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Murder of Ryne Zahner by his former friend and roommate, Caleb Bartels, is investigated by The Murder Tapes on ID

Mugshot of Calebs Bartels
Calebs Bartels shot his former friend Ryne Zahner with an automatic rifle before fleeing the state and heading west. Pic credit: Lassen County Sheriff’s Office

This week, The Murder Tapes looks at the case of Ryne Zahner, a math high school teacher from Mesa, Arizona, who was gunned down on January 15, 2017.  Zahner was a beloved member of the community who was well respected by students and parents alike, and his murder left many shocked.

Caleb Bartels shot the 26-year-old teacher in the backyard of his home; the pair had been friends and were former roommates.

Bartels, who was 25-years-old at the time, fled the scene of the crime and the state, he passed through Nevada and into California before he was eventually arrested in Lassen County, near the Nevada state line, by the Californian Highway Patrol. An off-duty patrolman had recognized Bartels’s car from a description passed on by the Mesa police.

He had been pulled over by cops three times during his escape from Mesa, but unfortunately, it had taken 6-days for the police to identify him as a suspect.

Caleb Bartels was identified as the killer by his brother

Bartels was eventually identified as the shooter by his brother Tyler, who had been in the backyard at the time of the killing. He told investigators that his brother had fired multiple shots into the victim with an automatic rifle.

Authorities say receipts for the murder weapon and ammunition matching the shell casings found at the scene were located inside Bartels’ car. Three weeks later, Bartels was extradited to Arizona to face a trial by jury.

In Spring 2019, Bartels was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated assault and burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 15-years.

More from The Murder Tapes

Follow the links to read about more killings profiled on The Murder Tapes. Jack Hamann murdered his 82-year-old landlady, Agnes Bram, with incredible savagery that shocked the authorities. He left her body in the garage while he continued to live in his rented room until her body was discovered.

Steven Galvin was gunned down in broad daylight on a California street; before he died, he told officers he thought a Brian Cox was responsible. However, police disagreed with the murder victim and sent Billy Mount down for the crime.

Catch this episode of The Murder Tapes Wednesday, March 25, at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

View Comments (8)

Comments - Have Your Say

  1. “He told investigators that his brother had fired multiple shots into the victim with an automatic rifle”

    Nope. He never said that and that isn’t what happened. So sick of people not knowing anything about guns. It was NOT an automatic rifle. No one ever claimed it was.

    • This is one that probably will never be clear to a non gun owner, tbc Automatic Weapons are basically Machine Guns, a Semi-Automatic , often called an automatic or autoloader etc. simply puts the next cartridge in position to be fired at a subsequent trigger pull i.e. 6 pulls on trigger equals 6 rounds fired. The term that is more egregious is “Assault Rifle” these so-called assault weapons are simply a regular rifle, usually an auto-loader, that is often ‘dressed up’ to look like a machine gun with various additions like larger magazines, folding stocks, muzzle flash suppressors, etc. none of which make any difference to the basic one-shot per trigger pull rifle that your grandfather may have owned. It’s like putting chrome and racing stripes and mag wheels does not make a race car.

  2. The kid that ran, he said automatic rifle when asked by police officer and investigators said it multiple times. The attorney said it. Lots of people said it.

  3. What all of you didn’t mentioned, is that Ryne zahner sexually assaulted caleb in a Drunken rage,, and he shared that information with his brother, and that was the reason he murdered Ryne, and is why his girlfriend broke up with Ryne.

    • I’m really curious about this, but I can’t find information about it anywhere. I was watching on ID and they mentioned that Caleb was sexually assaulted, but they didn’t say anything about Ryne being the one who did it. Do you know where I can find more information about this aspect fo the case?

  4. I would like it confirmed(or not) that ryne sexually assaulted caleb. It is not clear from the ID show but I’m pretty sure it would not even have been mentioned if it was not significant, It does not give him the “right” to kill ryne, but it sure would explain a lot. Stop trying to take control of situations that may be controversial by eliminating facts from the conversation.

  5. There is soooooo much more to this story that no one will probably ever know. Sexual assault? Brain lesions? It was sad and tragic how Ryne’s life ended. There should have been more help and intervention provided for Caleb. Sexual assault is traumatizing and life altering. He should have be given mental health care perhaps he wouldn’t have ended up in prison and the beloved teacher would still be alive. A tragedy for both young men with lives cut too short.


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