No death penalty in Wapiti shooting death

By CJ Baker

Powell Tribune

Via Wyoming News Exchange

POWELL — As expected, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a Wapiti man who allegedly killed his wife last summer. 

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric formally announced the decision last week in the pending case against Dennis Klingbeil. The court filing was not a surprise, as Skoric had reportedly told Klingbeil’s defense attorney months ago that he would not be pursuing the death penalty. 

Klingbeil, 76, is alleged to have shot and killed 75-yearold Donna Klingbeil at their Wapiti home in early August. 

Prosecutors have charged Dennis Klingbeil with first-degree — or premeditated — murder of his wife. A Park County Sheriff’s Office investigation found that the couple had been arguing over how they would divide their substantial assets, which include properties in the Cody area and Florida. Hours before the killing, Klingbeil allegedly told his stepson that he was “going to put an end to this tonight,” and afterwards, Klingbeil allegedly confessed to killing Donna Klingbeil in a phone call to his own son, charging documents allege. 

Investigators say Klingbeil tried to take his own life after the shooting; before the sheriff’s office could arrest him, Klingbeil had to spend several days in West Park Hospital recovering from an apparent drug overdose. 

Klingbeil has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, with a trial tentatively set to start on Feb. 25. Pretrial motions in the case are due by the first week in January. 

Klingbeil’s defense attorney, Donna Domonkos, has conceded that “the evidence clearly indicates” her client shot and killed Donna Klingbeil. However, “the state cannot rule out accident or justifiable homicide,” Domonkos wrote in a September filing. 

To prove first-degree murder, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Klingbeil acted “purposely andwith premeditated malice.” 

First-degree murder is Wyoming’s most serious crime and the only offense that is punishable by death — and only in certain circumstances. 

So-called capital cases are extremely rare in Wyoming: The state has not executed an inmate since 1992 and the last man placed on death row had his death sentence overturned by a federal judge. 

In 2012, Skoric initially indicated that he would pursue the death penalty for Myron Friday, a Cody man who murdered his wife, 44-year-old Julie Friday, by repeatedly stabbing her with a screwdriver. However, a deal was later struck in which Myron Friday received a life sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. 

Klingbeil is currently being held in the Park County Detention Center without bond, meaning he has no opportunity to be released from jail prior to trial. A defendant can only be denied bail in capital cases; it’s unclear if last week’s declaration from Skoric that he is not seeking the death penalty will prompt presiding District Court Judge Bill Simpson to set bail for Klingbeil. 

Skoric suggested at an earlier hearing that, if bail was granted to Klingbeil, he should be required to post $10 million in cash; he cited in part Klingbeil’s “significant assets.” For her part, Domonkos had argued for bond being set at $500,000.