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.

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