Monday, December 15, 1975

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered daughter Cassandra - Detroit PD

Also See:

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Wanda and son Brian [1999]

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Becky and daughters Cassandra and Pamela [1975]

           






Slayings called act of kindness
Ex-cop talks about killing family
October 19, 1999
BY SUZETTE HACKNEY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Paul Harrington had recently lost his job, was behind in rent and was starting to feel the financial pressure of supporting a wife and two children with no income.

So Harrington, a former Detroit policeman, thought it better to kill his wife and 3-year-old son than to see them homeless.

That, Detroit homicide detectives say, is what Harrington told them in a confession.

He told them he borrowed a gun from a friend Thursday, the night before the shooting, and killed Wanda Harrington and 3-year-old Brian early Friday morning. Afterward, he called 911.

When uniformed officers arrived at the home on West Grand Boulevard, Harrington, 53, told them he had killed his family.

"He said he couldn't support them so he had to kill them," said Sgt. Felix Kirk of the Detroit Police Department homicide unit. "He was under pressure trying to take care of his family. He said he didn't want to see them in the street."

Detectives said Harrington told them his last job was at a steel company in Livonia. Harrington was arraigned Saturday in 36th District Court on two counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail.

In 1975, Harrington faced three murder charges -- for the deaths of his wife and their two children in December. Harrington shot Becky, 28, and their daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4. He was fired from the police force after being charged with the triple homicide. In 1977, Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him committed for psychiatric treatment. Borman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Two months after his treatment began, Harrington was released from the program.

Harrington, a Vietnam veteran with a history of psychological problems, told homicide detectives this week he was under the care of a therapist and had been without some medication for about a week.

A Wayne County assistant prosecutor says last week's slayings were cold-blooded, calling for first-degree-murder charges. "Based on the information that was provided to me by the police department, I felt that was an appropriate charge," said Ralph Elizondo.

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered daughter Pamela - Detroit PD

Also See:

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Wanda and son Brian [1999]

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Becky and daughters Cassandra and Pamela [1975]

           







Slayings called act of kindness
Ex-cop talks about killing family
October 19, 1999
BY SUZETTE HACKNEY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Paul Harrington had recently lost his job, was behind in rent and was starting to feel the financial pressure of supporting a wife and two children with no income.

So Harrington, a former Detroit policeman, thought it better to kill his wife and 3-year-old son than to see them homeless.

That, Detroit homicide detectives say, is what Harrington told them in a confession.

He told them he borrowed a gun from a friend Thursday, the night before the shooting, and killed Wanda Harrington and 3-year-old Brian early Friday morning. Afterward, he called 911.

When uniformed officers arrived at the home on West Grand Boulevard, Harrington, 53, told them he had killed his family.

"He said he couldn't support them so he had to kill them," said Sgt. Felix Kirk of the Detroit Police Department homicide unit. "He was under pressure trying to take care of his family. He said he didn't want to see them in the street."

Detectives said Harrington told them his last job was at a steel company in Livonia. Harrington was arraigned Saturday in 36th District Court on two counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail.

In 1975, Harrington faced three murder charges -- for the deaths of his wife and their two children in December. Harrington shot Becky, 28, and their daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4. He was fired from the police force after being charged with the triple homicide. In 1977, Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him committed for psychiatric treatment. Borman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Two months after his treatment began, Harrington was released from the program.

Harrington, a Vietnam veteran with a history of psychological problems, told homicide detectives this week he was under the care of a therapist and had been without some medication for about a week.

A Wayne County assistant prosecutor says last week's slayings were cold-blooded, calling for first-degree-murder charges. "Based on the information that was provided to me by the police department, I felt that was an appropriate charge," said Ralph Elizondo.

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Becky - Detroit PD

Also See:

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Wanda and son Brian [1999]

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Becky and daughters Cassandra and Pamela [1975]

           








Slayings called act of kindness
Ex-cop talks about killing family
October 19, 1999
BY SUZETTE HACKNEY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Paul Harrington had recently lost his job, was behind in rent and was starting to feel the financial pressure of supporting a wife and two children with no income.

