Reptile theft murder: Mother convicted for role in son’s killing

Tiffany Powell
Tiffany Powell(Waupaca County Jail)
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 12:00 PM CST
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WAUPACA COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A woman has been convicted for her role in the killing of her son over a reptile theft in Waupaca County.

Tiffany Powell, 37, pleaded no contest to a charge of 1st Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety Friday and was found guilty by the court.

A count of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide - Party to a Crime was dismissed and read into the record.

Powell pleaded guilty to a charge of Possessing a Firearm - Convicted of a Felony.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2023.

Powell was arrested following the 2020 killing of her son Ryelee Manete.

Another man, William Zelenski, is charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in Manete’s murder.

According to prosecutors, Zelenski had reported the theft of reptiles, guns, and alcohol from his town of Dayton property. He said those reptiles included a lizard valued at $17,000 and a crocodile valued at $2,000. Some of these reptiles were known to be poisonous. A boa constrictor and pythons were also missing.

Zelenski said he had received a tip that the Manente, 18, and Ashton Tody, 17, were responsible for the thefts. Shortly before 10:30 on the night of October 19, 2020, Zelenski called 911 and told the dispatcher he had confronted Manente. Zelenski claimed the victim had attacked him and he shot him.

Powell told police that Zelenski had received information that her son was involved with stealing Zelenski’s reptiles. Zelenski set out to confront the victim. Powell said they spotted her son walking on the sidewalk and stopped to confront him.

Powell stated that her son “took off his shirt and said he wanted to fight Zelenski.” That’s when Zelenski grabbed a gun from his vehicle and shot him, according to the complaint.

Officers obtained doorbell video camera that captured the shooting. It shows Zelenski and Powell in a vehicle at the intersection of Van and Shearer streets. There’s an altercation with the victim.

“At one point during the altercation, Zelenski was seen holding a long gun and then handing the long gun to Tiffany Powell. Zelenski was heard on the video telling Tiffany Powell to hold the gun on her son. The video then shows Tiffany Powell holding the gun and pointing it at VICTIM [Manente]. The long gun was a double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun with two slugs in the chamber. At one point, Powell gave the gun back to Zelenski and VICTIM [Manente] was heard yelling at Zelenski to put the gun down and fight like a man. Zelenski and VICTIM [Manente] were seen circling each other in a fighting stance with Zelenski holding the long gun and the VICTIM [Manente] unarmed,” reads the criminal complaint.

Ashton Tody is facing sentencing on a theft charge related to the case.