Henry West sentenced to life in prison for fatal 2019 Wausau cemetery shooting

·7 min read

WAUSAU – A 67-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison for booby-trapping his apartment with explosive devices and then killing his former boss at a Wausau cemetery in a shooting spree that left two others injured.

Marathon County Circuit Judge Jill Falstad on Tuesday sentenced Henry V. West, 67, to life in prison without the possibility of being released on parole or extended supervision for the shooting death of Patty Grimm on Oct. 3, 2019, at Pine Grove Cemetery in Wausau.

Falstad sentenced West to an additional 40 years in prison for two counts of attempted homicide and two counts of attempted arson, connected to the incident.

Family members asked Falstad to be sure West spent the rest of his life in prison, so that they didn't have to worry about him seeking revenge on anyone else.

"(Grimm) was the keystone of our family," a family member, who requested through the victim-witness coordinator that she not be identified, said Tuesday morning. "She was the light and the glue of her family.

"We will never be the same," the family member said.

She said she would usually pass Grimm on her way to work each day, but on the day of the shooting she had to be at a hospital with her husband, who was having surgery. She was sitting at the hospital when she received an alert on her phone about a shooting at Pine Grove Cemetery. The family member said she could only sit at the hospital and wait. She tried calling Grimm, but there was no answer.

The family member said that when she got to the cemetery, there were emergency vehicles with lights flashing. She begged an officer to see Grimm and asked to just hold her, but he couldn't let her do that, she said. They took her to the Wausau Police Department to wait for more information.

West pleaded no contest in February to one charge of first-degree intentional homicide, two charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two charges of attempted arson of a building without the owner's consent. Twelve additional charges were dismissed but read into the court record.

West was scheduled to be sentenced May 26, but prior to the sentencing he said he hadn't wanted to enter the no contest plea and asked for a new attorney. Scott Anderson took over as West's attorney on June 6. He again was scheduled for sentencing on July 27, but his new attorney was not ready for the sentencing after Marathon County Circuit Judge Gregory Huber denied the motion to withdraw the no contest plea.

Another member of Grimm's family talked about the frustration and confusion of the past three years. It was like West enjoyed torturing the families, she said. She said she had lost faith in the court system, but she hoped the legal proceedings were done.

West also fired multiple shots at a man who had worked as the foreman of Pine Grove Cemetery for 20 years. The man suffered a traumatic brain injury. His oldest daughter told Falstad how her life had changed.

The daughter said she had talked to her father the day before the shooting. She had won a cruise for her work accomplishments and he was so happy, he called her later in the day and said he wouldn't sleep that night because he was so excited.

After he was shot, the man spent about 870 days in a rehabilitation facility to fight back from the injury and get well enough to go home. Now, the daughter said, she spends her days being her father's caregiver, speech therapist, occupational therapist and anything else he needs. She's grateful that she still has him, and he's grateful to be alive and able to fight, but he's not the same person he was before he was shot, she said.

Rigged explosives that could have killed hundreds

Before he rode a bicycle to the cemetery that day, West set up homemade explosive devices in his Schofield apartment, in vacant parts of the apartment complex and in a garage, Marathon County Assistant District Attorney Rory McGarry said. West used household items as timers for the devices, left jugs of gasoline throughout his apartment and left an open natural gas pipe in an empty home being renovated for rental.

West made a mistake, and the devices didn't work, McGarry said. A WPS worker said the home's air was 3% natural gas and that if it had reached 5%, the explosion could have killed hundreds, the prosecutor said.

West was angry at Grimm because she had fired him seven years earlier, so he rode to the cemetery after he set up the explosive devices. McGarry showed video of Grimm walking around the cemetery, as was her morning routine. The video was available because Grimm had worried about West and added security to the Pine Grove Cemetery.

West confronted Grimm and shot her six times, McGarry said. He then dragged her into her office and shot her again in the back. McGarry showed Grimm's hands that had evidence of being hit by bullets when she tried to defend herself.

A woman was dropping her son off to work at the cemetery and drove by as West was coming out of the office. He shot at her multiple times, hitting her in the breast, McGarry said.

West then went to the cemetery's shed and found the foreman, shooting him multiple times.

West denies planning the shooting, says he's 'so, so sorry'

West said during a rambling statement in court Tuesday he never planned to hurt anyone and he didn't remember Oct. 3, 2019, the way it was told by McGarry or seen in the videos and photos. West said he had made a list of people in the apartment complex to record the times they came and left, so the fire would happen when the fewest people were around.

West said the apartment manager had told him he wanted all the collectible race car memorabilia West kept immaculately displayed in his apartment. West said he wanted to burn all his belongings so the manager couldn't get them. He said he then left, but soon heard fire truck sirens. West said he called 911 and warned the dispatchers about the devices in his apartment, because he didn't want innocent firefighters to get hurt.

West said he went to the cemetery to ask Grimm why she had believed the foreman's allegations about him and didn't ask West about his side of things before she fired him. He said she freaked out when she saw the gun, grabbed for it and it went off.

He said he thought the woman's van was actually the foreman's truck and that was why he shot at it, hitting the woman.

West said he thought he might as well shoot the foreman, because he had already killed Grimm. He admitted shooting the man, but said he never shot him in the head.

West said when officers found him on his bicycle, he disobeyed their orders to get down on the ground because he wanted them to kill him. He said he's tried to commit suicide numerous times in the three years he's been in jail.

"I'm so, so, so sorry," West said.

His defense attorney, Anderson, began Tuesday's sentencing by asking for a mental evaluation of West. Falstad denied the request, stating the same motion already had been denied by Judge Huber.

Anderson said West is mentally ill and in agony knowing what he did to Grimm. He said West would be an old man of 87 if he lived to the first possible release date of 20 years, and no one was going to release him after serving 20 years.

Falstad said she didn't believe West went to the cemetery to talk to anyone.

"You don't take a loaded gun to have a conversation," the judge said.

Falstad said the shootings were premeditated and well planned. The justice system owed the three victims and their families the knowledge West could never do anything like the cemetery shooting again, she said.

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Contact Karen Madden at 715-345-2245 or kmadden@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KMadden715, Instagram at @kmadden715 or Facebook at facebook.com/karen.madden.33.

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This article originally appeared on Wausau Daily Herald: Henry West sentenced to life in prison for Wausau cemetery shooting