An Indiana man’s relationship with a woman he met online turned into a nightmare when the woman, at the time his fiancee, abruptly broke off the relationship and was later found to have killed herself — after having killed two other people.
Don Huckstep, 57, had been divorced for more than a decade when he met Teri Deneka on Match.com in 2013, according to Indianapolis Monthly. The two hit it off and were engaged within months.
“There was something about her,” Huckstep said. “It’s hard to describe. I might have been sniffing magic dust.”
Deneka had told him that she was a retired psychologist who had made a fortune in real estate. As such, Huckstep did not find it odd that Deneka kept tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
In 2014, the couple was planning to go on a trip to Italy, after which they would get married. But three weeks before the trip, Deneka broke up with Huckstep via text message. She said her mother had died and asked Huckstep not to call or visit her anymore.
Huckstep was heartbroken and confused, but things took a dark turn a few days later when a friend of his notified him Deneka had taken her own life with a cocktail of drugs. Her death was only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
Huckstep later learned that on the day Deneka broke up with him, she had been confronted by the sister of her ex-husband, Milan Lekich, who had mysteriously disappeared.
After receiving news of Deneka’s taking her own life, Lekich’s family broke into his garage and made a horrifying discovery: His dismembered body had been stuffed into a garbage can. According to the autopsy, he had been shot in the head three times with Deneka’s gun.
A week later, Deneka’s son visited her house to clean it out and go through her belongings. There, inside a large garbage container, he found the remains of his grandmother, Deneka’s mother. She too had been shot in the head with Deneka’s gun.
A DNA sample from the gun matched DNA on a chain saw found near Lekich’s body. Police believe Deneka used the chain saw to dismember him.
Pieces of the story came together quickly. Deneka had murdered her husband and mother, and then killed herself when she felt that she was going to be caught.
“It was all catching up with her,” Huckstep said. “She knew her goose was cooked.”
Police were not able to determine a motive for the mother’s murder, but they suspect Deneka killed her husband after he caught her running up charges on his credit cards.
As it turned out, Deneka had never been a psychologist, had never made money in real estate, and had had another husband while she was married to Milan Lekich. In fact, Teri Deneka was an alias: her real name was Teresa Jarding.
Huckstep has since come to terms with the fact that he almost married a murderer.
“At times I wish I knew why, but I’m at the point where I wish I knew nothing,” he told Indianapolis Monthly. “This is the stuff you see on TV, and it happens to other people now and then. But having been through it, I’m a lot more sympathetic.”