North Dakota Woman Admits to Poisoning Boyfriend in Hopes of Collecting $30M Inheritance that Turned Out to be a Scam

Steven Edward Riley Jr. and Ina Thea Kenoyer
Steven Edward Riley Jr. and Ina Thea Kenoyer. Facebook

A 48-year-old woman in North Dakota may spend the rest of her life in prison for killing her boyfriend last year, fatally poisoning the 51-year-old man in the hopes of claiming millions of dollars in inheritance that did not exist.

Ina Thea Kenoyer on Wednesday, May 29, pleaded guilty to one count of felony murder — intentional, knowing, or with extreme indifference in the 2023 slaying of Steven Edward Riley Jr., according to court records obtained by Law & Crime.

Autopsy Revealed Riley's Cause of Death as Poisoning

The investigation into Kenoyer began on Sept. 3, 2023, when Riley was transported to Trinity Hospital, which is about 100 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota. Due to the severity of his condition, Riley was airlifted to CHI Alexius Hospital in Bismarck, but died on Sept. 5.

A subsequent autopsy determined that Riley's manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was ethylene glycol poisoning, authorities said.

About two months after Riley's death, police on Oct. 30, 2023, placed Kenoyer under arrest, stating that she had "financial motives to murder Riley." Since her initial arrest, she's been held in detention on bond of $1 million cash.

Kenoyer Claimed Riley Had Been Poisoned by Someone at the Hospital

Ina Thea Kenoyer
Ina Thea Kenoyer Twitter

According to a report from the Minot Daily News, in the aftermath of Riley's death, friends and family members came forward and told investigators that Kenoyer had previously made comments about poisoning her longtime boyfriend with antifreeze.

They also reportedly noted that Kenoyer suddenly began claiming that Riley had been poisoned by someone while he was at the hospital being treated.

Kenoyer Killed Riley to Gain His Fake $30 Million Inheritance

The motive behind the murder was a scam about a $30 million inheritance that had been left to Riley which duped both him and Kenoyer.

Police said that Riley had told friends and family he had been notified by a lawyer a "distant relative" left him $30 million. But his son, Ryan Riley, said that the supposed inheritance was a scam and that the planned meeting with the lawyer never took place.

After learning about the "inheritance," Riley reportedly began telling friends that he planned to leave Kenoyer and split the money between him and his sons.

When speaking to police, Kenoyer said she was aware of the inheritance, explaining that she would be entitled to a portion of it because she was Riley's common-law wife at the time of his death. When detectives informed her that the state of North Dakota did not recognize common-law marriages, she became visibly upset, per the Minot Daily News.

Police Found Traces of Antifreeze in Glasses at the Couple's Home

While executing a search warrant on the couple's home, police reportedly recovered a glass beer mug and a plastic beer from the garage, both of which tested positive for antifreeze. She eventually admitted that she put antifreeze in a mug of Riley's sweet tea with the intention of killing him.

Kenoyer will appear before North Central Judicial District Court Judge Richard L. Hagar on Aug. 13 for her sentencing hearing. She faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility for parole.