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Man gets 46 years for rape, jail killing

Wed., July 27, 2005

A man who murdered a Spokane County Jail cellmate last October after stabbing and raping a former girlfriend has been sentenced to nearly 46 years in prison for both crimes.

Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt gave Michael Lee West Jr., 29, the maximum standard sentence for his guilty plea in June to first-degree murder and second-degree rape.

West had been charged with first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree rape, harassment and first-degree robbery for what he did to his girlfriend.

While awaiting trial on those charges, West beat and choked to death 21-year-old Christopher Lee Rentz, one of three men who shared his cell. That led to the first-degree murder charge.

Another cellmate, 20-year-old Brandon West Martin, faces trial Sept. 12 on a second-degree murder charge for allegedly helping kill Rentz.

A jury convicted Martin in May of two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder for gunning down two young men and attempting to kill a third at a teenage drug and drinking party in a Mead home on Oct. 4, 2003. He was awaiting trial on those charges when Rentz was killed.

Martin was sentenced last month to two life sentences without possibility of parole plus 27 2/3 years, all of it consecutive.

A fourth inmate in the cell where Rentz was murdered, James “Jimi” Felice, provided evidence against West and Martin and wasn’t charged.

According to court documents, Felice told investigators that Martin alternately participated and tried to defuse the situation as West sexually abused Rentz and beat him with a push broom. Charging documents didn’t explain why there was a broom in the psychiatric cell the men shared.

Rentz’s family filed a $5.6 million federal lawsuit against Spokane County for alleged violation of his civil rights.

West was a fugitive from a state Department of Corrections work-release program when he went to his ex-girlfriend’s home on May 16, 2004, and stabbed her numerous times with a kitchen knife – in the face, chest, back and legs. Many of the wounds apparently were superficial, but a police officer said one of the chest wounds appeared serious.

West tied up the bleeding woman and raped her repeatedly. Then he showered, washed his clothes, raped the woman again and left with her cell phone and money from her purse.

The naked victim wrapped herself in a blanket and collapsed on the porch of a nearby home where she went for help.

West faced a standard range of 34 1/4 to 45 2/3 years when Sypolt sentenced him Friday.


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