At 2:30 a.m. on March 9, 2016, the emergency dispatch center in the sleepy town of Scottsville, Kentucky, received a 911 call from a local nursing home.
When police arrived at Scottsville Manor, they were directed by staff to Room 15. A dead man lay on the bed there. His 35-year-old roommate, with a shaven head and auburn beard, stood outside in the hallway and informed police that he had stabbed the man with a pen and strangled him with a lamp cord because Charles Manson told him to do it.
“It’s your moment,” the killer later said about himself in an interview with state psychiatrists. “You’re a star.”
The brutal nursing home murder briefly captured media attention across the nation and beyond, appearing even in British tabloids. But stranger than the crime itself is the man who allegedly committed it: a self-identified Satanist who legally changed his name to “The Reverend” and craved notoriety while battling the disorienting depths of schizophrenia. The murder of his roommate in a small Kentucky town was not completely unforeseeable but rather the culmination of a tumultuous and often disturbing life in which The Reverend perceived himself as a prophet of Hell and, from the outside, appeared to be just another drifter.
Born Robert Reynolds in Decatur, Alabama, the future murder suspect was raised in a household that appeared strikingly normal.
“He had a good family life, good childhood, and went to good schools,” his father, John Reynolds, told investigators.
Robert Reynolds’s father was an investment banker; his mother stayed home for much of his childhood before working at a clothing store.
“I raised them with my magical knowledge,” The Reverend, who refused an interview for this story, said about his parents to state-appointed psychiatrists after his arrest. “[My childhood] was fine. I didn’t know what money was.”
In school, Reynolds won a national writing contest, wrote for the school newspaper, and acted in school theater, according to court records.
But despite the quiet middle-class upbringing, Reynolds demonstrated early signs that his path would be a dark one.
The Reverend told state psychiatrists that before adulthood, he sometimes snuck out of his home, fought with his peers, carried a knife, vandalized, shoplifted, drank alcohol and performed sexual acts with his pets. He said he was a member of the so-called “joy community,” which he described as a club of pedophiles attracted to young girls. And he said he was suspended several times for truancy, disrupting class, fighting, and attempting to steal candy from vending machines.
“I had a strong opinion being Antichrist and some scuffles because other kids wouldn’t follow me,” The Reverend said.
Relationships with women were difficult, he said, because of his pedophilia. But despite his detachment, there was one girl, named Kristin Clemens, with whom he described having a “mental understanding.”
Clemens, now an artist and jewelry maker in Nashville, said she attended Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee, with Robert Reynolds. She was stunned to hear the news of his arrest.
“I didn’t really know Rob that well in school,” Clemens said in an online interview. “By the time I was a senior, I had a lot of older friends and was completely disinterested in hanging out with other high schoolers. I remember him as being one of those average weird kids, occult-curious, into heavy metal, alternative music, etc.”
Clemens said that they bonded over their love for philosophy, but that she was uninterested in reciprocating what she perceived as his romantic interest in her.
“I was getting into modern philosophy at the time, so I think sometimes I’d talk about that and he’d tell me about the Satanic Bible and things like that,” she said. “He didn’t seem like a psychopathic killer in the making at all, but I avoided him on purpose because I knew he had a crush on me, which is why we were never close.”
Reynolds went to college in Alabama for a year following his high school graduation. In 2002, he transferred to Western Kentucky University, graduating with a degree in Fine Arts and a 2.41 GPA.
After bouncing around jobs in construction, fast food, retail, and other fields, he moved to Los Angeles, hoping to apply his experience in theatre to an acting career. Reynolds held his longest job – one year – with Central Casting from 2009 to 2010, according to court records.
Reynolds’s hopes crumbled when “the voices started” during his stay there, he said. He was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 24. The disorder is “characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behavior,” according to the World Health Organization.
In California, Reynolds began calling his parents and telling them he was meeting famous people everywhere he looked and that Samuel L. Jackson was stalking him in disguise, his father said.
“It was clear it was delusional thinking,” John Reynolds told investigators.
Robert’s parents visited him in Los Angeles after a concerned friend told them that his situation had deteriorated. They found him living in a van that his father described as a “total pigpen.” The cabinets in his home had broken under the weight of several hundred jars of bodily fluids he had stored there.
Despite coming home to live with his parents, Reynolds’s mental health continued to worsen. His father said he found him unconscious and surrounded by sleeping pills once in what may have been a suicide attempt. The “cracking point,” his father said, was when Reynolds pushed him and told his parents they had to leave immediately because their house was his inheritance.
In August of 2014, Reynolds was admitted to Central State Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Louisville. He told staff that he was married with five children and that he had founded a church. During his two-week stay, he continued his habit of placing jars of bodily fluids everywhere. He also legally changed his name from Robert Reynolds to The Reverend and operated what he considered to be a church of his own – Reynoldsianism.
Lacking any kind of institutional capacity or following, Reynoldsianism appears to be a personal version of Satanism, based on posts from his multiple Facebook accounts.
“I am the Spiritual Grandson of American Church of Satan Founder Anton LaVey,” he wrote on Jan. 21, 2016 (other posts include: “Hillary Clinton endorsed pedophilia today!!!!!!!!!!!!” and “The South Will Change!”).