So Harrington, a former Detroit policeman, thought it better to kill his wife and 3-year-old son than to see them homeless.

That, Detroit homicide detectives say, is what Harrington told them in a confession.

He told them he borrowed a gun from a friend Thursday, the night before the shooting, and killed Wanda Harrington and 3-year-old Brian early Friday morning. Afterward, he called 911.

When uniformed officers arrived at the home on West Grand Boulevard, Harrington, 53, told them he had killed his family.

"He said he couldn't support them so he had to kill them," said Sgt. Felix Kirk of the Detroit Police Department homicide unit. "He was under pressure trying to take care of his family. He said he didn't want to see them in the street."

Detectives said Harrington told them his last job was at a steel company in Livonia. Harrington was arraigned Saturday in 36th District Court on two counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail.

In 1975, Harrington faced three murder charges -- for the deaths of his wife and their two children in December. Harrington shot Becky, 28, and their daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4. He was fired from the police force after being charged with the triple homicide. In 1977, Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him committed for psychiatric treatment. Borman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Two months after his treatment began, Harrington was released from the program.

Harrington, a Vietnam veteran with a history of psychological problems, told homicide detectives this week he was under the care of a therapist and had been without some medication for about a week.

A Wayne County assistant prosecutor says last week's slayings were cold-blooded, calling for first-degree-murder charges. "Based on the information that was provided to me by the police department, I felt that was an appropriate charge," said Ralph Elizondo.

Officer Paul Harrington - Detroit PD


Also See:

Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Wanda and son Brian [1999]




Fathers Who Kill
Mentally Ill or Malingering?
TruTV
http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/fathers_who_kill/8.html



Paul Harrington

A program on Court TV's The System featured the case of a man who killed his entire family twice. War hero, Vietnam veteran, and Detroit cop, Paul Harrington shot and killed his wife and two daughters, 6 and 9, in 1975. Under questioning, he admitted that he'd been haunted by a raid in Vietnam, where he'd killed a mother and her four children. The incident had disturbed him for years. His sister said that after he came home from that war, he was never the same. Working as a cop had kept the memory fresh. He had trouble keeping himself balanced and stable, so he turned to alcohol.


He'd been to a psychiatrist to discuss his fear that he might one day harm his family or himself. (Some psychiatrists might say this was a way to stage a premeditated murder, but others cite it as proof of seeking help.) The psychiatrist Harrington saw urged him to stay with his family over the holidays, but that turned out to have been a bad idea. He seemed to just snap and within moments, his entire family was dead.

Harrington was medicated and put on a watch in a psychiatric institution for 17 months before he went to trial. All the experts agreed that he had been insane at the time of the crime. He was committed to the state psychiatric hospital. He stayed there for less than two months and was then released --assessed as not being a danger to himself or others. That was the law. Thus, a year and a half after killing three people, Harrington was a free man. No one monitored him. He sued the psychiatrist for not hospitalizing him when he needed it, and reached a settlement. Thus, he not only killed his family but also appeared to profit from it.

Harrington got married again in 1982 and had two sons. By the 1990s, he had a substance abuse problem, submitted again to psychiatric care for anxiety and depression, and in 1999 repeated his atrocity. He'd had hallucinations, he said, of being told to go kill people. In debt, with no car, no job and no money to buy his psychiatric drugs, he swung into a dangerous state and killed his wife and one of his sons.



Wanda and Brian Harrington

Again, he went on trial. Since he had borrowed his neighbor's gun the night before—which he used—the prosecution said it was clearly premeditated. Several psychiatrists testified once again that he had been insane—it was a flashback to the first incident. But Dr. Charles Clark for the prosecution tested Harrington and said he was malingering a mental illness. Clark did not accept the idea that Harrington was suffering from Vietnam flashbacks. Apparently, his opinion carried the most weight.


This time Harrington was found guilty and received a life sentence.

Even so, the families of the victims claim that the mental health system had failed them all. Had he been given the help he needed the first time, they believe, the string of tragedies could have been avoided.

Harrington's mental problems were well-documented, but sometimes a clever psychopath can convince a lot of people that he's mentally ill. Both men in the following two cases told countless lies, trying to make their crimes appear to be the result of forces beyond their control.


