Ed. Note: This is the first of our two-part series about the life and tragic murder of Renee White. You can find part two here.
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — What were you doing 40 years ago today?
Most of you won’t remember, some of you weren’t even born. But for one Bay County man, it’s a day that changed his life forever.
“It’s the worst day ever, and it’s still the worst day ever.”
June 14th, 1982 started out as a normal day for Randy White. The route salesman for Maxwell House Coffee met his wife Renee at their Lynn Haven home for lunch.
“Her favorite thing to do at lunch, every day, was to watch Days of Our Lives,’ 12-to-1, didn’t miss it,” White said. “So, naturally, I fix her a sandwich and she’s sitting there watching days of our lives.”
Randy followed Renee as she headed back to work.
“She blew the horn at me, and O blew the horn, and she pulled on into the office,” White said. “Little did I know there was someone in the office waiting on her.”
Renee Floyd grew up in Bay County. After her 9th grade year at Mowat Junior High, the family moved to Cottondale. Randy White met her at a pizza parlor in Marianna.
“Immediately, I was attracted to her. And I grabbed her by the arm and I said, ‘sit down.’ and she said, ‘who are you? I don’t know who you are.’ I said, ‘It don’t matter. Sit down anyway.'”
The two saw each other every night for the next three months, then got married.
“We were pretty much inseparable from that point on. we just spent all our time together, did everything together,” White said. “She loved to go to New Orleans. That was her favorite place to go. And every anniversary on our wedding, I would take her to New Orleans.”
The couple moved to Lynn Haven, and Renee went to work for a local state farm insurance agent named Jim Dickerson. His office was located at what is now the corner of Highway 77 and Peachtree Drive.
As Renee returned to the office on June 14th, the telephone was ringing. It was her friend Geri Gilchrist calling. As Renee answered the phone, she saw a man in the office.
“She started screaming, and the phone dropped, and Ms. Gilchrist could hear what was going on, some of the stuff, that was going on, the screaming, the yelling. so, she hung up immediately and notified law enforcement,” said Frank McKeithen. McKeithen, the former sheriff of Bay County, was the lead investigator on the case.
The man in the office was Kayle Barrington Bates, a delivery man for a Tallahassee paper company. Authorities say Bates had made at least one delivery at the office before, and targeted Renee White.
The evidence indicated Renee tried to fight bates, but he stabbed her twice with a hunting knife. Bates then dragged her body behind the office, which was surrounded by woods back then.
Because of Gilchrist’s call, police arrived quickly.
“Lynn Haven police department was the first agency there, eh, when they responded. and they actually found Bates walking out of the woods,” McKeithen said.
Over the next 7 hours, former Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen interrogated Bates, finally gathering enough information to charge him with Renee’s murder.
“This guy is one of the lyingest people I have ever met in my life,” McKeithen said. “He had a story, anything we asked him, he had a story.”
Randy White was also at the sheriff’s office that afternoon, feeling totally helpless as to what was happening. He’d received a phone call that there was an emergency and quickly returned to the insurance office.
Deputies quickly put him in a car, where he was joined by the sheriff’s office chaplain.
“And I’m asking him over and over, ‘Where’s Renee? what’s going on?’ and I’ll never forget, he looked at me and he said, ‘I have no easy way to say this to you but, Renee’s been murdered. and you’ve got to go down to the sheriff’s station and you’ve got to identify some things for us.”
Randy White helped investigators identify his wife’s belongings.
In March 1983, a jury convicted Kayle Barrington Bates of first-degree murder, and Judge Fred Turner imposed the death penalty.
For most people, this story ended with Bate’s conviction. But for Randy White, the story was far from over.
Tomorrow on News 13 at 10 White will talk about what happened after he lost his wife and why after all these years, he’s decided to talk about his life with Renee and without her.