A judge has determined that the wife of an Idaho state senator has overstepped her role and had an inappropriate relationship with Lance Conway Wood, a Utah inmate serving a life sentence for his role in the kidnapping, torture and murder of a gay Utah man.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that Renee McKenzie, wife of lawyer and Idaho Senator Curt McKenzie, may have violated Idaho Code by practicing law without a license. Wood, who was convicted in 1990 of the 1988 killing of Gordon Ray Church and is serving his sentence in Idaho, has filed numerous lawsuits while incarcerated. His most recent is a case against the Idaho Dept. of Corrections where he claims a female prison guard, Sandra de Martin ”perpetrated sexual acts on him without his consent” during and after a “non-sexual” romantic relationship.
According to court documents, Wood received court approval for non-legal assistance from Renee McKenzie in procuring a protective order against Martin.
The documents also show that McKenzie identified herself as being from the McKenzie Law Firm and that prison officials “mistakenly believed that Ms. McKenzie was working under the direction of her husband,” and that she had been given “virtually unfettered” access to Wood.
Prison officials decided in February she was overstepping the bounds of the non-legal nature of the relationship and intercepted a letter Wood wrote to McKenzie, which they determined was “clearly of a personal nature.” They also discovered the two had unmonitored phone conversations lasting 91 hours between December and February.
On Feb. 7, they barred McKenzie from visiting Wood. In a March 9 phone call monitored by prison staff, McKenzie told Wood she loved him and that she wanted to spend her life with him, according to Idaho Dept. of Corrections documents obtained by The Associated Press. Wood sued the IDOC for “recording his attorney phone calls, monitoring his attorney visits, and opening and reviewing his legal mail.” The judge denied the motion because McKenzie was not an attorney and was not working for the McKenzie Law Firm.
IDOC documents show that Wood has “a history of manipulating staff and engaging in inappropriate emotional relationships.” The department also raised the concern that Wood’s interaction with Renee McKenzie could be a ploy to gain favor with or blackmail Sen. Curt McKenzie.
The IDOC released several phone transcripts showing that Renee McKenzie was suggesting using her and her husband’s clout in Wood’s case.
“And every legislator in the Statehouse, do you hear me, every legislator in that Statehouse would stick up for me. I have spent years serving, serving, serving, never thinking of myself. So they picked the wrong person to mess with. Do you understand that?” she said according to the transcripts. “I’d love a one-on-one with [IDOC] Warden[Randy] Blades, with [IDOC Director Brent] Reinke.”
The IDOC has not commented on Wood and McKenzie, other than to say, ”From the start, our focus has been the safe and secure operation of [the Idaho State Correctional Institution]. That’s been our priority every step of the way.”
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