By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a Wapiti man convicted of murder in killing of his wife.
The court unanimously upheld the conviction of Dennis Klingbeil on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the August 2018 shooting death of his wife Donna.
According to the ruling, Klingbeil shot his wife once in the head on Aug. 5, 2018, and then overdosed on various pills, calling his son before he lost consciousness to tell him about the incident and asking him to “send someone out to take care of the dog.
”Klingbeil recovered after being treated at a Cody hospital and was arrested. While he originally said he could not remember anything about the incident, he later told varying versions of what he could remember, at one point saying the gun accidentally went off.
During Klingbeil’s trial, prosecutors questioned a forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Donna Klingbeil. In response to questions, he said his office felt the shooting was a homicide as opposed to an accident.
Klingbeil argued the testimony amounted to an improper opinion that should not have been offered because it swayed the jury in his case.
But justices noted that the forensic pathologist was only sharing his conclusion that the shooting was a homicide, not an opinion on Klingbeil’s guilt.
“(The pathologist’s) testimony, supported by physical evidence, was unrefuted,” the opinion said. “Based on an external and internal examination, the evidence led to one conclusion — the gun was fired straight into the head while held against the skull.”
Justices also rejected Klingbeil’s argument that the court should not have admitted as evidence records of a domestic disagreement he and his wife had eight seven years prior to the shooting.
In that dispute, deputies were called to the Klingbeil home by Donna Klingbeil, who said that she and her husband had been drinking and arguing and that her husband had a pistol.
Deputies who visited the home said the situation was resolved and there was no need for further action.
Klingbeil argued that by admitting as evidence of the 2011 phone call and visit by deputies, the court prejudiced his defense, but justices disagreed, saying there was sufficient evidence to find Klingbeil guilty even if the testimony about the incident had been withheld.
“Even absent the evidence of the 911 call from 2011 or the challenged testimony of (the pathologist), it is not reasonably probable that the jury would have returned a verdict more favorable to Mr. Klingbeil,” said the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray.