in the next room and if they were okay.
After their confession, investigators had Tim call Lance on a recorded line. He told him that he had confessed to police and that Lance would be wise to do the same. Lance plead no contest to manslaughter in 2012 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge told him that he was being sentenced for his actions after the gun went off. Chances are, if he had checked on Greg and summoned help, he never would have served a day in jail.
Susie filed a civil suit against Lance, Tim, Trent and The Eleganté. She eventually dropped her case.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at