Published April 16 2012
Lawyers for Fargo man accused of killing wife seek psych eval
The motion, made last week by public defender Nicholas Thornton on behalf of 50-year-old Henry Leo Deniger, is sealed.
A closed hearing is set for Thursday before Judge Steven McCullough in Cass County District Court. If he authorizes the expense of the evaluation, the order to authorize the expense will be a public record.
Deniger faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted of the Class AA felony murder charge filed against him on March 8, two days after his wife, Kathye Deniger, was found stabbed to death in their south Fargo apartment.
In court documents, police claim Deniger confessed to the killing when he was arrested March 7 in St. Cloud, Minn.
Thornton and public defender Gordon Dexheimer are representing Deniger, who made his first court appearance in Fargo on April 10. Bail was set at $1 million cash or bond.
Thornton said Monday he couldn’t comment on the motion or anything the attorneys may have discussed with Deniger, citing attorney-client privilege.
As The Forum has previously reported, Deniger’s criminal history includes several cases in which his mental competency was brought into question.
- A judge in Washington’s King County declared Deniger insane at the time of a June 2001 carjacking incident in Seattle, acquitting him of the crime, court records show.
Deniger had been evaluated at Washington’s Western State Hospital, which recommended outpatient treatment. A social worker later said Deniger threatened to kill her when she asked him to return to the hospital to see a doctor about his medications, court records show.
Deniger was taken back into custody in August 2003. The matter dragged on until Dec. 2, 2005, when the same judge, after considering a report from the hospital, released him from control by the court.
- A harassment charge filed against him in July 2008 in Seattle Municipal Court was dismissed for reason of incompetency.
- In a 1996 case in Florida, Deniger was charged with criminal mischief and trespassing. He was initially deemed incompetent to stand trial and committed to the state Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, but was later found competent and pleaded guilty to the trespassing charge.
Deniger is set for a preliminary hearing on May 10, at which time he may enter pleas to the murder charge and a Class C felony charge of tampering with evidence for allegedly washing a knife discovered at the crime scene.
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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528