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Wendy Reuer, Published August 29 2012

State has until Sept. 6 to respond to treatment request for man accused of killing his wife

FARGO – Prosecutors have until Sept. 6 to counter a defense motion seeking to commit for treatment a Fargo man charged with murdering his wife.

Attorneys for 50-year-old Leo Henry Deniger said Wednesday in Cass County District Court they are not asking the case be suspended, but rather that he be committed to the State Hospital as soon as possible for treatment aimed at making him mentally fit to stand trial.

Deniger faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted in the fatal stabbing of his wife, Kathye Deniger. Her body was found in the couple’s south Fargo apartment March 6.

Deniger has undergone two psychological evaluations. The first took place May 16-17 at the State Hospital in Jamestown to determine if Deniger could be held criminally responsible for his actions.

The defense then sought a competency evaluation to see if he was mentally capable of being tried, which was completed July 27. A psychologist suggested in her report that Deniger “currently lacks fitness to proceed in this matter, but may regain fitness in the foreseeable future,” the motion states.

In the report cited in the motion, the psychologist suggested the best place for Deniger to receive competency restoration treatment is the State Hospital, where his condition would be monitored more closely by trained and licensed personnel than at the Cass County Jail.

Judge Steven McCullough allowed prosecutors until Sept. 6 to bring forward evidence that proves Deniger is fit to stand trial.

Deniger has on multiple occasions been found incompetent to stand trial for reasons of mental fitness, including two cases in Washington state – one involving carjacking, the other harassment – in which he was acquitted for competency issues.

McCullough also delayed a decision Wednesday on a second motion filed by Deniger’s attorney, Nicholas Thornton, to withdraw from the case. The denied a prior request by Deniger to replace Thornton because of what Deniger perceived as a conflict of interest between his lawyer and possible state’s witnesses.

Deniger’s next court appearance is set for Sept. 27.