Investigation Discovery’s ‘Vengeance: Killer Newlyweds: Smoky Mountain Love’ features the gruesome and bloody murder of 36-year-old Cassandra Petry in a Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, hotel room in early February 2010. The police found the newlywed bride’s body while she was on a honeymoon to the Smoky Mountains with her husband. While the authorities had a person of interest within moments of finding the victim, it would take a car chase and two days before they could eventually apprehend the killer in another city.
How Did Cassandra Petry Die?
On February 8, 2010, in suburban Michigan, Ken and Donna Petry anxiously awaited a call from their 36-year-old daughter, Cassandra Petry, who was on her honeymoon in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with her husband, Brian Umphrey. Donna shared on the show how they couldn’t reach Cassandra, and concern grew as she wasn’t responding, an unusual behavior for her. When attempts to contact Cassandra failed, a friend in Tennessee alerted local law enforcement, providing hotel details and requesting a wellness check.
Upon opening the hotel room, law enforcement discovered a gruesome scene—disarray, blood spatter, and a woman’s body hidden under a stack of blankets. Sources revealed she had been stabbed around 20 times across her torso. Alongside the victim were a teddy bear and red roses. The officers identified her as Cassandra Maya Petry, 36, originally from Taylor, Michigan, with the help of her driving license. Donna described Cassandra as a tomboy who loved climbing trees and running in fields and remembered her as a “wild child.”
Cassandra became a mother at 19, giving birth to her daughter Markia in 1993. Despite the challenges of single motherhood, she pursued education at her local community college, eventually working as a pharmaceutical tech at a local drugstore. She later married, had more children, divorced, and moved to Tennessee with her erstwhile partner, Mike, in 2005. However, their relationship soured after a decade, leading to a split. Cassandra’s friends recalled her as a sociable person with an open heart who loved to meet new people and connect with them.
Who Killed Cassandra Petry?
According to the show, Cassandra, like most of her peers, made friends online, with a girl introducing her to a mutual friend, Brian Umphrey. Originally from Athens, Tennessee, Brian was portrayed on the show as a “bit of a loose cannon” with a history of bouncing between jobs. Despite his unpredictable nature, Cassandra found him fun, overlooking certain red flags. The couple surprised their friends and family when they suddenly announced they got hitched in a courthouse marriage in June 2007, just two weeks after meeting each other.
The news caught most of her close circle, including her children, off guard as they learned about the courthouse wedding after the fact. However, this impulsive union was short-lived, leading Cassandra to file for divorce less than a month later. Despite her efforts to move on, something drew her back to Brian. Eventually, the couple decided to give their marriage another chance. They eloped and remarried on New Year’s Eve 2009 in another courthouse marriage without informing friends or family.
Seeking a fresh start, they planned a getaway to the Smoky Mountains for their honeymoon two months later. Hence, when the officers found her body in the hotel room but could not locate her husband, Brian, the officers listed him as their prime suspect in the murder. The medical examiner observed numerous stab wounds on Cassandra’s arms and hands, indicative of her attempts to resist the assailant. The police gathered blood samples from the crime scene, including drops on the bathroom counter, and submitted them for analysis.
They hoped that the perpetrator, amidst the violent act, had left traces of their blood, aiding in the investigation. Contrary to a failed robbery attempt, as all money and jewelry remained untouched, the crime was perceived as more of a passion-driven act. The detectives diligently interviewed hotel staff and fellow guests, discovering that the couple appeared joyful and excited during their honeymoon. The hotel register confirmed the couple’s intention to check out on February 8, coinciding with the day of the crime.
Furthermore, the investigators noted the registration of a vehicle associated with the room — Cassandra’s white 1999 Dodge Durango adorned with a Red Wings logo. It was reported missing from the hotel, prompting the officers to conduct a thorough canvassing of neighboring establishments while issuing a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) for the absent vehicle. Upon learning of the incident, Cassandra’s family immediately expressed suspicion towards Brian. The show detailed the tumultuous nature of their relationship, citing a history of issues.
Following their initial marriage, Brian stole a family van and emptied Cassandra’s bank account, leading to their separation. Legal actions were taken, and Brian served prison time for the theft. Despite this, the show revealed that Cassandra maintained contact with Brian during his incarceration without her family’s knowledge. Several months after Brian’s release, Cassandra and he resumed their relationship, eventually leading to their second marriage. Family members contended that Brian frequently relied on Cassandra for financial support.
Additionally, he struggled with drug addiction, often disappearing for days and allegedly subjecting Cassandra to abuse. Following their first marriage, there were reports of a severe beating, with Brian obsessively checking Cassandra’s phone due to unfounded suspicions of infidelity. While the police were still looking for him 24 hours after the murder, her family supplied law enforcement officials with a valuable tip. They had learned he was in a former girlfriend’s home in Athens but had already fled by the time the officers arrived.
Where Is Brian Umphrey Now?
The girlfriend stated Brian had come the night before and made several incriminating statements about killing Cassandra. Court records showed he had a lengthy arrest record in Athens and McMinn County, including charges of burglary, assault, resisting arrest, and evading arrest. As the Athens police remained on high alert looking for Brian, a confidential informant notified them about spotting him driving a white SUV on Highway 30.
An Athens officer ultimately arrested Brian, then 34, in Riceville on February 10 while he was heading toward I-75. He was detained and charged with first-degree murder. Brian was sentenced to 35 years in December 2011 after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and must serve his full sentence. The 48-year-old is serving his sentence at the Morgan County Correctional Complex and will be released in 2057.