Wapiti man’s murder trial delayed until summer

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At the request of his defense attorney, a Wapiti man’s murder trial has been pushed back to August.

Dennis Klingbeil, 76, had been set to go to trial in early March on a felony count of first-degree murder; he’s alleged to have shot and killed his wife, 75-year-old Donna Klingbeil, before overdosing on various medications in an apparent suicide attempt.

Up until last week, Dennis Klingbeil had demanded his constitutional right to a speedy trial; his defense attorney, Donna Domonkos of Cheyenne, had even resisted the trial being moved from late February to March 4.

On Wednesday, however, Klingbeil waived his right to a speedy trial and his attorney requested a delay.

“The defendant has determined there is a need to continue the trial for more thorough preparation,” Domonkos wrote.

This time, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric objected to a continuance. Skoric noted that several expert witnesses had cleared their schedules for the March 4-14 trial and that his office had “engaged in substantial preparation work.”

At a Friday hearing, however, District Court Judge Bill Simpson approved the defense’s request to push back the trial, citing the serious nature of the case.

Klingbeil’s case is now set to go before a jury on Aug. 5, Skoric said, potentially running through Aug. 20.

To convict Klingbeil of first-degree murder, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he killed his wife “purposefully and with premeditated malice.”

Klingbeil reportedly told a counselor after the August 2018 homicide that he had acted in a rage, and he’s called the incident “an accident” in phone calls he’s made from jail, according to a filing from prosecutors.

To refute those possible defenses, Special Deputy Park County Attorney Mike Blonigen is seeking the court’s permission to introduce evidence about some of Klingbeil’s past interactions with his wife and other family members. Blonigen argues that the murder represented the culmination of a years-long argument over the couple’s assets, which included some $10 million worth of properties in Wyoming and Florida. And he argued Dennis Klingbeil’s actions on the night of the murder continued a pattern of behavior.

“There is nothing sudden about what happened to Donna Klingbeil that night nor was it an accident,” Blonigen wrote in filing last month.

As laid out in the 34-page document, Donna Klingbeil called the sheriff’s office to the couple’s Wapiti home back in May 2011. She reported that — after she accused him of hiding money and raised the possibility of a divorce — Dennis Klingbeil had gotten out a gun and sat at his desk.

“The defendant’s production of a firearm in the midst of an argument about finances is highly relevant to intent, motive and lack of mistake,” Blonigen wrote.

He’s also requested permission to admit evidence that Klingbeil threatened two other family members with guns in two separate incidents that took place decades earlier.

Judge Simpson has scheduled hearings in March and May to settle various motions, including to decide which, if any, of the material can be presented at trial.

Klingbeil continues to be held at the Park County Detention Center, with bail set at $10 million.

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