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Ex-Policeman Gets Two Life Terms for Slaying Wife, Firing at Officers

June 13, 1989|From Associated Press

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.

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