The Reverend was also admitted seven times since 2010 to another psychiatric institution, this time in Hopkinsville. Western State Hospital records indicated suicidal thoughts, an overdose attempt, and that he “tried to talk his father into committing murder.” The Reverend said his living with his parents was often cut short because of his behavior.
“I threatened to kill a neighbor, so everybody panicked and freaked out … so my dad sold the house and sent me to Western State again,” he told state psychiatrists.
He also described spirits that he believed were possessing him and received injuries when he walked into oncoming traffic.
“I need sedation,” The Reverend said, in reference to the increasingly loud voices in his head. He said the voices “ask me questions, then I answer the questions and they repeat them, and it’s annoying. This has been going on for many years.”
On March 9, 2016, when the murder occurred, The Reverend was living in Scottsville Manor, a nursing home for the elderly and mentally disabled. His roommate was Gary Glueck, a 71-year-old ward of the state with no known family.
In his last months at Scottsville Manor, many of The Reverend’s Facebook posts related to advocacy for assisted suicide. In one post, he shared a petition for “Death with Dignity.”
“I am Schizophrenic,” he said. “There is no cure.”
“Sometimes I feel as weak and powerless as a baby,” he said in another post.
While in Scottsville, The Reverend also explored his creative side.
Besides being the founder of Reynoldsianism, The Reverend considers himself an accomplished musician. His Facebook accounts promote his genre, “Easy Listening Satanic Music.” He even has an MP3 album available on Amazon and iTunes, featuring songs such as “Ol Syrup Pt. 2,” “Alrighty Then Jesus,” “The Plight of the Jew,” “Rape and Taxes,” and “Ave! Satan is with Thee!”
According to a police statement, The Reverend wished to play this music on March 9. Glueck objected. The situation appeared to have calmed when a nurse did a check-in shortly after the argument. But later that night, The Reverend walked down the hall to the nurses’ station, asked for a drink of water, and casually informed them that he had murdered Glueck.
When the judge for the murder case ordered an evaluation to determine whether The Reverend was fit to stand trial, he was sent to the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center and sat for interviews with state psychiatrists.
Smiling, he said he murdered “Jerry Glitch” for the reasons of “expecting instant notoriety, enhancing his music career, the victim talking too much, and putting the victim out of his misery so that he would not die in a nursing home feeble and aging,” the psychiatrists said.
According to the competency evaluation, The Reverend “interrupted the interview, stared angrily, reported feeling annoyed about the questions being asked of him, and indicated that he might want to kill the admitting psychiatrist.” At one point, while taking a questionnaire, he indicated surprise that he would be given a sharpened pencil, based on his past.
The psychiatrists also said that The Reverend seemed to enjoy antagonizing other patients: “He engaged in childish behavior, such as cutting in line and then laughing when other peers became upset.”
His behavior at KCPC even turned homicidal at one point. Sneaking up behind another patient when no one was watching, The Reverend tried and failed to wrap some underwear around the patient’s neck. He later told staff that he merely intended to drag him back to his room, bang his head against the wall, and strangle him, on account of him being African American and “loud.”
“When the opportunity arises, I feel like I should be doing it,” he said of murder. “I will kill again until I get the respect I deserve and need.”
Psychiatrists eventually diagnosed The Reverend with schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial and borderline traits, alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder, opioid use disorder, and pedophilia. But they determined these conditions had no bearing on his mental competency to stand in court and that he was in control of his actions.
“He is capable of proceeding to trial,” they concluded on July 28.
After the evaluation, he was sent back to Allen County Jail in Scottsville.
While The Reverend waits in jail, the community outside has been disturbed by the murder and its aftermath. Scottsville residents have expressed their concerns online and in local meetings, wondering how something like this could have been prevented. To an extent, The Reverend has become something of a local boogeyman, sideshow, and celebrity, all in one.
When placing an interview request for The Reverend at Allen County Jail, the jail employee sighed and said, “You’re biting off more than you can chew there.”
The employee left for a few minutes before returning.
“He doesn’t want to talk,” he said.
Former friends of the man who used to be known as Robert Reynolds are also coming to terms with the brutal murder.
“OMG, shut up!” exclaimed Ivory DeVon Lucy, a Facebook friend of The Reverend’s in Clearwater, Florida, when told of the arrest. “Robert and I were quite close, even though he embraced his darkness on a whole other level than I.”
His high school crush, meanwhile, wishes she had intervened earlier.
“I know there wasn’t anything I could have done, but I feel terrible for ignoring someone who clearly needed help, and I’m horrified that it escalated to the point where a man lost his life,” Clemens said.
After his arraignment last month, a plea is required in December and his next court appearance is scheduled for January.
Despite his frequent provocations and repeated intentions to kill others, a mental health assessment from shortly after the arrest revealed that The Reverend was frightened by the prospect of prison.
“I can’t face prison,” he said. “I think I could, but I would rather someone else do it.”
As for notoriety – his stated aim in killing his roommate – the founder of Reynoldsianism is concerned that the murder that may put him in prison for the rest of his life fell short of its goal.
During the competency evaluation, psychiatrists asked him what his biggest problem was.
“Lack of fame,” he said.