The teenage years prove difficult for many. Life for 16-year-old Adrianne Reynolds harbored its share of challenges. Thanks to a welcoming family, an alternative school, and the acquisition of new friends, it appeared she just might be able to weather the trials of her teens. Instead, the very people from whom Reynolds sought acceptance proved deadly.
Wanting to make new friends is normal and pursuing a high school crush is, most often, harmless. Sometimes a little jealousy rears its ugly head, but is eventually resolved. In Adrianne Reynolds’ case, friendship with two fellow high schoolers led to far more than any of them bargained for, setting a tragedy that would continue for years into motion.
The Search for Acceptance
Adrianne Reynolds’ arrival in East Moline, Illinois in November of 2004 was a rocky one. According to Rob Stafford of NBC News, a difficult relationship with her mother made moving from Texas to live with her father and stepmother, Tony and Joanne Reynolds, appear ideal.
At 16 years-old, Reynolds struggled in school. She simply didn’t like the institution itself or the homework. She arrived at her new alternative school in Illinois with zero academic credits. Academic success, therefore, was the primary concern of her parents. Reynolds’ focus was different with acquiring a bit of a social life in a new town at the top of her own agenda. At first, this went well for her.
Joanne Reynolds told NBC News that her stepdaughter’s peers at school nicknamed her Texas due to her endearing accent.
It seemed Reynolds was making strides toward the acceptance and social standing she sought. She was described as boy-obsessed and spent hours talking on the phone with Gregory. She also spent a great deal of time with Kolb, of whom Reynolds’ father was none too keen. “I only met her once,” Tony Reynolds is recorded by NBC to have said. “And my first impression was a thug and a freak. She was dressed all in black, had piercings and everything.” Beyond that, there didn’t appear to be any overt issues with Reynolds’ new friends.
Two months into Reynolds’ new life and everything was on track. She was shining with youth, happy being the center of attention, and fostered a notable talent for singing, once filling the entire house with her voice as she spent hours practicing for a school talent show. She even had an after school job at a fast food restaurant called Checkers. That’s why, when Reynolds suddenly disappeared, no one saw it coming.
On January 20, 2005, Tony Reynolds said goodnight to his daughter, same as always. He was a truck driver and had to be on the road by 4am the following morning.
As usual, he told his daughter he loved her. Reynolds replied with “I love you, too” and a kiss. Nothing appeared amiss.
The next morning Joanne Reynolds woke her stepdaughter for school, confirming that she had work at 5pm that evening. The first sign that something was wrong came when Reynolds didn’t come home to change for her work shift.
Joanne and Tony Reynolds went immediately to Checkers. No one had seen their daughter.
The frantic phone calls began, including one to the police. The authorities suggested that perhaps the teen had run away from home. Tony Reynolds pointed out that his daughter hadn’t packed a bag or picked up her paycheck. Running away without her belongings or money? Surely not.
It was time to talk to her friends.
One of Reynolds’ schoolmates said that the teen had gone with Gregory, Kolb, and another boy at lunchtime. This resulted in a phone call to Kolb.
Kolb explained that the plan changed when Reynolds asked to be dropped at a nearby McDonalds instead. Apparently, she didn’t want her parents to see that she was in the car with a boy.
On the surface, this seemed reasonable as Tony Reynolds had previously expressed disapproval of this sort.
There was one issue with the credibility of Kolb’s report: Tony Reynolds was never at home in the middle of the day and his daughter knew that. Why would she hide from him when he wasn’t even home?
The instability of Kolb’s testimony caused suspicion against Kolb and Gregory quickly began to rise. It seemed Tony Reynolds’ previous misgivings about his daughter’s friends weren’t completely unfounded.
A Twisted Love Triangle
The police turned to Gregory next as Reynolds had admitted to her stepmother that she was becoming increasingly attracted to him. According to NBC News, Gregory had insisted that he and Reynolds should keep their interest in each other a secret from Kolb. He was afraid she would get jealous.
Since the situation reeked of rivalry, it was time to unpack the threesome’s strange dynamic.
At the start of highschool, Gregory was known as a nice guy with no red flags to speak of. However, by the time he reached sophomore year, he’d started smoking pot and listening to heavy metal music.
Adding a friendship with Kolb to the equation accelerated the increasingly negative trajectory of his life. A chance meeting at the mall and one afternoon of smoking together behind the department store led to Kolb and Gregory becoming connected at the hip.
Kolb had a reputation for being a controlling and angry person.
According to Gregory’s mother, Gregory had expressed a desire to be Kolb’s boyfriend, but Kolb wanted only friendship. She theorized that Gregory believed that if he were loyal to Kolb for long enough, she’d finally agree to date him.
When Reynolds arrived on the scene, it added fuel to Gregory and Kolb’s already dysfunctional relationship. According to NBC News, Kolb and Reynolds got to know each other through passing notes in class. What appeared to be a typical friendship between two girls turned out to be the exploration of a possible romantic relationship.
No one close to Reynolds had prior knowledge of her potential interest in dating a female. Gregory referred to Reynolds as ‘bi-curious.’
The budding interest between Reynolds and Kolb was kept on the down low for some time until the girls had a disagreement at a Christmas party. Gregory explained that Reynolds had been hanging out with boys, much to Kolb’s dismay. When Reynolds went on to engage in sexual activity with two of those boys, Kolb lost it, calling her a ‘slut.’
