By Shereen Siewert
The 64-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a Wausau woman and injuring two other victims meticulously prepared for the attack and could have killed hundreds of people had his plans not been foiled by first responders, according to a criminal complaint filed Oct. 18 in Marathon County Circuit Court.
Held on a $10 million bond, Henry “Hank” West, of Schofield, faced a judge Friday for an initial appearance on charges of first-degree intentional homicide, 11 counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, three counts of attempted arson, one count of arson of a building without the owner’s consent, and resisting or obstructing an officer.
West faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of killing 52-year-old Patty Grimm, who was the manager at Pine Grove Cemetery. He is also accused of shooting William Buhse, 60, and Rosemelia Short, 70, who survived.
West was formerly employed at the cemetery but was terminated from his job in 2012. In the days leading up to the shooting he allegedly told a neighbor he planned to kill Grimm and desecrate her body.
The criminal complaint details West’s plan not only to kill Grimm, but also to kill first responders and residents in his apartment complex and nearby businesses with multiple incendiary devices discovered after the shootings. Police say West blamed Grimm for his financial woes — a judge on Oct. 1 ordered his eviction from his Schofield apartment.
Crews from Riverside Fire Department were initially called at about 8:15 a.m. Oct. 3 to a report of a possible fire 121 Fullmer St. in Schofield, the complex where West lived. When they arrived, they noticed a strong smell of gas and began evacuating residents and airing out the building. The first officer to enter West’s apartment discovered a toaster plugged in to what he believed to be a timer sitting next to a container filled with what he believed to be oil. A second similar device was found by the Marathon County Bomb Squad. Officials say West placed several additional incendiary devices inside his apartment and in a garage.
Members of the Bomb Squad worked alongside officers and firefighters from multiple departments to remove the devices and residents at the complex and several nearby businesses were evacuated overnight while police and fire crews secured the scene.
Had West’s plans come to fruition, the explosions would have killed dozens or even hundreds of apartment residents and workers at nearby businesses, the complaint states.
While in an interview room, West said allegedly said “Best laid plans, my apartment is intact, that sucks, that (expletive) sucks.”
About 20 minutes after the Fullmer Street fire was reported, officers were called to Pine Grove Cemetery, 1501 Grand Ave., Wausau, for a report of a possible gunshot wound to a female victim and discovered Short, who was dropping a male relative off for work at the cemetery when West allegedly pulled a handgun and fired at her. Short, who was struck in the breast, was taken to a hospital for treatment. She was later released.
From there, units were directed to a second gunshot victim at a maintenance building near the sports complex on Curling Way and discovered Buhse, who was shot multiple times. Court documents state Buhse had broken ribs, broken facial bones and a significant brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding underneath. His prognosis for recovery is unknown.
Grimm was discovered just before 9 a.m. at the cemetery near the front entrance. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers arrested West, who had fled on a bicycle to the top of the soccer field at the Eastbay Sports Complex, minutes after their arrival. While being pinned to the ground, he told officers he knew he would end up in jail for life.
“I don’t think I could be in anymore trouble but anything I did wrong was going to be a death sentence for me anyway,” West said, according to the complaint. “I am 65 with all sorts of health issues. It didn’t matter what I did wrong, I was going to end up in jail for the rest of my life.”
A pretrial conference is set for Nov. 21.