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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Michael West

Fugitive haunted by son’s murder in jail

A man targeted by Crime Stoppers for failing to register as a sex offender committed the same crime three years ago while haunted by the brutal jailhouse murder of his son.

William R. Rentz, 58, was convicted of third-degree child molestation in Cowlitz County in 1994.

He was living in an abandoned van at a gas station in the winter of 2008-2009 and walked to the police station to register as a sex offender each week. He left for Idaho without notifying authorities when his brother learned he was living in the unheated van, according to court documents.

Rentz never registered in Idaho, which led to his criminal conviction in 2010.

Rentz is the father of Christopher Lee Rentz, a 21-year-old gas theft suspect who was brutally murdered by cellmates Michael Lee West and Brandon West Martin in the Spokane County Jail in 2004.

The county settled a lawsuit over Rentz's death for $180,000, and Martin and West were convicted of murder. West is now accused of brutally assaulting two other inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

Rentz considered his son to be his best friend and has not recovered from his murder, according to a memorandum his public defender, Kari Reardon, filed before his sentencing in 2010 for failing to register as a sex ofender.

Rentz was in jail, too, when he was son was killed, Reardon wrote. Jailers put him on suicide watch after informing him of the murder.

“Unfortunately for William, part of him died with Chris,” according to a letter from his brother, Terry Rentz that was included with the memo.

Terry Rentz described how he searched for his brother at various convenience stores when he learned of his condition. He said his brother was physically unable to register, and when he was, “he could not face the fact hat he would need to contact the sheriff in the same building in which his son was murdered.”

William Rentz, who was credited for 417 days served in jail at his sentencing in 2010, suffers from mild dementia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic injury caused when he was buried in concrete, according to the memo.

A no-bail warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 25 for failing to register as a sex offender, a felony. Crime Stoppers last week offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.

Killer’s history not communicated at DOC

When a rapist who murdered one of his cellmates in the Spokane County Jail requested a transfer to a medium-security prison several years later, the approval process at the Washington Department of Corrections was quick and routine.

Although prisoner Michael Lee West Jr. was known for his disturbing levels of violence, he’d managed to avoid serious trouble for about four years. The transfer request was approved, and a prisoner long deemed a serious threat arrived at Airway Heights in 2010 as a minimum-security inmate.

The results were tragic.

Just 10 days into his stay, the 35-year-old attacked two cellmates in what prison officials describe as a horrific barrage that left one man blind. Prison staff who rushed to the cell found a victim with his left eye hanging from the socket and his right eye severely damaged. West stood by, chanting religious phrases and proclaiming himself Lucifer.

Despite a well-documented history that included pleas by prison officials for lifetime lockup, none of those warnings and concerns traveled with him. The brutal assault was the Airway Heights staff’s first indication that this new inmate was prone to severe behavioral problems – even though West had warned his psychiatrist that he planned to stop taking his medication after his transfer.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 14: 'Graphic' attack leaves inmate blind

New details released on prison attack

A man who killed his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail in 2004 attacked his cellmate at Airway Heights Corrections Center after the man refused to bow before him and worship him as God, according to newly filed court documents.

Convicted killer and assault suspect Michael L. West, 34, (right) appeared in Superior Court via video feed from the jail Wednesday as several sheriff's deputies stood guard. He was handcuffed for hearing, unlike other inmates.

West is charged with first- and second-degree assault for an alleged attack on Airway Heights cellmates Chad E. Bolstad (bottom left) and Gary L. Welch (bottom right) in which he gouged out Bolstad's left eye, according to police.

West had been at the medium-security prison about two weeks before the Oct. 10 attack.

According to a probable cause affidavit, West screamed and chanted that he was Lucifer and all shall praise him after he was arrested.

When a detective introduced himself, West “began to tell him he was going to murder him and his family as well as 144,000 others who do not follow his word.” 

Police said West was handcuffed without incident after they discovered what the chief described as a “very intense crime scene.”

