Jarrod Slick has a complex history with the justice system — both as a suspect and a victim.
The 23-year-old former Manhattan High School student is suspected of killing his mother, 51-year-old Renee Coffey, a former Kansas State University professor, on May 18 at their home in a small Florida town last month.
Both mother and son were involved in high-profile criminal cases, one related to underage sex and one related to a violent confrontation between two prominent men.
Now from Port St. Joe, Fla., Slick was arrested for murder on May 23. He was already confined at the Gulf County Detention Facility at the time of his arrest for a burglary and arson case that stretches back to late 2012.
Before Slick’s arrest, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison named him as the prime suspect in Coffey’s murder.
“We found some things that basically weren’t consistent with his statement,” Harrison said in a phone interview about when investigators interviewed Slick a few days after Coffey’s death.
The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office began its investigation immediately following a 911 call from Slick, who told the operator that his mother, Coffey, had been “assaulted.” When deputies arrived, they found Coffey inside and unconscious. She later died from her injuries.
Slick and his brother, Eric Slick, had been living with their mother at a house on Cape San Blas Road. Investigators determined Eric was at work when the incident occurred, Harrison said.
Coffey’s death disrupted the normally quiet Cape San Blas, a small strip of land across St. Joseph Bay from Port St. Joe in the Florida panhandle.
“This is the first homicide we’ve worked since I’ve been in office,” said Harrison, who’s been sheriff for 18 months. “That’s a very quiet area out there, mixed with visitors and permanent residents. It’s probably a tourist area more than anything.”
In Manhattan, Coffey was known by her former name: Renee Slick.
Coffey was connected to Kansas State University during much of her time here. She began pursuing her doctorate at the university in 1993, left with only her dissertation to finish in 1996 and then returned, finishing her degree work in 2002.
A year after earning her doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology, Coffey joined the Kansas State faculty as an assistant professor of psychology.
But Coffey faced her share of adversity while in Manhattan.
In 2007, Coffey (Slick) ended a six-month marriage to Russell Reitz, a radiation oncologist still practicing in Manhattan. The couple soon tried to get back together.
However, on May 17, 2008, Reitz saw David Lehman, a marketing instructor at K-State and a former chairman of the Riley County Republican Party, helping remove branches from Coffey’s yard following a storm that had struck the area.
After Reitz had a discussion with Coffey, a fight broke out between the two men, according to a Mercury article from the time that cited court documents.
Reitz, a wrestler in high school, took Lehman to the ground.
At some point, Lehman’s head struck a hard object and blood began to gush from the cut. Reitz took off his shirt and tried to stop the bleeding.
Reitz would later testify in court that he acted in self-defense, but regretted becoming involved in the incident.
Lehman, on the other hand, testified that Reitz “snapped” and began punching him and that Reitz “lunged” at him, causing both men to fall and Lehman to cut his head, which required staples.
In the months following the incident, Lehman reportedly also suffered memory loss, developed a stutter in his speech, experienced depression and had post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Jurors found Reitz guilty of aggravated battery. He was later sentenced to 24 months of probation and had his medical license suspended, though it was reinstated in 2010.
Coffey testified during Reitz’s trial that she “thought Russell killed him (Lehman),” according to a story in The Mercury.
It wasn’t Coffey’s first personal interaction with the Riley County court system. The other time involved her son, Jarrod Slick.
At about 10 p.m. on March 26, 2008 – only a couple months before Reitz’s incident with Lehman – a Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s deputy was near Tuttle Creek Dam.
During his routine patrol, the deputy noticed a vehicle parked in Spillway Marina Park area. He decided to make contact.
Inside the vehicle, the deputy saw Katherine Harder, then 31 and an English teacher at Manhattan High School. Also with her was a male MHS student.
According to a Pottawatomie County court document, that student was Jarrod Slick, then 17 and a junior at MHS, who had been involved in Spanish Club as a freshman and played sophomore football.
Harder was charged with unlawful sexual relations. Although the age of consent in Kansas is 16, a teacher may not have sexual relations with a student at the school where the teacher works, according to Kansas statute.
Harder eventually pleaded to aggravated endangering a child as part of an agreement and received 12 months of probation. She resigned from her position at MHS in July 2008.
Trouble with the law<.strong>
The only other incident involving Jarrod Slick on court record in Riley County is a June 2007 traffic case in which he was charged with speeding and driving without proper liability insurance coverage. He pleaded guilty and the case was disposed in July 2007.
Slick had no criminal activity on record in Florida until Dec. 12, 2012, when a misdemeanor battery charge was filed. The charge was dropped in early 2013, according to court records.
On Dec. 12, a couple days after Slick’s battery charge was filed, the Port St. Joe Fire and Police departments received a call for a structure fire at the town’s Masonic Lodge. The building suffered minimal damage.
Twelve days later, the departments responded to another fire at the lodge. This time, the structure was declared a total loss. Investigators determined both fires were set intentionally.
In early March, state officials announced that Jarrod Slick was arrested on charges of burglary and arson in both incidents following a joint investigation with the Port St. Joe Police Department.
<strong>Court process continues
Slick’s burglary and arson case has been moving slowly because of concerns over Slick’s mental status.
“His competence was at the forefront and in question,” Port St. Joe Police Chief David Barnes said in a phone interview.
On June 11, 2013, a judge ruled Slick was incompetent to proceed, according to records. He was committed to Florida State Hospital. He didn’t appear again in court until September 3, 2013.
Finally, on June 6, 2014, after a series of hearings and appearances, a judge ordered the case to continue. A motions hearing is scheduled for June 24.
As for the murder case, hearings are just getting underway. Slick is scheduled to appear in court on July 1.
“That’s just a sad, sad case right there,” Barnes said.