          











 http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/repeat_murder.htm
UPDATE - 11/1/00 - A former police officer who was charged with killing his wife and children in 1975 has been convicted of murdering his second wife and 3-year-old son. Paul Harrington, who was found innocent by reason of insanity 25 years ago and served two months in a psychiatric hospital, now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. "We're glad this man will not hurt anyone else again," Chester Trail, a relative of Harrington's second wife, told the Detroit Free Press in Wednesday's editions.
Harrington killed his wife Wanda Harrington, 47, in October 1999, then shot their son, Brian, 3. Harrington, 53, called 911 and waited on his porch for officers. Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 1.

Harrington's attorneys mounted an insanity defense, arguing that he had been diagnosed with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1975, Harrington - recently separated from his 28-year-old wife, Becky - killed her and their two daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4, with his service revolver.

               













Vietnam veteran commits similar family slayings 24 years later
The former police officer's second murderous act came after a
maximum two-month sentence of psychiatric care
The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Authorities thought then-police officer Paul Harrington could lead a normal life after spending two months in a psychiatric facility for fatally shooting his wife and two children.

But 24 years later, Harrington ran out of medication, and his second wife and their 3-year-old son were shot dead too.

"The same thing happened in 1975," he said in a statement to police. "They should have put me away then."

On Oct. 15, Harrington's wife of 17 years, Wanda, and their 3-year-old son Brian lay dead on a couch in their Detroit duplex. Wanda had been shot in the temple while she slept. Brian had been shot three times in the head, police said.

Harrington, 53, called 911 and waited on his porch for officers. He faces two counts of first-degree murder and two felony firearm counts and is being held without bond.

The previous shooting was similar.

It was Dec. 19, 1975, when Harrington's 28-year-old wife Becky and their two daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4, were killed with Harrington's service revolver. The couple had recently separated.

Within minutes, Harrington turned himself in and took police to the murder scene.

Donald Cutler, Harrington's defense attorney in the original case, said he quickly realized his client was mentally disturbed.

"One evening at mealtime ... a phone rang, and he apparently had a flashback of what he called 'incoming mail,' and he thought he was under attack from the Vietcong," Cutler said he learned. "He took his service revolver he had with him and started shooting."

Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington innocent by reason of insanity in 1977 and sent him to a state hospital. Doctors released him after two months -- the maximum allowed by law.

Harrington, a Vietnam veteran and a Detroit police officer since 1972, was fired when he was charged with the triple homicide. But his life improved; he remarried and had two more children.

"He went on with his life, tried to work," said W. Frederick Moore, the Detroit attorney defending Harrington against the latest charges. "Along the way, he was married, he tried to deal with the situation."

But Harrington started having financial trouble. He was fired in April from his job at Hercules Drawn Steel in Livonia, where he worked for six years.

"The statement he gave police details a variety of setbacks, in my point of view, that impacted his ability to reasonably rationalize issues -- being fired, not having any money, worried about his family," Moore said. "It was taking a toll, he was going to the doctor, he tried to hang in there."

Detroit police Detective Sgt. Felix Kirk testified at a preliminary hearing that Harrington had run out of medications for his severe depression.

The drugs "keep me from hearing voices," Harrington told police.

"Had he been on his medication and had he had a (mental health) facility to utilize, probably it would have never happened again," Cutler said.

                 












Tragic story has more fatalities
After '75 deaths, man again accused of murder
January 25, 2000
BY SHERYL JAMES
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
http://www.freep.com/news/locway/harr25_20000125.htm


Shortly after he allegedly killed his wife and 3-year-old son last October, Paul Harrington sat face-to-face with Detroit homicide detective Sgt. Felix Kirk, and told him the story -- the whole story.

Wanda and Brian Harrington were killed Oct. 15 at their Detroit duplex.

"The same thing happened in 1975," Harrington said. "They should have put me away then."

Harrington had committed an almost identical crime in 1975. He killed his first wife and two daughters, then called 911 to confess. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1977 and was released after two months in a psychiatric institution.

