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Former doctor dies just weeks after being sent to prison for killing his wife

Crime Watch

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BOISE — A prominent former Bear Lake County doctor died in prison Sunday, just weeks after being sentenced for killing his wife in what he said was a failed suicide pact.

Robert Degnan, 89, died at the Idaho State Correctional Institution, according to the Ada County Coroner’s Office. Degnan was sentenced on Oct. 7 to spend three to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

An Idaho Department of Correction spokesman was not immediately available for comment and it is not clear how Degnan died.

Investigative reports show on Sept. 8, 2020, Degnan shot and killed his wife of 59 years, 79-year-old Marjorie O. Degnan.

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Prosecutors initially charged Degnan with first-degree murder; however, as part of a plea agreement, the charge was changed to manslaughter. Additionally, the plea agreement originally stipulated Degnan would be placed on probation while living in a Pocatello assisted living facility.

But before sentencing, Degnan violated the terms of his pre-trial release, and District Judge Mitchell Brown opted to send him to prison, according to court records.

When Degnan called 911 in 2020, investigators found a gruesome scene at his home south of Montpelier. His wife lay on the ground dead. Degnan told officers the couple planned to end their lives together that day. Hours before calling 911, Degnan told investigators the force of the fatal gunshot blinded him, which caused him to lose the firearm before he could pull the trigger on himself.

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Investigators found no suicide note at the crime scene.

According to Marjorie Degnan’s obituary, she met her husband in 1962 at New York Hospital, where Robert Degnan was a resident. The couple had eight kids and ultimately moved to Bear Lake County, where Robert Degnan, an obstetrician-gynecologist, worked at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital.