Ryan Alexander Jenkins last showed up in Calgary in early June and found himself strangely alone. For several months he had been travelling back and forth between Calgary, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where he had just completed filming a reality television program. “I think he came back without a lot of friends,” says an old drinking buddy, Chris Tutty, who, like Jenkins, is both a realtor and an aspiring actor. “It was almost like he was following me around to different places where I was at, casually running into me and buying me drinks.”
In fact, Jenkins wanted badly to talk. His relationship with 28-year-old Jasmine Fiore, the Las Vegas model he’d married in March, only days after meeting her, was in trouble. “He was saying that he was just being used and lied to and that everyone was making fun of him,” says Tutty. Tutty did not think much of Fiore, whom he’d met at a private party in the spring during one of her visits to Canada with Jenkins. And he had reason to be skeptical of his friend’s professed feelings for the woman he still called his wife: Jenkins was working the Living Room—a trendy Calgary hotspot—collecting telephone numbers from the buxom blonds he had always found so irresistible. “He was like a hawk that had seen his prey,” says Michelle Hull, one woman who met his criteria that night. “He said that he had an open relationship,” says Tutty. “I laughed at that one.”
Now, after Fiore and Jenkins’s bizarre and tragic ends, Tutty is more reflective. “I feel really bad,” he says, his voice breaking. “Maybe I could have prevented this by giving him the time of day and talking to him. And I just didn’t.” In interviews with Maclean’s this week, friends described Jenkins as at once charming and insecure—too eager to please his male buddies, too quick to throw tantrums when girlfriends failed to do as he asked. His intensity with women—he committed quickly, more than once falling in love in sensation-laden Las Vegas—may have made him a poor fit for Fiore, whom they call demanding and manipulative. Fiore’s friends, meanwhile, maintain she was sincere but strangely secretive about the marriage that would be her downfall.
The artifacts of the pair’s brief life together—photographs and love letters—began proliferating on the Internet the day a bottle collector poking around an Orange County dumpster discovered Fiore’s nude body in a suitcase last week. Eeriest are the videos: in one, from Jenkins’s shuttered MySpace page and first posted by the gossip website TMZ, a bikini-clad Fiore gyrates with a stripper’s prowess—tossing her dark hair back expertly, teasing the camera—somewhere where palm trees grow. “Wow,” gasps a man’s voice. “God, I love my life. And I love my wife.” Then Jenkins, ever the reality TV actor, turns the camera on himself. “Luckiest guy in the world,” he says, pointing at his chest. “Right here.” Within a few weeks, Fiore would be dead—savagely beaten, strangled, her fingers severed, her teeth removed—and Jenkins hanging from his neck by a belt in a British Columbia town called Hope.
It has become increasingly difficult to disentangle Jenkins’s reality from reality television. After the discovery last week of Fiore’s body, the U.S. tabloid shows seized on the story of the 32-year-old Megan Wants a Millionaire contestant, fusing life with the shimmering spectacle of Nancy Grace and Larry King. The circus perhaps reached its strange apotheosis when Duane Chapman, the TV star of Dog the Bounty Hunter, offered to help authorities in Canada find Jenkins after he disappeared by boat to B.C. “The media just went bananas,” Ryan’s mother, Nada Jenkins, told Maclean’s. “Had he not been in a reality show, I don’t think they even would have bothered with him. It would have been a regular . . . ” She paused, weeping. “I think this whole situation would have turned out differently.” Despite it all—his flight from authorities, the high-speed boat chases along the Washington coast and, later, his apparent suicide—Nada maintains her son played no role in the murder. “Ryan is a good young man and I have to prove his innocence—that’s my goal in life,” she says. “I believe my son is innocent.”
Judging from his youth, things should have turned out differently. “The kid had everything, man! Everything,” says one close friend, a 33-year-old Calgary entrepreneur. “If you know Ryan, everything is cool. The guy had a great lifestyle and good people around him.” The son of Dan Jenkins, an internationally known Calgary architect, he attended Western Canada High School, a downtown, old-worldy institution that services the city’s affluent Mount Royal neighbourhood. A bright student, he nevertheless fell in with a bad crowd, prompting his parents to send him to boarding school in Victoria.
By 2001, Jenkins, now 24, was in business with his father developing smartly appointed condos through Townscape Developments Inc.; he was installed as president. He would go on to work as a developer and realtor at the height of Calgary’s easy-money heyday. His early projects were “very chic, very stylish, very contemporary,” recalls Tony Parrottino, a 48-year-old Calgary engineer. Jenkins, too, cut a stylish figure. “He had a good sense of taste—he was a good dresser,” says Parrottino, part of the group of friends who hit Calgary’s bar scene on weekends, favouring such loud, boisterous clubs as Tantra, Morgan’s and Cowboys. “He was just a wonderful guy, a very easygoing, happy fellow.”
He was younger than most of his buddies, a collection of well-born oil-and-gas and real-estate phenoms whose deep pockets allowed them to play as hard as they worked. “A lot of times we were rolling around in limos, kind of L.A. style,” says Tutty. “We were rolling around in one because the four of us can pay a fourth of the limo and fill the rest of it up with booze and chicks.” Carousing and cruising for women came easily to Jenkins, whose rakish smile and hale-fellow-well-met attitude appealed to both men and women. “The girls, either you liked him or you didn’t,” says a friend. “If you were a guy, you loved him, man. He was smooth but he didn’t have an ego. He made me feel like one of the boys and he was always very good to me.”
Yet he could also come on too strong. “He’s a creepazoid,” one 30-year-old woman who knew him told Maclean’s. “He was a bit of a weird sexual person. He would corner me and try and kiss me. He’d be like, ‘I know exactly what it would be like.’ And I said, ‘You know what, actually I’m pretty frigid.’ He was like that with every girl.” Just as often the strategy worked. His appetites were pronounced and narrow. He was a well-known connoisseur of large breasts, blond hair and kinky sex. For his 30th birthday party, a swank affair at his Marda Loop home—one of the infills he developed with his father—Jenkins hired a pair of strippers to simulate sex. “They put on a wild show with whipped cream, and it was right out of Vegas—it was fun,” says a friend. Others found the spectacle, put on for a mixed crowd, in poor taste.