24-year-old Lori Slesinski disappeared from her home in Auburn, Alabama, on Saturday, June 10, 2006. Her best friend, Lindsay Braun, knew something was wrong when she found Lori’s front door unlocked and her dog, Peanut, still in his crate.
According to Braun, Lori would never go away and leave her beloved Peanut behind.
“The door was unlocked, which was not like her … the air conditioner was running. Her dog, Peanut, was in the crate,” Braun told 48 Hours.
A Dog Mom Disappears
Although Lori had not been heard from for several days, Peanut seemed calm and happy. His crate was spotlessly clean, as if someone had been feeding and caring for him in Lori’s absence.
Upon closer inspection, Braun noticed that the three kitchen rugs Lori laid out to help the dog traverse the tile floor were missing.
“One thing I remember about Peanut is, he wouldn’t walk on tile, so she had these rugs in her kitchen, and he would hop on the rugs, and the rugs were gone. I noticed that immediately,” she said.
A Suspect Emerges
These unusual pieces of evidence regarding Peanut would lead police to suspect that someone close to Lori was involved in her disappearance. Their sights soon turned to Lori’s friend, Derrill Richard “Rick” Ennis. He made inconsistent statements in his interviews and had suspicious scratches on his arms as if he’d been involved in a struggle.
Braun told police she’d heard Ennis’ voice in the background during her last call with Lori on the day she disappeared. She also revealed that Ennis had recently written Lori a love letter expressing his feelings for her. Lori had spurned his advances, telling him she wanted to remain “just friends.”
Even more chilling, investigators discovered a dark secret from Ennis’ past. At the age of 12, he brutally murdered his mother and stepfather, living with their bodies for two days and even continuing to attend school.
When caught, Ennis told police he was angry at his parents for deciding to move because he did not want to change schools. He had also composed a “to-do” list that included a plan to kill his three stepsisters.
Due to his age at the time of the crime, Ennis was released from juvenile prison when he turned 21. He then moved to Auburn, where he met Lori.
Fresh Eyes Break The Case
Auburn Police believed that Ennis murdered Lori, setting fire to her car and staying in her home with Peanut for days after the crime. Unfortunately, they could not gather enough evidence to make an arrest.
A decade later, the case was reopened by a cold case unit. They discovered evidence buried in the files that had been previously overlooked. A hand-rolled cigarette butt found by Lori’s burning car had been collected in 2006 but never tested. Cold case investigators soon discovered that it bore Ennis’ DNA. The suspect’s blood and semen were also collected from Lori’s trailer.
At the time of his arrest in August 2018, Ennis was living in Virginia and engaged to marry a librarian. He was charged with Lori’s murder and convicted by a jury in March of 2022.
Lori’s mother, Arlene Slesinski, adopted Peanut after her daughter’s disappearance, finding comfort in the little dog’s presence for years to come.
“We brought Peanut home with us and he stayed with us, until he was, I guess about 16 years old when he died,” she said.
And Peanut never forgot the young woman who had loved him so dearly.
“Every time we mentioned Lori’s name, he would, I don’t care where he was in the house, it was like he just heard her name and he’d run in there, like, where is she?” Slesinski said. “It just totally amazed me that he never forgot her.”
After Peanut passed away, Lori’s mom adopted another dog named Daisey. It seems that Peanut made a dog lover out of her, something that would surely make Lori smile.
Watch a summary of the 48 Hours report on Lori’s disappearance below:
Featured Screenshot via 48 Hours