Harrington was ordered Monday to stand trial on two counts of first-degree murder and two felony firearms counts in the shooting deaths of his second wife, Wanda, and their son Brian in their Detroit duplex. His statement to Kirk was read aloud Monday at a preliminary hearing in 36th District Court.

Harrington's comments to Kirk renewed questions about the 1977 case and why Harrington was not sent to prison then.

Donald Cutler, a Southfield attorney, was Harrington's defense attorney in 1977. Cutler said Monday that two psychiatrists who testified at a hearing after the first killings agreed after examining Harrington that he was not criminally responsible. The law at the time, Cutler said, required then-Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman to find Harrington not guilty by reason of insanity.

In court Monday, Kirk testified that Harrington told him he had recently run out of medications that eased his severe depression.

"I take Desyrel and Loxapine. It keeps me from hearing voices and helps me sleep. I've been out of the Loxapine for a week," Kirk said Harrington told him.

Harrington had been fired in April from Hercules Drawn Steel in Livonia after six years of employment. Kirk said Harrington told him: "I was told I got fired because everyone was scared to work with me. They said I had problems." Harrington, 53, a former Detroit Police Department detective and Vietnam veteran, said he had not slept the four nights before the shootings. He told Kirk he decided to kill his wife and son the night of Oct. 14, walked across the street and borrowed a gun from a man named "D."

"D" did not ask why Harrington wanted the gun, and Harrington did not offer the reason. Police have been unable to locate "D."

Harrington did not shoot his family that night, however. The following morning, he told Kirk, "everything seemed all right, but then in my head I just couldn't handle any more." He and his wife had not argued, he said. "It's just everything was going around inside my head. The welfare cut my check, I've been thinking about how I was going to take care of my family, I'm behind in the rent, and I didn't want to see them outdoors."

After his older son, Paul Jr., left for school about 9 a.m. Oct. 15, Harrington walked back into his rented duplex at 1444 W. Grand Blvd. According to Kirk, Harrington said his wife Wanda, 45, was asleep on the couch when he shot her in the left temple. He then shot his son, Brian, who was playing in the dining room, and carried him to the couch. Brian was shot three times in the head.

Harrington then called 911. He told police the gun would be on the dining room table, and he would be on the porch. Police found both, along with Wanda and Brian on opposite ends of the couch, their feet touching.

Defense attorney W. Frederick Moore of Detroit said Monday that the issue in the case "is not about what Harrington did, but about his frame of mind." Both Moore and Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Elizondo expect Harrington's case to center on psychiatric testimony.

Little is known about Harrington. He served in Vietnam and joined the Detroit Police force in 1972. He was undergoing psychiatric treatment in 1975 when he killed his first wife, Becky, 28, and daughters Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4, with his police service revolver. The couple had recently separated.

In court Monday, Harrington said little, rubbing his eyes as Elizondo read descriptions of his wife's and son's autopsies.

Harrington, who is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail, has only one relative in Michigan, a cousin. No family members appeared in court on his behalf. Several members of his wife's family attended the hearing but declined to be interviewed.


                     












Slayings called act of kindness
Ex-cop talks about killing family
October 19, 1999
BY SUZETTE HACKNEY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Paul Harrington had recently lost his job, was behind in rent and was starting to feel the financial pressure of supporting a wife and two children with no income.

So Harrington, a former Detroit policeman, thought it better to kill his wife and 3-year-old son than to see them homeless.

That, Detroit homicide detectives say, is what Harrington told them in a confession.

He told them he borrowed a gun from a friend Thursday, the night before the shooting, and killed Wanda Harrington and 3-year-old Brian early Friday morning. Afterward, he called 911.

When uniformed officers arrived at the home on West Grand Boulevard, Harrington, 53, told them he had killed his family.

"He said he couldn't support them so he had to kill them," said Sgt. Felix Kirk of the Detroit Police Department homicide unit. "He was under pressure trying to take care of his family. He said he didn't want to see them in the street."

Detectives said Harrington told them his last job was at a steel company in Livonia. Harrington was arraigned Saturday in 36th District Court on two counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail.

In 1975, Harrington faced three murder charges -- for the deaths of his wife and their two children in December. Harrington shot Becky, 28, and their daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4. He was fired from the police force after being charged with the triple homicide. In 1977, Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him committed for psychiatric treatment. Borman could not be reached for comment Monday.

