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Emily Welker, Published February 05 2014

Prosecutor: Finley woman killed husband with 'drugs and asphyxiation'

FINLEY, N.D. – A 60-year-old woman accused of killing her husband here on Monday told investigators she killed him with “drugs and asphyxiation,” officials claim in charges filed Wednesday.

Sherry Ann Midstokke, 60, made her initial appearance Wednesday in Cass County District Court to face a Class AA felony murder charge in the death of her husband, Lyle, 66. The charge carries a potential sentence of life in prison without parole.

Midstokke was charged Wednesday in Steele County District Court, but Steele County State’s Attorney Charlie Stock said her first hearing was handled in Cass County in order to expedite the court process. Steele County only conducts court once a month.

Midstokke called 911 about 7:30 a.m. Monday and said she had just returned home from work as a nursing assistant and found her husband dead, according to Steele County Sheriff Wayne Beckman.

Charges say that Lyle Midstokke was found on the floor of their bedroom next to the bed.

After a preliminary investigation, Lyle Midstokke’s body was taken to Grand Forks for an autopsy. Stock said the cause of Lyle Midstokke’s death was determined to be asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, Sherry Midstokke left her home Monday and went to Mayville, about 25 miles east, where she has family members, Beckman said.

Late Monday afternoon, Sherry Midstokke admitted in an interview with special agents with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation that she intentionally killed her husband, one of the BCI agents alleges in an affidavit filed with the charges.

No motive for the killing is mentioned in the report, but the BCI claims physical evidence found at the crime scene backs up Midstokke’s admission. Authorities say in the report the evidence includes items used to asphyxiate the 66-year-old.

Asphyxiation is the restriction of oxygen, which could happen by strangling or other means.

Midstokke asked the court to lower her bail from $500,000, telling Judge Steven Marquart she was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

“And I can’t pay it,” she added.

Stock raised concerns about the state of Midstokke’s mental health, and said she had not yet been psychologically evaluated.

Marquart agreed to leave the bail at $500,000, though the issue could be revisited in a status conference Feb. 26 in Steele County District Court.

Midstokke told the judge she plans to hire Fargo defense attorney Bruce Quick to represent her.

Midstokke, who turns 61 on Saturday, grew up in Finley, as did her husband, Beckman said.

She was a certified nursing assistant at facilities in the area, he said.

Lyle Midstokke worked for a farmer. The couple have three adult children and several grandchildren.

There is no criminal history with the couple and Beckman said his department never received a call of any domestic dispute from the Midstokkes.

Lyle Midstokke was a Vietnam War veteran.

“He was active in the American Legion, carried the flag for parades,” said Homer Wennerstrom, who lives in nearby Hope.

Larry Amundson, mayor of Finley, declined to comment.

“I’m not going to talk about it, he’s a close friend of mine.”

Beckman and others said Midstokke’s alleged murder appears to be the only one in Steele County since a police officer in Hope was gunned down in 1933.

According to Wennerstrom, whose uncle, David Wennerstrom, was Steele County Sheriff in the 1930s, Hope Police Officer David Stewart was shot to death by Jack “Tex” Smeltzer, who was attempting to steal gasoline from the Texaco station in August of 1933.

Lyle Midstokke’s funeral will be 10:30 a.m., Feb. 15, in Finley Evangelical Lutheran Church, with visitation 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Quam-Plaisted-Cushman Funeral Home in Finley, said owner Rick Cushman.

Stephen J. Lee of the Forum News Service contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541