Four critical witnesses took the stand in day two of the Dennis Klingbeil trial Tuesday.
Park County Sheriff Scott Steward, Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Johnson, Mark Klingbeil and Brad Lanken all received questioning from both prosecution and defense.
Steward and Johnson were probed about the August 2018 night of the murder, initial investigation and the way evidence was handled.
Park County Sheriff’s Deputy J.J. Schwindt and Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigations Agent Darrell Steward also took the stand and answered questions about the investigation.
The ambiguity surrounding the bullet that killed Donna Klingbeil and travelled through her house after leaving her body was a primary criticism posed by the defense.
Schwindt said it is possible that the at least five emergency responders could have inadvertently moved a chair near the body of Donna Klingbeil while trying to save her life. Rives White, one of Klingbeil’s attorneys, alluded to a correlation between this statement and the possibility the bullet could have been moved before arriving at its final resting location, below the couple’s fireplace.
But that location if untainted, seems to corroborate the state’s argument Dennis Klingbeil didn’t accidentally discharge his weapon, when considering the spatial environment of the house.
White also criticized investigators for not performing a test on the gunpowder that was released from the gun and not testing Donna Klingbeil’s bloody shirt.
An additional firearm not directly associated with the shooting was found beneath a couch cushion in the living room of the Wapiti house after the initial crime scene investigation, found sometime in late 2018. It’s unclear what the significance of this other weapon at this time, beyond casting doubt into the quality of the crime scene investigation.
“Then you magically find a gun in the house?” Rives questioned. “Wasn’t part of your investigation looking for weapons?”
Family members speak
Shortly after he shot his wife of 43 years, Dennis Klingbeil called his son Mark Klingbeil.
Mark Klingbeil was asked about this conversation and other phone communications the father and son had after Dennis Klingbeil was checked into custody at the Park County Detention Center.
“You’re devastated,” Mark Klingbeil said when asked about how he felt when his father told him what he had done.
Mike Blonigen, special prosecutor for the state, played for the courtroom about five different recorded phone calls the defendant made to his son after the shooting.
“I can’t believe this, this is unbelievable,” Dennis told his son in one conversation.
After expressing confusion and a lack of memory for what exactly happened the night of his murder, Dennis Klingbeil seemed to come to an abrupt clarity in a call made Sept. 16, 2018.
“It was an accident,” Klingbeil told his biological son in the phone call. “I had the gun in my lap, then I started thinking and pulled the hammer back up … like I was dry firing and the gun went off.”
Lanken, Dennis Klingbeil’s step-son and Donna’s biological son, was called to the stand and testified primarily to the souring relations between Donna and Dennis during the nine months leading up to the night of the shooting. How the couple’s living trust would be divided between the two was the primary reason behind their differences.
“I would have to say there was a breakdown in trust, then communication and then came animosity,” Lanken said.
Both sons were visibly emotional during the proceedings, holding back tears a few different times. Lanken broke down into tears while Mark Klingbeil was testifying and when the court resumed from a short recess while he was on the stand.
Lanken will be questioned further when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.