GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nearly 14 years after Renee Pagel was found dead inside her home, the main suspect in the cold case — her estranged husband Michael Pagel — has pled guilty to her murder.
According to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, Michael Pagel pleaded guilty to second degree murder Wednesday morning. He faces a 25-year minimum sentence. The plea comes as part of a deal with the prosecutor's office.
Becker said his office is aware of the possibility that in Pagel's plea, he may implicate others in the murder. At this time, the prosecutor's office is not aware of any independent evidence that corroborates Pagel's statements made Wednesday, but the prosecutor's office plans on investigating all his claims.
"If Mr. Pagel wants to provide his version of events to the investigative team, they will listen to him, and follow up if he has any evidence to support his claim," Becker said in a statement. "This office and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department are committed to holding any person involved in Renee’s murder responsible for their actions."
Becker said Pagel's statement alone, with nothing more to support his version of events, is not enough by itself to charge anyone with any crime. "Without any supporting evidence, it is merely a statement of a man perhaps trying to save face in admitting his guilt in the murder of his wife, and should be treated as such," Becker's statement continued.
Pagel was charged in his wife's death in February. Renee Pagel, a mother of three, was found dead in her bed at her home in Courtland Township. She was recovering from surgery after donating a kidney to the father of a student she taught at Kent Technical Career Center.
Her case has been cold for years, although Michael Pagel had been considered a primary suspect for years. Renee and her husband were nearing the end of a contentious divorce before the murder occurred.
"It is gratifying to see him finally accept some responsibility for her murder for which he has been a suspect since the very beginning," Becker said. "The children of Michael and Renee were consulted before considering a plea offer, and we decided on this course of action based on their response and approval. A trial involving their father in the murder of their mother would be extraordinarily difficult for this family. The ability to hold him accountable for his actions and save the kids from the trauma of such a trial played a major role in this decision."
"We want nothing more than to provide the truth of what happened to Renee, for her family and the community."
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