Two months after his treatment began, Harrington was released from the program.

Harrington, a Vietnam veteran with a history of psychological problems, told homicide detectives this week he was under the care of a therapist and had been without some medication for about a week.

A Wayne County assistant prosecutor says last week's slayings were cold-blooded, calling for first-degree-murder charges. "Based on the information that was provided to me by the police department, I felt that was an appropriate charge," said Ralph Elizondo.

Monday, March 17, 1975

Officer Clarence Ratliff - Suspension - Grand Rapids PD






Probe Uncovers Threats Before Slaying of Judge
Argus-Press, Owosso MI
Wednesday, October 26, 1988
Grand Rapids [AP]- Evidence of death threats, wiretaps and extortion has been uncovered as police investigate the shooting death of District Judge Carol S. Irons, allegedly slain by her police officer husband.

Irons confided in close friends that her estranged husband threatened to kill her, but didn't tell police because she apparently feared provoking him and ruining his career, according to Irons' divorce attorney and personal friend.

In search of Officer Clarence D. Ratliff's home after the Oct. 12 slaying in Irons' chambers, police found a pipe bomb and other potential bomb-making ingredients such as impact explosives, blasting caps and detonation cord, according to warrants returned to Grand Rapids District Court on Monday.

Court documents said Ratliff, a former member of the department's bomb squad, had reportedly threatened to kill Irons' former boyfriend with a car bomb.

Ratliff apparently had used the pipe bomb for training purposes with other officers, Police Chief William Hegarty said at a news conference Tuesday.

Hegarty wouldn't say if it was against departmental policy for officers to bring such devices home. He said the bomb wasn't strong enough to destroy property.

Irons, 40, told her friend and attorney Diann Landers about the threats in June, Landers told the Grand Rapids Press Monday.

Landers, who was handling Irons' divorce from Ratliff, said she considered filing an injunction to keep Ratliff from harassing her client, but Irons refused to go to police because she feared it could cost her husband his job.

Hegarty said similar concerns apparently kept Ratliff's first wife from filing assault charges against him after he allegedly broke into her home in 1975 and struck her repeatedly on the back of the head with a handgun, causing at least three lacerations. The couple were going through a divorce at the time.

Ratliff, 53, was suspended from the department without pay for five days afterwards.

Hegarty said had been no other disciplinary problems with Ratliff, a 21-year veteran of the department, until last week's shootings.

After a brief exchange of gunfire with police in the courthouse, Ratliff surrendered. He remains in the Ottawa County Jail on a murder charged.

He is suspended without pay from the department and Hegarty said he has recommended to the city manager that Ratliff be fired.

Hegarty said police had no knowledge before Irons' death that she had been threatened, but that since the shooting a number of individuals had come forward.

Ratliff also allegedly made several tapes after wiretapping Irons' home telephone and "has in his possession tapes or statements made by Carol Irons and a second party that would be detrimental to her reputation as a judge and a candidate for public office," police said in court documents.

Hegarty said the department had not yet reviewed all the tapes, but that some involved pending or closed criminal matters.

Ratliff also wanted Irons to give him money or assume some of his debts as part of the divorce settlement, Landers said.

"There was some pressure, extortion, to attempt to get a better settlement," Landers told The Press.

Also Tuesday, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said he would hand prosecution of Ratliff's case over to the state Attorney General's office because he and many members of his staff knew Irons personally.

Irons, the first woman elected to the bench in Kent County, was running unopposed for re-election Nov. 8. There will be a write-in campaign to elect a new judge.

Sunday, March 16, 1975

Officer Clarence Ratliff - Grand Rapids PD

In 1975, Officer Ratliff broke into the home of his [first] ex-wife. Ratliff proceeded to pistol whip her, "causing at least three lacerations" in the back of her head.

Ratliff was suspended from the department for five days for the assault.

On October 19, 1998 Officer Clarence Ratliff murdered his second ex-wife, Judge Carol Irons.


