Though viewers expect that all the loose strings will be neatly tied up at the end of each episode of Dateline, the investigative series often features cases that go cold while a killer walks free.
The 2006 murder of Renee Pagel is the subject of the May 7 episode of the hit NBC show, which is entitled "Window of Opportunity." Her violent demise led many to believe that her ex-husband was responsible, but it took more than 14 years for someone to be convicted of the killing.
What happened to Renee Pagel?
The 41-year-old mother of three was found dead in her bedroom in Rockford, Mich. on August 5, 2006. Renee Pagel had been stabbed dozens of times, and her murder occurred less than a week after she had undergone surgery to donate a kidney.
Her body was discovered by her father and her stepmother, and they alerted the authorities. The murder weapon was no longer at the crime scene.
Because she was still recovering from the operation, Renee Pagel hadn't been very mobile in the days leading up to her death.
Many wondered if her killer had known about the surgery and had possibly taken advantage of the fact that Renee Pagel was limited physically during that time.
Another point of interest for investigators was the fact that the nurse practitioner was going through an acrimonious divorce in the weeks before she was killed. She had split from Mike Pagel, the father of her three kids, in 2005.
Less than two months before she died, Renee Pagel had been in court with her ex-husband, as the two could not agree on the terms of their divorce.
He had wanted the house and full custody of the kids. Mike Pagel had also asked for his ex-wife to pay him alimony.
Instead, a judge had ruled in favor of Renee Pagel. Her ex-husband was ordered to pay her alimony.
Though Mike Pagel was an early suspect in the case, there wasn't enough evidence to directly link him to the murder. When authorities obtained a search warrant for Mike Pagel's home, they weren't able to find anything there to place him at the scene of the crime. The weapon hadn't been recovered, either.
Nearly 14 years later, a new tip came in that led to an arrest.
Where is Michael Pagel now?
Though Renee Pagel's case went cold in the years that followed her untimely passing, her loved ones remained devoted to finding out what happened. Her close friend, Chris Crandle, operated a website to keep her memory alive, and to accept messages with potential leads.
In November of 2019, Mike Pagel's brother, Chris "Beau" Pagel, reached out via the site. He asked Chris Crandle if they could talk about the case.
Beau Pagel had been a person of interest back in 2006 because he and his former sister-and-law had never gotten along. He was soon cleared when his airtight alibi checked out for the night of her murder.
Crandle agreed to Beau Pagel's request for a conversation, and she recorded it. Beau Pagel detailed how he was becoming frightened of his brother, and that he was concerned he would be harmed.
He did not explicitly link his brother to Renee Pagel's murder at the time, but he did hint that Mike Pagel had done something violent in the past.
When police officers heard the recording, they called Beau Pagel in for questioning. During an interrogation, Beau Pagel admitted that his brother had previously confessed to killing his ex-wife in 2011. He also claimed that Mike Pagel had shown him a knife, which he said was the murder weapon.
According to Beau Pagel, Mike Pagel ended up throwing the knife into a river.
Beau Pagel signed an affidavit confirming what he told authorities, and they searched the river for several days. They ultimately did find a long knife, which they concluded was the weapon used to kill Renee Pagel.
In February of 2020, Mike Pagel was arrested, and a plea deal was soon worked out. According to the terms of the deal, Mike Pagel would plead guilty to second-degree murder, and he would face a minimum sentence of 25 years.
Months later, in October of 2020, Mike Pagel was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.
New episodes of Dateline air on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.