GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A charge of felony murder was added against 55-year-old Michael J. Pagel, who is accused of fatally stabbing his estranged wife at her home north of Grand Rapids more than 13 years ago.
He was charged earlier this month with first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Renee Beth Pagel at her Courtland Township home.
The felony murder charge added on Wednesday accuses him of killing Renee Pagel during a home invasion. It also carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Pagels had been separated and living in separate homes for more than a year, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Feb. 18 seeking the new charge.
"Friends of Renee told investigators that in the weeks prior to her death, she expressed concern that Michael Pagel was going to kill her,'' a detective wrote. "Michael did not have authorized access to Renee's home and it is unlikely she would have willingly allowed him inside during the late evening or early morning hours.''
Several supporters of Renee Pagel attended Wednesday’s probable cause conference in 63rd District Court, including Chris Crandle. She and Renee Pagel were longtime friends.
“I’ve long been an advocate for the truth to come out,’’ Crandle said. “Renee feared this very thing, that he would kill her and then raise the kids. Now we have additional charges against him. It’s just a lot for anyone to absorb.’’
Michael Pagel wore shackles during his brief appearance in court Wednesday morning. He will return next month to hear the evidence against him. Judge Jeffrey O’Hara left Pagel’s $2 million bond unchanged.
Michael Pagel, who had been living in the Saginaw County town of Freeland, was arrested Feb. 6 in Bay City and returned to Grand Rapids to face charges in a homicide that occurred amid a contentious divorce.
Renee, 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.
Pagel's case has been cold for years, although her husband had been considered a primary person of interest.
The Courtland Township crime scene was unique in that there were no obvious signs of forced entry into the home and valuables in plain sight were left behind.
"During the course of investigation, detectives learned Renee Pagel was nearing the end of a contentious divorce with her estranged husband, Michael Pagel,'' Kent County Sheriff's Sgt. William J. Marks wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
"Through recent interviews, investigators learned Michael Pagel made incriminating statements which led to the discovery of the weapon suspected to have been used in the murder,'' Marks wrote.
More stories on 13 ON YOUR SIDE:
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.