Officer Clarence Ratliff's assault of first wife, while on duty [1975]

Officer Clarence Ratliff's murder of ex-wife Judge Carol Irons [1988]

Officer Clarence Ratliff shot at Officer John Den Boer after killing Judge Irons [1988]

Officer Clarence Ratliff shot at Officer Daniel Ostopowicz after killing Judge Irons [1988]

Officer Clarence Ratliff sentenced for murder of Judge Carol Irons [1989]

Clarence Ratliff's sentence confirmed [1991]

Judge Irons' murderer requests to be freed from prison [2011]

Judge Irons' murderer, Clarence Ratliff dies in prison [2011]






MURDER OF JUDGE:BITTER TALE OF DIVORCE
GRAND RAPIDS TRIAL MAY GO TO JURY SOON
JOE SWICKARD Free Press Staff Writer
May 8, 1989
Detroit Free Press
(MI)GRAND RAPIDS --The marriage of Clarence Ratliff and Carol Irons began with vows of love on the Hall of Justice lawn. It ended four years later inside the same courthouse with a single 9mm slug to the base of Irons' neck.

"The only difference between this and any other domestic homicide is the place and the players," said defense lawyer Grant Gruel. "It's not often that a cop marries a judge and then kills her in her chambers."

For two weeks, Grand Rapids has been transfixed by the first-degree murder trial of Ratliff -- "Rat" to his friends, a hard-drinking police officer and Marine Corps Reserve gunnery sergeant -- in the Oct. 19, 1988, shooting of District Judge Irons -- a sharp-tongued advocate of liberal causes and the first woman jurist ever elected in Kent County.

If the 1984 courthouse lawn wedding of the burly cop and the petite, 4-foot-8 judge seemed the stuff of television movies, the trial is a sorry tale of withered dreams and bitterness ending in a drunken, bloody killing.

"What led up to this tragedy is a good divorce case, but not an excuse to kill someone," said state Assistant Attorney General Mark Blumer, who is prosecuting the case because of the Kent County prosecutor's ties to Irons and Ratliff. "All that has been put out as excuses is really motive for murder."

The gist of the case, which Kent Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda said will go to the jury Wednesday, is that Ratliff got off duty at 7 a.m. that Oct. 19, spent the morning drinking shots of Jim Beam bourbon, and then killed his estranged wife. He exchanged shots with other officers before surrendering.

Ratliff's blood-alcohol level five hours after the shooting was 0.14 percent, well above the 0.10 percent threshold for a drunken driving charge.

Blumer contends that Ratliff, 53, drank to get the nerve to kill, but chickened out at the last moment in his plan to die in a shoot-out.

But Gruel counters that Ratliff, too drunk to form a plan -- a necessary element of first-degree murder -- killed Irons in an instant of unthinking anger after years of galling frustration.

Ratliff, testifying Thursday, said he recalled only scattered impressions of the fatal meeting.

He recalled in greater detail the five-year courtship between two people hurt by earlier failed marriages.

"I didn't want to go through a divorce again," Ratliff said.

Not mentioned in the trial is a 1975 incident from his first divorce. While in uniform, Ratliff broke into the home of his estranged wife, Olga, and pistol-whipped her before being taken out by other officers. He said he planned to kill her and himself, but lost his nerve, according to prosecution arguments in the court without the jury present.

Judge Kolenda barred testimony of the incident because it was too old and prejudicial, despite Blumer's argument of the "startling similarities."

Of his marriage to Irons, Ratliff said, "It seemed like we had a lot of fun the first couple of years."

His bachelor, roughing-it hunting cabin in Stanwood on the Muskegon River was remodeled and improved into a comfortable weekend cottage for them.

But there was a chill of change and suspicion.

Irons' brother, Peter, a recovering alcoholic, said his sister stopped drinking and broke the old social routine of drinking with Ratliff and his pals. Ratliff continued drinking. He and Irons took separate vacations.

Ratliff said he was getting needled by his fellow cops because Irons would pick up his paycheck, and that his wife blistered him in arguments with her sharp tongue and quick mind. He also said he was suffering sexual dysfunction.

He suspected a class reunion she attended in Georgia in 1987 was a rendezvous with an old boyfriend. He said he verified it through telephone bills.

