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88-year-old Bear Lake County man charged with first-degree murder

Crime Watch

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Robert Dwight Degnan

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains graphic details of an alleged attempted murder-suicide. It is disturbing and may upset readers.

MONTPELIER — An 88-year-old Bear Lake County man is charged with first-degree murder after deputies say he shot and killed his wife of 56 years Sunday.

The Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call around 7 a.m. from Robert Dwight Degnan saying he and his 79-year-old wife, Marjorie O. Degnan, planned to commit suicide together, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com. But investigators learned that when Robert Degnan placed the call, his wife was already dead.

Deputies got to the Degnan house on the 20000 block of U.S. Highway 30 and found a gruesome scene just outside of Montpelier city limits. Inside the garage, investigators found Marjorie Degnan’s body, and her blood covered the floor.

By the time deputies arrived, Robert Degnan was already on the way to Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in an ambulance. While at the emergency room, doctors medically cleared Robert Degnan, and deputies took him to the Montpelier Police Department for questioning.

Robert Degnan told investigators the joint suicide plan included him shooting Marjorie Degnan then himself because she had never handled a gun before, according to court documents.

He said he had a wasting disease that caused him to lose weight and muscle. He also said the condition made it so he could not eat or sleep, and he had lost most of his eyesight. He reportedly said he could only see out of a small spot in his left eye.

“I shot her,” he allegedly told detectives. “That was hard enough.”

Investigators outline in their report that Robert Degnan then began to describe a beautiful life with his wife and showed a little emotion, wiping a tear from his face. During the interview, Robert Degnan switched to talking about how he saw a show on TV telling the story of a murder case that took eight years to go to trial.

“I did kill my wife,” Robert Degnan then said, according to detectives. “She wanted to be dead.”

When asked about where he shot his wife, he allegedly asked the detective if she knew the fastest way to kill someone. He then described how he shot his wife in the side of the chest, saying it would only take two minutes for a person to bleed out.

Robert Degnan told detectives he and Marjorie Degnan had been planning to kill themselves for the past six months but told no one else, according to court documents. He told investigators that things did not go as planned when he pulled the trigger. Robert Degnan said the force of the gunshot blinded him and caused him to lose the firearm.

He estimated he shot his wife around 4 a.m., more than two hours before calling 911, the probable cause states. After calling 911, Robert Degnan said he started looking for the gun again.

When asked about the location of his wife’s body, Robert Degnan said Marjorie Degnan wanted to kill themselves in the bedroom, but he chose the garage so it wouldn’t ruin everything in the house.

There was no suicide note, and court documents do not detail if authorities found the gun used in the shooting.

Officers arrested Robert Degnan and took him to the Caribou County Jail, which houses inmates for Bear Lake County.

Bail has not been set in Robert Degnan’s case.

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 16.

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