Wednesday, October 19, 1988

Officer Clarence Ratliff - Officer John Den Boer

On October 19, 1998 Officer Clarence Ratliff [Grand Rapids PD] shot and killed his ex-wife Judge Carol Irons in her chambers.

Officer Ratliff shot at officers John Den Boer and Daniel Ostopowicz, as they ran to help Judge Irons.

At Judge Irons' murder trial, the jurors found Officer Ratliff guilty of assault with intent to commit murder for his exchange of gunfire with Boer and Ostopowicz.

Ratliff received two life sentences for shooting at officers Den Boer and Ostopowicz.

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]

Ex-Policeman Gets Two Life Terms for Slaying Wife, Firing at Officers
June 13, 1989
The Associated Press
Los Angeles Times

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former policeman received two life prison sentences Monday for fatally shooting his estranged wife in her judicial chambers and firing at three fellow officers.

Clarence Ratliff, 53, showed no emotion when Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda announced his punishment for the Oct. 19 shootings at the Kent County Hall of Justice that claimed the life of District Judge Carol S. Irons, 40.

Kolenda told Ratliff that his punishment "must show that no one is above the law."

Kolenda's office was flooded with thousands of letters requesting that Ratliff receive the harshest penalty allowable after a jury May 11 convicted the former officer of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Ratliff, a 21-year veteran of the city Police Department, had been charged with first-degree murder.

Kolenda said he stepped outside sentencing guidelines because of the crime's seriousness, its location, public sentiment and Ratliff's position of trust in the community.

The former officer received the life sentences for his conviction on two counts of assault with intent to murder for shooting at two officers who came to Irons' aid.

Ratliff got 10 to 15 years for the manslaughter conviction, as well as a term of from two years and eight months to four years for assault with a firearm, for shooting at a third officer. None of the officers were wounded. All the penalties were concurrent, except for a two-year sentence for using a firearm during commission of a felony.

LISA PERLMAN Associated Press
June 13, 1989
Detroit Free Press
(MI)GRAND RAPIDS -- Exceeding sentence guidelines to show that "no one is above the law," a judge Monday gave former police officer Clarence Ratliff two life prison terms for firing on other officers after killing his estranged wife, a district judge.

The heavy sentences followed outcry over Ratliff being convicted of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence, in the shooting of Judge Carol Irons last Oct. 19 at the Kent County Hall of Justice.

Judge Dennis Kolenda gave Ratliff 10 to 15 years on the manslaughter charge.

He imposed the two life terms for assault with intent to murder in the shoot-out with other police who were coming to help Irons.

Ratliff, 53, showed no emotion and declined to speak as he also was sentenced to a term of two years and eight months to four years for assault with a firearm for shooting at a third officer, and two years for the use of a firearm during commission of a felony. None of the other officers were hit in the shooting that followed Irons' death.

The Michigan Attorney General's office, which handled the prosecution, asked Kolenda to impose the maximum 25-to 40- year prison term in Michigan sentencing guidelines for assaults with intent to murder.

But Kolenda said he stepped outside the guidelines because of the seriousness of the crime, where it happened, public sentiment and Ratliff's position of trust in the community.

"These sentences must show that no one is above the law," Kolenda told the 21-year police veteran. "You're one of those few people who have the ability to overcome a natural abhorrence of taking a life."

The judge noted that Ratliff will be eligible for parole in 10 years but said, "Most people sentenced to life are never paroled."

Kolenda's office had been flooded with thousands of pieces of mail requesting the harshest penalty possible after Ratliff was convicted May 11. About 1,200 people rallied outside the courthouse on May 31 in support of a stiff sentence for Ratliff.

Before the sentencing, Kolenda allowed friends, family and coworkers of Irons to address the court.

Manu urged the maximum penalty for Ratliff because they said he seemed to show no remorse over the incident.

"He used his manliness to try and justify the most unmanly behavior," Irons' parents, James and Virginia Irons, said through Irons' attorney and friend, Diann Landers.

Ratliff contended he did not intend to kill Irons, but was drunk and angry about a property dispute in their divorce proceedings.

Defense attorney Grant Gruel said no decision has been made on an appeal.

Ex-officer convicted in court slaying
Lewiston Daily Sun [Maine]
Friday, May 12, 1989
Grand Rapids, Mich. [AP] - A jury convicted an ex-police officer of voluntary manslaughter Thursday in the shooting death of his estranged wife, a district judge, in her judicial chambers.

Clarence Ratliff also was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder and one count of felonious assault, resulting from a shootout with fellow officers as Judge Carol Irons stumbled from her office on Oct. 19, 1988.

The 12-member District Court jury, which began deliberations Wednesday afternoon, also found him guilty of felony use of a firearm. Judge Dennis Kolenda said sentencing would be in three to four weeks.

Ratliff's attorney, Graut Gruel, argued that his 53-year-old client was very drunk and under such severe stress from his impending divorce he did not have the mental capacity to premeditate the killing.

"The only real choices in this case are a manslaughter conviction or acquittal," Gruel had said.

"We're obviously pleased with the verdict," Gruel said afterward. "It was obvious the jury felt stronger about shooting the police officers than shooting his wife."

Ratliff, a 21-year veteran of the Grand Rapids Police Department who originally was charged with murder in Irons' death, showed little emotion when the verdict was read.

The manslaughter conviction carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison; the assault with intent charges, up to life imprisonment; felonious assault, four years, and the firearms charge, a mandatory two-year term.

Prosecutor Mark Blumer said he was both gratified and surprised by the verdicts.

"We're gratified that they [the jury] realized how serious the attack on the police officers was - it was an understandable verdict," he said. "The jury did the job they were called to do."

Blumer characterized Ratliff in closing arguments Wednesday as a "predatory animal" who stalked his wife before killing her.

Gruel had contended Ratliff was upset because he had just found out that Irons would not abide by the divorce settlement he believed they had agreed upon. He also was upset by her alleged affair with an old boyfriend, Gruel said.

Gruel had testified that something snapped in Ratliff's mind when Irons picked up her telephone and told a police dispatcher across the lobby that Ratliff was holding a gun to her head.

After she was shot, Irons ran out into the hallway, clutching her bleeding throat and Ratliff followed her firing another shot, police said.

Toxicologists have testified Ratliff's blood-alcohol level at the time of the shooting was about 0.25 percent, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication in Michigan.

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