A Fargo man accused of killing his wife has been found not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility and could spend the rest of his life in the State Hospital in Jamestown.
The Forum reports (http://bit.ly/15ryJuA ) that Henry Leo Deniger, 51, told a judge Friday that the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ commanded him to ask for a jury trial. But minutes later, he agreed to have a bench trial without a jury.
After a trial lasting less than 20 minutes, Judge Steven McCullough found Deninger not guilty by reason of a lack of criminal responsibility. The judge ordered that Deniger be returned to the State Hospital, where he will be evaluated to determine if he's mentally ill and whether there's a substantial risk he might commit another violent offense.
Deniger was accused of fatally stabbing his 52-year-old wife, Kathye Deniger. Her body was found in the couple's south Fargo apartment on March 6, 2012.
Because the felony murder charge against Deniger carried a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, he now faces up to life in the State Hospital. A court hearing to determine his fate will be held in 90 days, attorneys said.
Before declaring Deniger not guilty, the judge said he found "the acts which would constitute the crime occurred and that Mr. Deniger did them." The judge said Deniger and prosecutors had stipulated to the facts in the case.
The lone witness in Friday's trial was forensic psychologist Lynne Sullivan from the State Hospital. She evaluated Deniger multiple times to determine his competency to stand trial and his criminal responsibility.
Sullivan said she diagnosed Deniger with schizo-affective disorder-bipolar type and anti-social personality traits. The latter condition can affect people's ability to control and understand their conduct, she said.
Sullivan said in her opinion, Deniger's reported conduct around the time of the killing was clearly influenced by his psychosis.
"He does believe, and did believe, and this is a fairly chronic belief of his, that the Holy Ghost and God and a variety of other angels and spirits, Jesus, various forms of Jesus, talk to him and control his behavior or command him to engage in certain behavior that he can't resist," Sullivan said.
Prosecutor Cherie Clark, an assistant Cass County state's attorney, said the state hired its own expert psychologist, who also found that Deniger lacked criminal responsibility.