That year, Ratliff bugged their home telephone line before going to Utah for his summer of active military duty with the Marines.

Ratliff said the wiretap showed "that Carol and John (her old boyfriend) were lovers while we still were married." Taped conversations were "explicit . . . telling what they would do when they got together again," he said.

Ratliff said he later retreated to the cabin and "drank a lot."

The tapes continued to roll and in late August he discovered she was planning a trip to Niagara Falls to see her old boyfriend again.

Irons filed for divorce in early 1988 and, according to Ratliff, agreed to make the payments on the cottage.

The morning of Oct. 19, 1988, was rainy as he got off duty from the overnight shift, and Ratliff said he decided to wait before tackling the 53-mile drive to the cabin, where he had been living.

He was wearing jeans, a motorcycle jacket and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

He hit a bar where several other off-duty cops and sheriff's deputies were gathered about 7:30 a.m. Soon they were buying each other rounds.

Either just before or just after going to a second bar -- the exact scenario is unclear -- Ratliff stopped by his lawyer's office to check on the divorce.

There he saw a letter from Irons' lawyer saying Irons would not pay for the cabin after the divorce and wanted him to buy out her interest.

Prosecutor Blumer said Ratliff knew he would lose the cabin without Irons' salary and decided to settle accounts for good.

But Ratliff insisted he had no plan: "I think I was upset but I told my attorney go ahead and process the papers. I just wanted to get it over with."

There was a stop at a third bar, which Ratliff said he doesn't recall, but by noon he was in Irons' chambers.

"I have the impression or feeling that we had an argument," he said. It was "slowed down, slow motion like waiting for an accident to happen," he said. "I was looking at me and I was holding a gun on her."

At 12:07 p.m., Irons hit an alarm button and told the police dispatcher that her husband was drunk and had a gun to her head "even as we speak."

Ratliff said "the gun went off," but he does not remember shooting.

Clutching her neck as an artery pumped jets of blood, Irons bolted into the hallway, followed by Ratliff. Officers yanked Irons aside and exchanged shots with Ratliff before he retreated into the chambers.

On the stand, Ratliff said it was a flashback to his SWAT team training: "All I could think of was here come the good guys after the bad guy."

He surrendered in a few minutes, saying, "I just couldn't take the bitch anymore," a sheriff's deputy said. Ratliff testified he does not remember making the statement.

Outside court, Peter Irons said he is distressed by Ratliff's defense: "My sister is being put on trial and not able to defend herself."

Defense lawyer Gruel said he is exploring her personality "as an issue because it's a stress factor in what happened."

The key to understanding Ratliff, Gruel said, is seeing him as "the Marlboro Man, a John Wayne-type guy who finally broke."

The drinking and stress should reduce the murder to a lesser charge or an acquittal, Gruel said.

Peter Irons disagrees.

"I have a problem with the idea that a person who drives while intoxicated goes to jail but a person who shoots his wife is exonerated," he said. "As a recovering alcoholic, I always understood I was still responsible for what I did when I was drunk. I expect the same of Ratliff."









JURY SELECTION BEGINS IN TRIAL OF HUSBAND IN JUDGE'S SLAYING
LISA PERLMAN Associated Press
April 25, 1989
Detroit Free Press
(MI)GRAND RAPIDS -- One floor above the office where District Judge Carol Irons was shot to death, jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of her estranged husband, a 21-year veteran of the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Clarence Ratliff is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the Oct. 19 death of Irons and two counts of assault with intent to murder for allegedly shooting at fellow officers who came to her aid. If convicted as charged, Ratliff would face life in prison without parole.

Security was tight in the Kent County Hall of Justice courtroom where Assistant Attorney General Mark Blumer, who is prosecuting the case, and defense attorney Grant Gruel began questioning 187 potential jurors.

Though jury selection is going on in the same building where the slaying occurred, the trial will be moved to the nearby Gerald R. Ford federal building, where Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda will preside.

Gruel has said he will argue Ratliff was so mentally diminished by alcohol and the strain of the couple's impending divorce that he could not form the intent to kill necessary to support a first-degree murder charge.

On the day of the slaying, police said, Ratliff, who worked in the adjoining police department, waved his way through security see his wife.

Irons had told her closest friends of death threats, telephone tapping, harassment and extortion attempts, police said they learned later.

Five years ago Irons, 40, a tough, respected judge involved in domestic violence programs and a supporter of minority rights, married Ratliff, a patrol officer who seemed her opposite.

Ratliff, 53, was active in the Marine reserves and an avid hunter who enjoyed his cabin along the Muskegon River. He reportedly drank heavily, prompting his former supervisor, Lt. Frank Woronko, to call him "a regular Jekyll and Hyde."

Ratliff, whom friends described as a jealous man, reportedly disapproved of many of his wife's friends and the issues for which she fought. After Irons filed for divorce and harassment reportedly escalated, attorney Diann Landers, a close friend of Irons, considered filing an injunction to keep Ratliff away. Irons refused, fearing it would cost her husband his job.

That was believed the same reason why Ratliff's first wife, Olga, didn't file charges when he reportedly broke into her home in 1975 and struck her in the back of the head repeatedly with a handgun while their divorce was pending. Ratliff was suspended for five days at that time, Police Chief William Hegarty said.








Probe Uncovers Threats Before Slaying of Judge
Argus-Press, Owosso MI
Wednesday, October 26, 1988
Grand Rapids [AP]- Evidence of death threats, wiretaps and extortion has been uncovered as police investigate the shooting death of District Judge Carol S. Irons, allegedly slain by her police officer husband.

Irons confided in close friends that her estranged husband threatened to kill her, but didn't tell police because she apparently feared provoking him and ruining his career, according to Irons' divorce attorney and personal friend.

In search of Officer Clarence D. Ratliff's home after the Oct. 12 slaying in Irons' chambers, police found a pipe bomb and other potential bomb-making ingredients such as impact explosives, blasting caps and detonation cord, according to warrants returned to Grand Rapids District Court on Monday.

Court documents said Ratliff, a former member of the department's bomb squad, had reportedly threatened to kill Irons' former boyfriend with a car bomb.

Ratliff apparently had used the pipe bomb for training purposes with other officers, Police Chief William Hegarty said at a news conference Tuesday.

Hegarty wouldn't say if it was against departmental policy for officers to bring such devices home. He said the bomb wasn't strong enough to destroy property.

Irons, 40, told her friend and attorney Diann Landers about the threats in June, Landers told the Grand Rapids Press Monday.

Landers, who was handling Irons' divorce from Ratliff, said she considered filing an injunction to keep Ratliff from harassing her client, but Irons refused to go to police because she feared it could cost her husband his job.

Hegarty said similar concerns apparently kept Ratliff's first wife from filing assault charges against him after he allegedly broke into her home in 1975 and struck her repeatedly on the back of the head with a handgun, causing at least three lacerations. The couple were going through a divorce at the time.

Ratliff, 53, was suspended from the department without pay for five days afterwards.

Hegarty said had been no other disciplinary problems with Ratliff, a 21-year veteran of the department, until last week's shootings.

After a brief exchange of gunfire with police in the courthouse, Ratliff surrendered. He remains in the Ottawa County Jail on a murder charged.

He is suspended without pay from the department and Hegarty said he has recommended to the city manager that Ratliff be fired.

Hegarty said police had no knowledge before Irons' death that she had been threatened, but that since the shooting a number of individuals had come forward.

Ratliff also allegedly made several tapes after wiretapping Irons' home telephone and "has in his possession tapes or statements made by Carol Irons and a second party that would be detrimental to her reputation as a judge and a candidate for public office," police said in court documents.

Hegarty said the department had not yet reviewed all the tapes, but that some involved pending or closed criminal matters.

Ratliff also wanted Irons to give him money or assume some of his debts as part of the divorce settlement, Landers said.

"There was some pressure, extortion, to attempt to get a better settlement," Landers told The Press.

Also Tuesday, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said he would hand prosecution of Ratliff's case over to the state Attorney General's office because he and many members of his staff knew Irons personally.

Irons, the first woman elected to the bench in Kent County, was running unopposed for re-election Nov. 8. There will be a write-in campaign to elect a new judge.