That’s the verdict the 12-person jury found after spending two hours and 20 minutes deliberating the fate of Dennis Klingbeil, on trial for first degree murder. The decision came mid-afternoon Friday after 4 ½ days of trial at the Park County Courthouse.
“He chose to bring a gun against his wife and pull the trigger,” Mike Blonigen, special deputy attorney for Park County said. “It was a conscious decision to kill.”
Klingbeil will receive life in prison for his actions, a minimum sentence for first degree murder in Wyoming. His final sentencing will be determined at a later date. At this time Judge Bill Simpson will decide whether Klingbeil, 77, will be eligible for parole.
After the jury was given instructions for how to rule on the case, the defense and prosecution gave their closing arguments.
A cornerstone piece to this case was whether the shooting exhibited premeditated malice. Blonigen argued the statements Klingbeil made leading up to the shooting, his reckless nature with the weapon during the event and communications immediately following the killing provide enough proof to override any innocence beyond reasonable doubt for the suspect.
“Physical facts don’t lie,” Blonigen said. “It was John Adams that said, ‘facts are stubborn things.’”
The state was pressing for first degree murder, defined as an act of premeditated malice. Also on the table for the jury to consider was second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter- an act of reckless, yet not purposed act of killing.
Rives White, one of Klingbeil’s attorneys, followed after Blonigen with his closing arguments and said due to uncertainties still existing from the crime scene, the jury should find Klingbeil not guilty.
“What do we know about exactly what happened that night? Not much,” White answered himself. “In order to convict someone of the crime charge, every element must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If the jury had found Klingbeil not guilty for first degree murder an involuntary manslaughter conviction would have been a sentence strongly considered.
But Blonigen attempted to nullify that topic by bringing up the straight angle of the bullet wound, in that although authorities could not prove the murder weapon was fully pressed against the skin, they did prove it was shot from close range.
White also mentioned that Klingbeil appeared to have no incentive or motive to kill his wife of 43 years, but it was not enough to sway the minds of the jury.
Blonigen, although on the winning side of the case, said his victory was bittersweet.
“We keep telling ourselves we need to solve domestic violence but not enough gets done,” he said. “You can’t solve marital problems at the end of a gun.”