Wapiti man's murder trial set for Aug. 5
July 25, 2019
CODY — The jury trial of a Wapiti man accused of first-degree murder is now less than two weeks away.
That trial will open Aug. 5, exactly one year from when Dennis Klingbeil is alleged to have shot his wife of 41 years, Donna Klingbeil.
Klingbeil could receive life imprisonment and fines up to $10,000 for his alleged crimes. He has been in custody in the Park County Detention Center with $10 million bond since August 2018.
The case is expected to be heard Aug. 5-8, Aug. 12-16, and if necessary Aug. 19-20.
Both sides in the trial have provided basic outlines for their planned arguments, including possible witnesses.
As prosecutor, the state plans to call on up to 11 members of law enforcement, six members of the general public, four experts and seven other possible witnesses for its case.
Mike Blonigen, a former Natrona County District Attorney who has been hired to assist with Klingbeil’s prosecution as a special deputy prosecuting attorney, has submitted a trove of information documenting a history of verbal disputes between Klingbeil and his wife, and a reoccurring history of the suspect threatening others with guns, dating back nearly 40 years.
Brad Lanken, Donna Klingbeil’s son, told investigators the Klingbeils’ relations had turned particularly sour in January 2018 from disputes regarding the couple’s financial trust, which both Klingbeils alleged were valued around $10 million.
Accounts from both Lanken and Klingbeil’s son Mark Klingbeil are planned to be used in the jury trial. Lanken said Dennis Klingbeil told him the night of the alleged murder the trust dispute had become “too much, I’m going to put an end to it tonight.”
Trust documents were found at the Klingbeil’s home during the crime scene investigation.
At a hearing held last Friday, Klingbeil’s attorney, Donna Domonkos, questioned the authenticity of Lanken, a witness who will be used in connection with some of the oldest evidence against Klingbeil, because of his own criminal past during that time, but Judge Bill Simpson ruled in favor of the state, in that their testimony will still be allowed.
“But if we have a witness who says their word is golden,” Simpson said, “That may open terms of impeachment.”
The defense will be presenting a different case, arguing Klingbeil’s shooting was an accident and that he should be charged with second degree murder.
Domonkos and Klingbeil’s other attorney Rives White, have submitted no guaranteed witnesses at this time but they may be calling upon six witnesses including Dennis Klingbeil and a firearms expert from Arizona, Ronald Scott, to provide his knowledge of accidental discharges.
The state submitted a motion opposing this expert witness because Wyoming law prohibits outside, third-party testimony that takes a position on a case.
Simpson said he expects to allow this evidence as long as it follows certain criteria.
“I do believe the individual will be permitted to testify,” he said. “The nature and scope (of his testimony) is still to be determined.”
The defense also plans to use evidence from the couple’s Pinnacle Bank records in its arguments.
It was also determined Friday Klingbeil will be allowed to wear street clothes during the hearing.