Natrona County Prosecutor Again Will Seek Death for Murderer Dale Eaton
The Natrona County District Attorney's Office again will file a notice to seek the death penalty for Dale Wayne Eaton, who was convicted in 2004 of the murder of Lisa Marie Kimmel in 1988, and for a while was Wyoming's lone death row inmate.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Blonigen on Tuesday told Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey during a status conference conducted by video conference that he again will file a notice even though one had been filed before.
The case started in 1988, when the 18-year-old Kimmel was found in the North Platte River at Government Bridge in Natrona County on April 2, 1988. She was driving from Denver to her home in Billings, Mont., and was to pick up her boyfriend in Cody. He called to report that she never arrived.
The case remained unsolved until 2002 when researchers found DNA from her rape kit matched Eaton's, who had owned property in Moneta between Casper and Shoshoni. Her car was unearthed on the property that summer.
Eaton was tried -- during which a mental evaluation was performed and he was found competent to stand trial -- and was convicted in 2004.
The jury decided he deserved the death penalty and the court sentenced him to death, which required another mental evaluation for competency.
An appeal to the Wyoming federal court stopped that mental evaluation. The U.S. Supreme Court, after a series of legal battles in other courts over more than a decade, decided on May 18 to not hear the case.
At Tuesday's status conference, Eaton, 75, was not present.
Blonigen and Eaton defense attorney Sean O'Brien agreed for the need for the pre-death penalty mental evaluation.
However, Blonigen had objected to O'Brien or other defense attorney be present at that evaluation, saying the presence of an attorney could affect the outcome of the evaluation.
O'Brien said this is a resentencing, and not a retrial of the guilt or innocence of Eaton. Eaton cannot enter a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, because he has been convicted, O'Brien said.
He also said he's attended many mental evaluations, withdraws from the questioning, and that he doesn't interfere. But if Eaton has any discomfort such as anxiety he can ask for help and O'Brien said that would help the evaluation go forward.
Forgey set a deadline of June 19 for the Natrona County District Attorney's Office to file its documents about the sentencing mental health evaluation, and another seven days for Eaton's attorneys to respond.
He will conduct the mental health hearing by teleconference at 2:30 p.m. July 10.
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