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Prosecutor: Finley woman killed husband with 'drugs and asphyxiation'

Sherry Midstokke listens to charges Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in the Cass County Court House in Fargo. Midstokke, 60, is charged with the murder of her husband which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if she were to be convicted. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 2
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FARGO — Sherry Midstokke told investigators she “intentionally” killed her husband in their Finley, N.D., home on Monday “by means of drugs and asphyxiation,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The 60-year-old made an initial appearance Wednesday in state district court in Fargo, charged with murdering Lyle Midstokke, 66. If convicted she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

The couple grew up in the town of 446, Steele County Sheriff Wayne Beckman said. She worked as a certified nursing assistant at facilities in the area and he for a farmer.

They have three adult children and several grandchildren.

Lyle Midstokke was a Vietnam War veteran.

“He was active in the American Legion, carried the flag for parades,” said Homer Wennerstrom, an acquaintance who lives in nearby Hope, N.D.

Finley doesn’t have a jail and typically sends female inmates to Cass County, so Sherry Midstokke’s appearance was held in Fargo for convenience. She remains there after she failed to convince the court to lower her bail. State District Judge Steven Marquart left it at $500,000 cash only.

A confession

Beckman said Midstokke called 911 about 7:30 a.m. Monday and said she had just discovered her husband’s body after returning home from work.

Deputies responded and found his body on the floor of the couple’s bedroom, according to the affidavit of probable cause written by Jeramie Quam of the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

After a preliminary investigation, the body was taken to Grand Forks for an autopsy. Steele County State’s Attorney Charles Stock said the cause of death had been determined to be asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, Sherry Midstokke, who turns 61 on Saturday, left for Mayville, N.D., about 25 miles east, where she has family members, Beckman said.

Late Monday afternoon Quam and Arnie Rummel of the BCI interviewed her at the Mayville police station where she “admitted to intentionally killing Lyle Midstokke by means of drugs and asphyxiation,” Quam said in his affidavit. “Physical evidence at the crime scene substantiates Sherry Midstokke’s admission, including items used to asphyxiate Lyle Midstokke.”

There is no criminal history with the couple, and Beckman said his department never received a call of any domestic dispute from the Midstokkes.

Beckman and others said Midstokke’s alleged murder appears to be the only one in Steele County since a police officer in Hope was gunned down in August 1933. The shooter, Jack “Tex” Smeltzer, was attempting to steal gasoline from a Texaco station; he was captured years later in Oklahoma and sentenced to seven years in prison, according to an online history of the case.

Mental evaluation

At her court appearance Wednesday, Midstokke asked Marquart to lower her bail from $500,000 cash-only, saying she was not a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

“And I can’t pay it,” she said.

Stock, the prosecutor, said he was concerned about her mental health and the fact she had not yet been psychologically evaluated and asked the judge to not lower the bail; Marquart agreed.

Midstokke told the judge she plans to hire Fargo attorney Bruce Quick.

Her next court date is a status conference Feb. 26 in Finley.

Lyle Midstokke’s funeral will be 10:30 a.m. Feb. 15 in Finley Evangelical Lutheran Church, with visitation 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Quam-Plaisted-Cushman Funeral Home in Finley, said owner Rick Cushman.

Forum News Service Reporter Emily Welker contributed to this article.