Decades later, killer claims self-defense

Ottawa County

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Twenty-seven years into a life sentence for premeditated murder, Ronald Redick has suggested a new version of events surrounding the death of his business partner.

Redick, 81, went in front of the Michigan Parole Board Thursday morning as part of the process of asking the governor to commute his sentence and set him free. He called the hearing a “privilege.”

When asked why he believes he’s ready for parole, he responded, “I have remorse for my actions and am ready to live a life that is morally sound and just with God.”

Redick’s murder trial still holds the record as the longest in Ottawa County history. It lasted nearly 10 weeks. He killed Kenneth Kunkel, his soon-departing business partner at KR Corporation in Spring Lake, on Feb. 4, 1991. Then he put Kunkel’s body in the car and staged a crash 20 miles away.

At Thursday’s hearing in Ionia, Redick said that for nearly 20 of his 27 years locked up, he told no one that he had killed Kunkel. He stuck to the story of a fatal crash.

But Thursday, more than an hour into the nearly three-hour hearing, Redick said he killed his business partner in self-defense. It was shocking for the parole panel as it was the first time Redick had put forth that claim.

Redick said he and Kunkel were on the loading docks at KR talking about Kunkel’s decision to leave the corporation, which was not doing well. He claimed Kunkel spewed offensive comments about Redick’s leadership ability and wife, then charged him. He said that’s when he smashed Kunkel over the head with a nearby metal pipe twice.

Kunkel’s family didn’t buy it.

“I feel he (Redick) should stay in prison because his story was incoherent. He babbled,” Kunkel’s brother Richard Kunkel said.

“In hearing the new testimony, especially, and the inconsistencies, I think that it’s another fabrication and it’s not the first, obviously,” Kunkel’s son Chris Kunkel told 24 Hour News 8.

After Scott Rothermel, an assistant attorney general, listened to the claims, he said Redick’s stories didn’t make sense. Rothermel said he didn’t know why the governor would consider commuting Redick’s sentence.

Redick eventually apologized to the Kunkel family.

“I took Ken Kunkel’s life. I may not deserve sympathy from them (Kunkel’s family) at all,” Redick told the parole panel. “I took a life.”

Kunkel’s family members said they hope Redick “continues to pay the price” for what he did.

“It’s the law! This is what he has earned and no amount of good works after the fact dismisses what he’s earned,” Chris Kunkel said after the hearing.

“It’s nice to hear now that he admitted it, but that’s 27 years too late,” Richard Kunkel said.

“We are reliving Ken’s death again,” he added.

Redick’s daughter and nephew spoke in support of his commutation request, saying that he’s a caring man and they will help support him if he is released.

Before the end of the year, the parole board will give Gov. Rick Syder a recommendation on whether to approve or deny Redick’s commutation request. Snyder will have to make a decision before leaving office on Jan. 1.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links