GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michael Pagel was the husband, and the sole suspect for 14 years in the Aug. 6, 2006 stabbing death of his wife, Renee Pagel.
His arrest makes the end of the investigation and the beginning of a court drama that many have been waiting — even praying for.
But whether the arrest is good news depends on who you talk to.
“It means that we’ve brought some justice to the family,” said E.J. Johnson.
A lieutenant with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department now, in August of 2006, he was a detective tasked with solving the brutal slaying of a mother of three.
“This case has been on my mind for 14 years,” Johnson said. “You think about the children without their mom. You think about the children now with their dad in jail.”
Michael Pagel was the suspect since the beginning, leading to him to being named by those who made sure the memory of Renee was kept alive through social media and frequent gatherings to remember her.
Veteran defense attorney Frank Stanley has been representing Michael Pagel since 2006 and News 8 caught up with him after he visited his client at the Kent County jail Thursday evening, hours after his arraignment.
“I don’t believe there’s any new credible evidence that suggests anything different today than it did 15 years ago,” Stanley said.
Michael Pagel was pulled over and arrested Thursday morning near Bay City as he was driving with his girlfriend. The two planned to get married on Friday.
“The government knows where he was at, they’ve known since day one. He has a rock-solid alibi. They know he wasn’t there,” Stanley said.
According to court documents, among the new evidence was the discovery of what is believed to be the murder weapon.
“There’s been a lot of investigators involved in this, which is great. Different eyes will see different things in an investigation, and they can bring different ideas,” Johnson said.
He says the loss here is for the three children. One of the kids was 3 and their twins were 8 at the time she was killed.
“He did spend the last 14 years with his children, and they were gypped out of this. They didn’t live out that loving relationship with their mother,” Johnson said.
Stanley says the father was quietly raising the children to become successful college students, under the glare of suspicion and intense scrutiny by police and the friends of the victim.
The family and friends have a website and Facebook page set up and have been in frequent contact with investigators and media.
“There’s this almost lynch mob mentality that’s been coming after him. He’s been receiving hate mail, they’ve tried to ruin his life,” Stanley said. “I think these are very well intended but misguided people. They’ve really harmed the children. It’s been very hard on the children as well as Mike.”
But Johnson said the pain to the children comes from one place.
“It’s not fair, the twins were 8 years old at the time and the youngest was 3 and they don’t have a lot of memory of their mother,” Johnson said.
Michael Pagel is held on a $2 million bond and he will be back in court later this month, at which point we should learn more about what evidence the prosecution has to offer.