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Former small-town doctor sent to prison for killing his wife of 59 years

Crime Watch

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PARIS — A former prominent Bear Lake County doctor is going to prison after shooting and killing his wife in what he said was a failed suicide pact.

Robert Degnan, 89, received a three to 11-year prison sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to felony voluntary manslaughter. Investigative reports show on Sept. 8, 2020, Degnan shot and killed his wife of 59 years, 79-year-old Marjorie O. Degnan.

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.

RELATED | Man pleads guilty to killing his wife in exchange for probation

Marjorie O. Degnan

When Degnan called 911 in 2020, investigators found the gruesome scene at his home south of Montpelier. His wife lay on the ground dead, and Degnan said the couple planned to end their lives together that day. Hours before calling 911, Degnan told investigators the force of the 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 OB-GYN, worked at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital.

“Until the very end, Midge’s truest love was Bob, to whom she was forever devoted,” the obituary reads. “It is impossible to describe the grief the family feels at this time. Their comfort comes in knowing Midge is free from suffering. Her legacy shines on through her husband, Dr. Robert Degnan; her eight children (and other family members).”

In addition to the time in prison, Brown ordered Degnan to pay $1,945.50 in fees and fines.