A Montpelier man and former well-known doctor is back in jail and will remain incarcerated until he’s sentenced next week for felony voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting his wife in the chest in September 2020, court records say.
Robert Dwight Degnan, 89, of Montpelier, was transported to and incarcerated at the Bannock County Jail on Thursday for committing numerous violations of his presentence release conditions, according to court records. Degnan had already spent 10 days in jail from July 28 until Sept. 7 for previous violations of his release.
Degnan in May pleaded guilty to felony voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain with special Bear Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Adam J. McKenzie. Degnan’s sentencing hearing was scheduled for Aug. 19.
The plea agreement between Degnan and prosecutors was binding, meaning that when Mitchell Brown, the 6th District Judge assigned to the case, accepted it he was then bound to enforce the terms of the agreement.
The terms of the agreement involved Degnan pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for prosecutors dismissing the felony first-degree murder charge he was initially charged with on Sept. 8, 2020. Additionally, the binding plea agreement called on Brown to impose and then suspend a unified 15-year prison sentence and instead place Degnan on felony probation for 15 years.
In the event the 15-year prison sentence is later imposed for any reason, Degnan would be required to be incarcerated for at least five years before being eligible for parole. Brown has the discretion to impose any fine amount not to exceed $15,000 as well as any court costs.
The plea agreement also included presentence conditions that required Degnan to reside in an assisted living facility located in Pocatello, Willard House, which according to its website is a facility that specializes in caring for individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Degnan was ordered to wear an ankle monitor during his stay at the Willard House and was not permitted to leave the facility without a prior court order, according to court records.
Furthermore, the plea agreement states Degnan cannot have any non-consensual written, verbal or personal contact with any of his children.
Degnan also waived his right to appeal his guilty plea or to pursue post-conviction relief as part of the plea arrangement, which Degnan, his Pocatello attorney Stratton Laggis and McKenzie signed in May.
The first presentence violations Degnan committed were reported to the court during a hearing on July 26. In addition to leaving the mental health facility where he was ordered to remain until sentencing, Degnan attempted to engage in a relationship with one of the residents at the facility, was combative with staff and personnel at the mental health facility and had secretly accessed money in some way to purchase a rope, court records say. The rope had been fashioned into a noose and was discovered in Degnan’s room, according to court records.
Sixth District Judge Mitchell W. Brown granted a motion from McKenzie to impose sanctions against Degnan that included him spending 10 days in jail beginning on July 28, court records show.
After he was released from jail, Degnan continued to violate the conditions of his presentence release, court records say.
Degnan wrote a letter to a person he was not to associate with and again left the Willard House twice without permission, according to court records.
So instead of being sentenced on Aug. 19, Degnan was ordered back into the custody of the Bannock County Jail, ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and his sentencing hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 2. Degnan will remain in jail until he’s sentenced, court records say.
It remains unclear if Degnan’s presentence release violations will result in the revocation of his plea agreement and McKenzie was not immediately available for comment for this story.
Degnan was initially charged with one count of first-degree murder on Sept. 8, 2020, after he fatally shot his wife, Marjorie, in the chest in the early morning hours of Sept. 6, 2020, in a failed murder-suicide attempt, according to police reports the Idaho State Journal obtained last year. Degnan was unable to shoot himself after he dropped the gun and was unable to find it due to his poor eyesight, police said.
For about three decades, Degnan served as an obstetrician and gynecologist for Bear Lake Memorial Hospital in Montpelier after having moved to the area with his wife, Marjorie, and three of their eight children in 1987. Up to that point, he had delivered approximately 10,000 babies throughout the country.
Degnan told police that he had a wasting disease that caused him to lose weight and muscle, adding that “he just didn’t want to live” anymore, police said. About six weeks prior to the shooting, Degnan endured a major convulsion during a medical episode that caused him to lose most of his eyesight, police said, adding that Degnan could only see out of a small spot in his left eye.
Soon after Degnan was charged with first-degree murder, McKenzie filed a motion notifying the court that his office has no intention of seeking the death penalty against Degnan.
Had he been convicted of the first-degree murder charge filed against him, Degnan faced up to life in prison.