At one point, West said “I just killed my chimo celly and pulled his f–ing eyes out,” according to the affidavit.

Later, video records West laughing while discussing the attack.

“I put my thumbs in his brain man popped his eyes out what he deserves he got,” West said, according to the affidavit. 

Bolstad, who's to be released in 2015 for a 2007 beer robbery that involved stabbing, suffered a broken cheek bone and lost vision in the attack.

Welch, who's due out in August for forgery, theft and drug convictions and was only slightly injured, told police, West “was acting all crazy and making statements that he was God and the Son of Christ” prior to the attack, according to an affidavit.

“West was pacing around and also saying he was the Devil and both he and Bolstad had to worship him because the end times were coming,” Welch reportedly told police. West chanted “Give me the apple” as he attacked Bolstad, Welch said.

West's bond was set at $150,000 during his first appearance Wednesday. Kari Reardon is his public defender; Larry Steinmtez is prosecuting the case. His arraignment is set for Feb. 1.

Man who killed cellmate returns to jail

One of the state's most notorious prisoners has returned to the Spokane County Jail.

Michael L. West arrived in Spokane from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla on Tuesday to face strangulation charges for an alleged attack on his cellmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center. 

West, 34, is to appear in Superior Court via video feed from the jail this afternoon. He's being housed alone in maximum security, said jail Lt. Aaron Anderton.

“We haven't had any problems with him yet, but we just want to make that we don't have any more,” Anderton said. “We know that we'll be fine as long as we followed these protocols.”

Anderton said West will be in handcuffs and likely leg shackles for court while accompanied by several guards. He'll be handcuffed when he's out of his cell for showers or visits and is not allowed to have contact with other inmates.

Anderton said the security procedures outlined for West are “almost identical” to security for accused killer Cole Strandberg.

West, convicted of brutally killing his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail in 2004, had been in minimum security at Airway Heights for just two weeks before prison staff say he gouged out a cellmate Chad E. Bolstad's left eye and severely injured his right way. Another cellmate, Gary L. Welch, suffered minor injuries.

Bolstad, 25, is scheduled to be released in 2015 for assault and robbery convictions stemming from a 2007 beer robbery that involved a stabbing. Welch is serving time for forgery, theft and drug convictions in Douglas and Chelan counties and is to be released in August. West was not scheduled to be released until 2048.

Past coverage:

Oct. 13: Killer suspected of 2nd attack on cellmate

Sept. 19, 2007: County to pay $180,000 in inmate's murder

July 27, 2005: Man gets 46 years for rape, jail killing

Oct. 15, 2004: Homicide witness say he tried to warn jailers

Oct. 14, 2004: Man strangled in jail feared for his life

Cellmate loses eye in fight w/ killer

A violent inmate who tortured and killed his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail six years ago, resulting in a $180,000 settlement by the county, is suspected of gouging out another cellmate’s eye at Airway Heights Corrections Center this week. 

Michael L. West, 34, (right) attacked Chad E. Bolstad, 25, (left) in a cell the men shared with another inmate Sunday night, officials confirmed Wednesday. 

“(Bolstad’s) left eye was gouged out at the socket and the right eye was damaged to the point where it appears he’s going to lose sight, too,” said Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett. “It was pretty graphic. He was using his bare hands.”

West threatened to attack the third cellmate, Gary L. Welch (right), telling Welch “about how he’s Lucifer and he wants him to bow to him,” Bennett said. 

Welch pressed a panic button to notify prison staff, and West attacked him, according to police. Prison guards arrived to find West trying to strangle Welch with a towel, Bennett said. Bolstad’s left eye was hanging out of its socket.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 19, 2007: County to pay $180,000 in inmate’s murder

July 27, 2005: Man gets 46 years for rape, jail killing

Oct. 15, 2004: Homicide witness say he tried to warn jailers

Oct. 14, 2004: Man strangled in jail feared for his life

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