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Death penalty off the table for doctor accused of murder

Crime Watch

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Robert Degnan

MONTPELIER — Bear Lake County Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a man accused of shooting and killing his wife last month.

Investigators say that on Sept. 6, 88-year-old Robert Degnan called 911 after allegedly killing his wife, 79-year-old Marjorie O. Degnan. According to an affidavit of probable cause, Degnan said the couple planned to commit suicide together but he lost the gun before he could turn it on himself.

Degnan pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Thursday morning at his arraignment. Ahead of the hearing, Bear Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Adam McKenzie filed the notice that he will not seek the death penalty against Degnan.

RELATED | Man accused of killing wife of 59 years ordered to undergo competency evaluation

Joseph Hayes, Degnan’s attorney, also filed a motion asking that all hearings be held in person for the retired doctor. Degnan worked as an OB-GYN at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital just minutes from the home where his wife was found dead.

“Due to Dr. Degnan’s age and current circumstances, Counsel cannot satisfy himself that Dr. Degnan fully understands processing as (they) occur,” Hayes wrote in the motion. “Dr. Degnan also has difficulty hearing proceedings via video conference and Counsel needs to be able to explain proceedings.”

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

Most hearings across the Gem state have been held via Zoom as the Idaho Supreme Court issued multiple orders to do so in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

District Judge Mitchell Brown agreed and hearings for Degnan will happen in person.

Degnan was being held in the Caribou County Jail, which houses inmates for Bear Lake County. Brown set bail at $25,000, a Bear Lake County clerk confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Degnan’s next court hearing is set for Nov. 19 with a jury trial scheduled for Jan. 4.