By Leo Wolfson
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CODY — A Wapiti man facing first-degree murder of his wife last August will for the first time be given opportunity to bond out of jail, but first he must come up with an extremely large sum of money.
After Dennis Klingbeil was denied bond on three occasions in the fall, District Court Judge Bill Simpson made a slight tweak to his order Monday, offering Dennis Klingbeil a $10 million cash-only bond. Klingbeil has been in custody since Aug. 9 for the Aug. 5 killing of his wife Donna Klingbeil.
Until Dec. 10, when Park County District Attorney Bryan Skoric officially announced he would not be seeking the death penalty in the murder trial, the 76-year-old defendant was still eligible for the death penalty and thus not subject to the Wyoming Constitution bail-mandate.
With the death penalty officially off the table, a stipulated bond was required.
“In any non-capital case, defendants are entitled to bail,” Skoric said. “Since the State elected not to seek the death penalty, it became non-capital and the bail requirement attaches.”
Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters twice denied bond appeals from Klingbeil and his legal representation while Simpson handed out another rejection in September.
“To pack up and leave the town, leave the state, leave the country,” Waters said during an Aug. 13 bond hearing , “I believe [Klingbeil] has the means and the wherewithal to do that in a heartbeat.”
At that hearing Skoric asked that if Waters did set bond, it be posted at $10 million cash-only.
“Dennis Klingbeil does not have liquid assets,” Klingbeil’s original attorney, Anna Olson, from Park Street Law Office said at the August hearing. “A $10 million bond will keep him in jail until trial.”
Klingbeil is currently set to face jury trial March 4 in Park County District Court.
Park County detective Phil Johnson said in charging documents an ongoing argument regarding a trust dispute may have been what drove Dennis Klingbeil over the edge to kill his wife. Documents allege the Klingbeils spent months leading up to the murder arguing over the ownership of $3.6 million worth of Park County assets in a revocable trust.
In addition to the nine local properties the trust encompassed, Skoric said at an Aug. 13 bond hearing Klingbeil has dozens of properties outside the state.
More recently both sides have focused on evidence.
On Jan. 4 the State submitted a motion to allow testimony pertaining to Dennis Klingbeil’s medical records while hospitalized from Aug. 5-9.
“To find that the State’s interest in access to the patient’s medical records and information outweighs the patient’s privacy interest,” Skoric wrote in the order. “If they were excluded from testifying, it would severely prejudice this case and result in a miscarriage of justice.”
Simpson accepted that motion Monday.
The records in question will pertain to exams performed by Dr. Kathleen DiVincenzo, Dr. Ryan Bower and Dr. Andrew Hoene who now have permission to testify during the case.
On Monday, Klingbeil’s current attorney Donna Domonkos, of Cheyenne-based Domonkos Law Office, submitted a motion to suppress other statements made by Klingbeil in a health assessment Aug. 8, three days after he allegedly shot his wife.
The judge had not ruled on that motion as of Wednesday morning.
The night of Donna Klingbeil’s murder, Dennis Klingbeil was found in his Wapiti home unconscious. He was rushed to West Park Hospital in a coma after overdosing on pills he ingested in the aftermath of the shooting.
Domonkos said under the Glasgow Coma Scale which rates from 1-15, Klingbeil was identified as a 5 by Cody Regional Health staff. The attorney said any score between 3-5 is considered potentially fatal.
But Domonkos said Klingbeil’s health did slowly return and he was issued a health assessment Aug. 8.
The day of the health assessment Domonkos said Klingbeil told Cody Regional Health staff he felt suicidal. Domonkos said Klingbeil had his son, Mark Klingbeil, sign a form acknowledging he had been read his legal rights, because he said his son had, “power of attorney.”
Charging documents said Mark Klingbeil called police from Florida the night of the slaying, telling them his father had confessed to shooting Donna Klingbeil before overdosing.
“The defendant was just coming out of a potentially fatal coma,” Domonkos wrote in the motion. “The defendant was suicidal. The defendant did not understand what was happening which is evident from the fact he believed his son, as his power of attorney, could sign a document stating the defendant understood his rights. Any statements made during this assessment in the presence of law enforcement should be suppressed as voluntary statements.”
Klingbeil was released from the hospital and booked into the Park County Detention Center the day after the assessment test, where he has been since.
Domonkos cited the incident as a Miranda violation and also mentioned the Wyoming Supreme Court Case Madrid v. Wyoming which determined, “the defendant’s statements must result from free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion and deception.”
Domonkos has argued at prior hearings that the combination of Klingbeil’s high blood alcohol content and attempted suicide the night of the murder disprove him having any premeditated malice and therefore her client should be charged with second-degree murder. At the August arraignment hearing Domonkos also claimed Klingbeil’s statement to Donna’s son that his and Donna’s disputes had become “too much, I’m going to put an end to it tonight,” was a reference to Klingbeil’s intent to commit suicide.
There has been no change to Klingbeil’s first degree murder charge to date.
On Dec. 19 the district attorney’s office made a motion to push back the original Feb. 25 jury trial date, requesting the case be rescheduled for a yet to be determined later date. The office acknowledged any date set later than March 20 would violate the State of Wyoming’s right to speedy trial (180 days from Sept. 21 arraignment), unless Klingbeil signs a waiver lifting said requirement.
The State argued rescheduling should occur because Thomas Bennett, the Wyoming state pathologist who performed the autopsy on Donna Klingbeil, will be on vacation the week the trial is scheduled.
Domonkos submitted an objection to the change of trial date request Dec. 26, stating the jury trial dates have been set since Oct. 3.
“The defendant is prepared to go to trial … and demands his constitutional right to a speedy trial,” Domonkos wrote in the objection.
Domonkos also submitted a motion the State disclose certain evidence it is planning on using in the trial, including past crimes, wrongs or acts Klingbeil has committed in the past – a common procedural move in criminal cases.
The defense has requested to see all of Klingbeil’s booking information, statements made before and after arrest, all information related to the murder crime scene and all witnesses planned for testimony. The attorney submitted a specific demand for notice of the State’s intention to use any expert witness in its testimony.