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Man sentenced for ‘gruesome, horrifying’ murder of estranged wife in 2006

Investigators say Michael Pagel stabbed his estranged wife, Renee, more than 50 times while she was in bed, recovering from donating a kidney.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 14 years after he killed his wife amid a contentious divorce, Michael James Pagel on Monday was sentenced to decades in prison for what a prosecutor called a “gruesome, painful, horrifying death.’’

Renee Pagel was killed in her bed after she donated a kidney; her 2006 death was a senseless act of violence carried out by a selfish man who wasn’t getting all that he wanted in the divorce, an assistant prosecutor said.

"He stabbed her more than 50 times in her head, her face and her torso,’’ Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee A. Koncki said at sentencing Monday. “Her hands were mutilated by what the forensic pathologist called defensive wounds.'' 

RELATED: Husband pleads guilty to killing Renee Pagel in 2006

Kent County Circuit Court Judge George J. Quist sentenced Michael Pagel to 25-50 years in prison for second-degree murder. Pagel will be 80 years old before he can be considered for release.

Renee Pagel, a mother of three, was found dead in the bed of her home on 13 Mile Road NE west of Ramsdell Drive; she had been stabbed repeatedly. She was recovering from surgery after donating a kidney to the father of a student she taught at Kent Technical Career Center.

The Pagels had been separated and living in separate homes for more than a year. 

The murder of Renee Pagel has been a cold case for years, although her husband had been considered a primary person of interest.

He was arrested in February and charged with first-degree murder and felony murder; both of which carry sentences of mandatory life in prison.

RELATED: New charge added against estranged husband in 2006 murder of Renee Pagel

Michael Pagel, 55, pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder, a potential life offense. Quist explained that had he sentenced Pagel to life on a second-degree murder conviction, he could be considered for parole in 15 years.

The minimum term of 25 years, Quist explained, will keep Pagel locked up until he is at least 80 years old.

Koncki told the court that Renee Pagel, 41, was a “selfless, strong, Christian woman who donated a kidney to a student’s father because he needed it.’’

She was recovering from the surgery when Michael Pagel entered her home and killed her.

“She died a gruesome, painful, horrifying death at the hands of the father of their children,’’ Koncki  said.

RELATED: Man charged in 2006 stabbing death of his estranged wife near Rockford

Before he was sentenced, Michael Pagel took responsibility for Renee's death, but said he did not carry out the actual attack. 

“I was not in my right mind when I hired my brother. . . to murder Renee,’’ he said. “We plotted the murder and he carried it out. No one else was involved.

“I am ultimately responsible for her death,’’ Michael Pagel said. “And I regret this very much.’’

Koncki said there is no evidence that anyone other than Michael Pagel was responsible for the murder.

"It was a premediated, planned, deliberate murder carried out by Michael Pagel himself,’’ Koncki said.

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