FARGO (AP) - A Fargo man charged with murder in his wife's stabbing death cannot begin treatment at the state hospital before it's determined whether he's mentally competent to continue with the case, a judge said Wednesday.
Attorneys for Henry Deniger Sr. have filed a motion in Cass County Court to suspend the case and commit him to the hospital in Jamestown, perhaps for life if doctors determine he cannot help with his own defense.
A hearing to discuss the motion was scheduled Wednesday, but Judge Steven McCullough said it should be delayed until an evaluation by a state hospital expert is complete. The report is due Sept. 6.
In the meantime, defense attorney Nicholas Thornton asked that Deniger be immediately transferred to the state hospital. Deniger, 50, is currently being monitored by jailers who don't have the training to deal with him, the court-appointed attorney said.
"We don't want to delay it. Let's get him to the hospital," Thornton said.
Deniger is accused of stabbing 52-year-old Kathye Deniger to death in March. She was found dead in the couple's Fargo apartment. He was arrested the following day in St. Cloud, Minn.
Prosecutor Reid Brady objected to any action in the case until he's able to review the recent evaluation.
"We should have all the facts before further decisions are made," Brady said.
Judge Steven McCullough said the request to start treatment immediately is "laudable," but he doesn't have the authority to refer Deniger to the state hospital until his competency is determined.
McCullough asked Deniger before adjourning whether or not he understood Wednesday's proceedings.
"Yeah I do," the defendant said, his voice muffled because his hands were covering his face.
A summary of the initial evaluation in May said that Deniger currently lacks the ability to proceed, but said he "may regain fitness in the foreseeable future." The complete evaluation is sealed.
Authorities said the Denigers had lived in Fargo for just over a year. The wife's body was discovered by officers called to do a welfare check. She had not been seen for several days.
Murders are rare in North Dakota. According to FBI statistics, the state had 10 murders or non-negligent homicides in 2010, the most recent year for which full data is available.