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Man accused of killing his wife ordered to remain in ND state hospital

Henry Deniger listens during a Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2012, hearing in Fargo. Forum file photo

FARGO – In court Thursday, Henry Leo Deniger seemed agitated.

Twice he asked to have his handcuffs removed but was denied. He clanked the cuffs noisily on the defense table while rifling through files. And at one point, he shouted an expletive as a prosecutor addressed the judge.

This all happened during a hearing held to decide whether 52-year-old Deniger, who’s accused of fatally stabbing his wife in 2012, would spend another year at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown, where he’s been receiving treatment for mental illness.

Prosecutors alleged that Deniger stabbed his 52-year-old wife, Kathye Deniger, on March 6, 2012, in their south Fargo apartment, then washed off the knife in the kitchen sink. He was found the next day at a McDonald’s in St. Cloud, Minn., and allegedly admitted to killing his wife.

In April 2013, Deniger was found not guilty after a Cass County judge said he couldn’t be held criminally responsible for his acts. He was committed indefinitely to the state hospital, and each year his case comes under review.

At Thursday’s annual review hearing, Judge Steven McCullough found that Deniger was still a danger to the public and ordered that he be held at the hospital for another year.

During the hearing, Dr. Robert Lisota, a forensic psychologist at the state hospital, testified over the phone, saying that Deniger has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Lisota said Deniger’s condition has improved in recent months, but that he’s not ready to be released from the hospital.

“He is still struggling with some ongoing visions, hallucinations, delusional thoughts, some justification for previous action that is problematic,” Lisota said, adding that Deniger does fairly well when he takes his medication, but without it, his psychosis becomes more pronounced. “I suspect that since he is medication compliant at the present time, we will see further improvement once the stress of his court appearance has passed.”

Later in the hearing, as prosecutor Cherie Clark made the case that Deniger should spend another year at the hospital, he yelled over her, “That’s bull(expletive).”

The hearing continued uninterrupted, and Deniger’s attorney took the floor, telling the judge that he believed Deniger should remain at the hospital for now. Dexheimer said Deniger appeared well when the two met last week, but on Thursday his condition had deteriorated.

“It sounds like they have a fairly hopeful prognosis for him at some point,” Dexheimer said, referring to the state hospital’s assessment of Deniger. “Medication seems to be the issue.”

Dexheimer told the judge that Deniger agreed last week that he should stay at the hospital, but on Thursday, his mind had changed.

“I want to be set free,” Deniger told his attorney before the hearing.

“Like we discussed last week, that’s not going to happen,” Dexheimer replied.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734