By Shereen Siewert
The 67-year-old man who fatally shot a Wausau woman and injured two other people after rigging his apartment with explosives was convicted Monday of first-degree intentional homicide and several other charges, avoiding a trial that would have started in March.
Police say Henry “Hank” West, of Schofield, meticulously prepared for the October 2019 attack, which left 52-year-old Patty Grimm dead. West also shot William Buhse, 60, and Rosemelia Short, 70, both of whom were injured, but survived.
West shot all three victims on the morning of Oct. 3, 2019 at Pine Grove Cemetery, 1501 Grand Ave., Wausau, after setting fire to his Schofield apartment and rigging the Fullmer Street complex with incendiary devices.
Grimm, a well-known Wausau native, was the longtime manager of Pine Grove Cemetery, where West was once employed.
West was terminated from his cemetery 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.
Crews from Riverside Fire Department were initially called at about 8:15 a.m. the day of the shooting 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 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 an adjacent 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. In a criminal complaint, investigators say West could have killed hundreds of people had his plans to blow up his apartment building not been foiled.
About 20 minutes after the Fullmer Street fire was reported, officers were called to Pine Grove Cemetery 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 she was shot. Short, who was struck in the breast, was taken to a hospital for treatment. She was later released.
From there, officers were directed to a second gunshot victim at a maintenance building near the sports complex on Curling Way and discovered Buhse, who had been 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.
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 minutes after their arrival. While being pinned to the ground, he told officers he knew he would end up in prison.
“I don’t think I could be in any more 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.”
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.”
West faced 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. As part of a plea agreement, Circuit Judge Greg Huber found West guilty Monday of first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of arson.
West faces a mandatory life sentence, but judges in Wisconsin have the discretion to set a potential release into extended supervision after a suspect spends at least 20 years in prison.
A sentencing date for West, who remains behind bars, has not yet been set.