14 years later, husband sentenced for Renee Pagel’s murder

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — With his children watching, Mike Pagel was ordered to spend decades behind bars for murdering their mother more than 14 years ago.

Mike Pagel, 55, was sentenced Monday to 25 to 50 years in prison for the second degree murder of his estranged wife Renee Pagel in 2006.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge George J. Quist noted he did not sentence Pagel to life because under the guidelines for a second-degree murder conviction, a life sentence means the defendant is eligible for parole after 15 years. By giving him 25 to 50 years, Quist ensured Pagel will not be eligible for parole until he is 80 years old. 

Life without the possibility of parole is only available in first-degree murder convictions. 

Given the chance to speak during the proceedings in a Kent County courtroom, Pagel blamed “the stress of the divorce and custody battle,” for his actions, saying he “wasn’t in his right mind.”  

He asked his wife, the children, their family and friends for forgiveness while quoting the Gospel of Matthew.

“Before you ask God for forgiveness, ask for forgiveness from those you’ve offended,” Pagel said in court. “I am truly sorry. I have greatly sinned.” 

Pagel went on to tell the children their mother loved them very much and would be proud to see who they have become. 

Renee Pagel, a 41-year-old mother of three, was stabbed to death in her bed at her Rockford-area home on Aug. 5, 2006. Authorities long thought Mike Pagel, whom she was in the process of divorcing at the time, was responsible but couldn’t charge him because he had a solid alibi.

renee pagel
A courtesy file photo of Renee Pagel.

He was finally arrested in February of this year after investigators said he made “incriminating statements” that led them to the murder weapon.

Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki, who spoke on behalf of the victim at Monday’s sentencing, implored Pagel to take full responsibility for his actions.

When Pagel pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May under the terms of a plea agreement, he said he hired his brother to kill his wife and that Charles Pagel was the one who actually stabbed her.

At sentencing, Koncki said detectives have since investigated Mike Pagel’s claims about his brother and found no evidence they were true.

“Mike Pagel acted alone,” she said, but “didn’t have the character or integrity to admit he did it with his own hands.” 

In his statement before the judge Monday, Pagel held to his claim that his brother was the one who stabbed Renee Pagel to death. 

“We plotted the murder, and he carried it out. No one else was involved. I am ultimately responsible for her death and I regret it very much. If there was anything I could do to change things, I would,” Mike Pagel said.

Koncki said Pagel wasn’t getting what he wanted out of the divorce, “so he decided to butcher her in bed.”

“He stabbed her 50 times in the head, face and torso. Her hands were mutilated by defensive wounds as she fought desperately,” Koncki said.

Koncki described Renee Pagel as a “devoted mother” and a “selfless, strong, Christian woman.” She pointed out that Renee Pagel had donated a kidney to the father of one of her students shortly before her murder.

The assistant prosecutor also noted that Renee’s friends “fought tirelessly to keep her memory alive.” 

The Pagels’ three adult children sat in the courtroom during sentencing as Quist read from a letter one of them, Sarah Pagel, had sent the court.

“Since I was young, the case of the death of my mom, Renee Pagel, has been the source of indescribable pain. I’ve lacked the relationship with a mother that every child has a right to,” it read in part. “This is truly a situation that is impossible to understand without being in the position that my siblings and I have endured, are currently, and will continue to carry with us for the rest of our lives. Regardless of my dad’s involvement, it is impossible for anyone to say that he didn’t do an incredible job raising Joel, Hannah and myself. I was never able to have the relationship I should have had with my mom, but had a relationship with my dad that I still value more than anything.”

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