Gregory said that Kolb and Reynolds fought constantly and Joanne Reynolds said that her daughter was scared of Kolb. Kolb had even told Reynolds that she should kill herself. The fact that Gregory and Reynolds began demonstrating romantic interest in one another soon after didn’t help.
In spite of this condemning dynamic, on the day of Reynolds’ disappearance, Reynolds and Kolb appeared to be friends again. “I figured nothing of it because Sarah does this all the time,” Gregory said in an interview recorded by NBC News. “She’ll hate someone one day and she’ll be friends with them the next.”
Then Reynolds went missing.
A Cat Fight Gone Terribly Wrong
As the teens headed off the school campus for lunch, Gregory believed that Reynolds and Kolb were ready to kiss and make up, or so to speak. Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to NBC News, Kolb openly admitted to the police during a phone interview that she didn’t like Reynolds. When asked why she’d gone to lunch with her, Kolb said that the plan was to sort out their differences over Taco Bell. This plan quickly turned bad when the ‘conversation’ they had in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant turned into a hitting match. “I just pretty much sat there and smoked my cigarette,” Gregory is recorded by NBC News to have said. “I feel bad so I’m just being quiet, letting them do their argument.”
Gregory remained cool as a cucumber for a while, but as the search for Adrianne Reynolds continued, his calm exterior began to vanish. When he told his parents that they were going to need a lawyer and broke down in tears, the investigation finally had somewhere to go. Gregory was ready to talk to the police. His composed exterior was back in place as he relayed the disturbing details of what truly happened in the car.
“They just started swinging at each other and then Adrianne hits Sarah in the nose,” NBC News records Gregory to have told Dateline.
Sarah’s on top of Adrianne and she choking Adrianne and then Adrianne goes out and Sarah gets off her and sits in the car – sits back in the front seat. We sit there and smoke a cigarette for a while.”
This account makes it appear that Gregory was largely a bystander. However, according to Barb Icks of Quad City Times, Gregory admitted to restraining Reynolds so that Kolb could strangle her. During the Dateline interview recorded by NBC News, Gregory said that he and Kolb didn’t think that Reynolds was dead, only unconscious. But when her face turned blue, they began to panic.
A Trip to Grandpa’s Farm
According to NBC News, Gregory assisted Kolb in tossing Adrianne Reynolds in the back seat before driving to a farm owned by Kolb’s grandparents. Their plan was to bury the body there, but it was winter and the hard ground made it impossible to dig a grave. They decided to wrap their dead friend in a tarp, douse her with gasoline, and set her on fire.
“Sarah laid her head on my shoulder,” Gregory is recorded by NBC News to have told Dateline. “She just started crying, you know, so I tried to sit there and comfort her… We figured since we couldn’t bury the body, the only proper thing to do would be cremate it.” Interviewer Rob Stafford proceeded to probe Gregory further about the twisted nature of this solution. “Well, at the time, we felt bad that she was dead and we were just trying to think of the proper way to do it…at the time, you know, we ain’t really thinking,” Gregory responded. “We’re freaked out.”
Gregory refused. They’d need to find someone else for this task. That’s when they pulled Nate Gaudet into their deadly dilemma. Kolb knew Gaudet as the sort of guy who liked violence and blood.
Gregory and Kolb stood by as Gaudet sawed Reynolds into bits. Gregory made conversation in an attempt to distract Kolb from the butchering. Once the messy job was done, they tossed most of the dismembered body into the ravine. However, fearing that Reynolds’ head and arms might be identified, they drove these pieces to Black Hawk Historic Site and buried them. The crimes against Reynold’s are eerily similar to those in the murder of Lauren Giddings only a few years later. Four days after the murder, Gregory led the police to this location. But the horrible ordeal was far from over. The teens needed to stand trial.
Her Life Was Worth More
Quad City Times records that Gregory was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder and five years for concealment of her body. Kolb was given 48 years for murder and an additional five for concealment as well.
Both guilty parties attempted to renegotiate their punishments. In 2022, Gregory’s lawyer argued that a psych evaluation determined that his client had the reasoning abilities of a child at the time of the murder and should therefore receive a lighter sentence.
Gregory, who is now called Harli Quinn and is making the physical transition from male to female, brought the difficulties associated with gender dysphoria to the court’s attention. These points did not convince the judge to lessen his sentence and the original punishment was reinstated. “This case hurts me as much as it does anybody,” Gregory is reported by Quad City Times to have said during his trial. “There’s nothing I can do to make up for it.” Darn right, there isn’t.
Kolb too requested a reexamination of her sentence. Michelle O’Neill of WVIK Quad Cities Dubuque records that attorney for the state, Justin Nicolosi, deemed the crime ‘unspeakable’ and reminded listeners of Circuit Judge James Teros’ assessment of Kolb: ‘cold and callous without the propensity to change.’ It was determined that the original sentence would stand.
Coverage by WQAD News 8 reported that Joanne Reynolds agreed with the reinstatement of sentencing. “Adrianne’s life is worth more than 20 years,” she’s recorded to have said in regard to the plea set forth by Gregory’s lawyers to have his time cut in half. The news video shows the coverage of Gregory’s apology to the Reynolds family: “If I could give my life, I would. I’m sorry, I know it doesn’t make a difference.”
He was right, it didn’t. No apology could bring Adrianne Reynolds back.