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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 19, 1997
Author: Special to the Journal Sentinel
Rejecting a Town of Darien woman’s contention that she shot her violent husband in self-defense, a judge Thursday sentenced the woman to 30 years in prison. Denise Kirmsse, 41, had told sheriff’s deputies she killed her estranged husband, Richard Kirmsse, 60, after he “struck and kicked” her, and pounded her head against the wall during an argument June 29 at their former home. Kirmsse, who pleaded no contest in October to second-degree intentional homicide, said she found the pistol lying on a couch and pointed it at him, thinking the safety was on.
But Walworth County Circuit Judge Robert Kennedy said there was evidence that Kirmsse brought the loaded .25-caliber pistol with her when she went to see her husband, from whom she was seeking a divorce. “The circumstantial evidence is clear that she came up behind him, put the gun to his neck and fired the gun,” Kennedy said. This was not the case of “a woman defending herself in a domestic violence situation,” he said.
Kirmsse, who was living in a homeless shelter near Darien when the shooting occurred, originally pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Her attorney, public defender Jeffrey Krebs, told Kennedy his client had a long history of severe mental illness and had been hospitalized seven or eight times in four states for psychiatric disorders. Richard Kirmsse was intoxicated at the time of the shooting and the effect of his wife’s psychiatric medications, combined with alcohol she had drunk earlier, made for “an explosive result,” Krebs said. The dead man’s brother, Ronald Kirmsse, said his brother had been married at least five times and became verbally abusive but not physically violent during drinking bouts. Other family members said Denise and Richard Kirmsse met several years ago while both were patients at the Rock County Mental Health Center, where he was being treated for alcoholism and she for depression.
Elkhorn Copyright 1997, 1998 Journal Sentinel Inc. Record Number: MWS12190208