Cody – There were dramatic events in a Cody murder trial Monday, even before testimony began. One juror was excused after a reported break down. And, the defense claimed when a Wapiti man shot and killed his wife a year ago, it was an accident.
When 76-year old Dennis Klingbeil showed up for court last August, he was charged with the murder of his 75-year old wife, Donna Klingbeil, at their Wapiti home. He was disheveled.
When Klingbeil showed up for his first degree murder trial Monday he looked very different than he did last year. But, he had to wait for the trial to begin, because one of the jurors picked in the morning was seen crying during the lunch hour. The bailiff told District Judge William Simpson she showed him a rash on her arm, and told him she didn’t think she could complete her obligations as a juror.
So, the jury pool was called back for another review. More jurors were chosen to create a 12 juror panel with four alternates. Judge Simpson said he wanted to be prepared in case anyone else dropped off the panel.
In opening arguments, the jurors heard the prosecutor paint the picture of a brutal and intentional murder.
Blonigan told the jurors Klingbeil and his wife had been arguing over trusts that would divide their 12 million dollar fortune between his children and hers. He told the jury Klingbeil put a .38 caliber hand gun to his wife’s head, and shot her.
The prosecutor said Klingbeil then called his son and said, “I shot your mother in the head”, then asked him to take care of the couple’s dog. The prosecutor pointed out Klinbeil did not call 911 for his wife, who was still alive at the time. She died later at a Billings hospital.
But, Klingbeil’s defense attorney, told the jury her client was actually attempting to kill himself, and accidentally shot his wife as he lowered the gun from his own head.
She said Klingbeil called his son, before taking pain and sleeping pills to try to kill himself, and asked the son to take care of the couple’s dog, because their stepson had committed suicide, and he was partially eaten by his dog before the body was found. She said Klingbeil thought his wife was dead, and didn’t want the same thing to happen to their dog.
The jury will hear testimony Tuesday morning. They will have to decide whether the case is a murder-suicide attempt, or a suicide-accidental shooting.