BISMARCK -- Matthias Zimprich, 78, told authorities that he could recall much about the final hours of a day he spent with his wife of nearly 50 years -- except how she died.
The Bismarck man remembers the chemotherapy and radiation treatments for his lung cancer on that May 2009 morning, and eating one of his favorite chicken dishes that his wife, Ludwina Zimprich, 74, prepared for him. Later, they watched "Dancing With the Stars" together. He fell asleep, waking up to find his wife in a pool of blood.
Authorities said she had been struck in the head with a hammer 14 to 23 times. Zimprich told police at the time that he believed he must have killed her but that he had no memory of it. He was charged with the slaying, and a judge ordered a mental evaluation.
Today, Zimprich was released from jail. South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick ruled Jan. 20 that Zimprich lacked criminal responsibility for his actions as a result of mental disease or defect.
Lynne Sullivan, a psychologist at the state mental hospital in Jamestown, determined Zimprich suffered from a loss or distortion of reality at the time of the killing. Mental evaluations also found that Zimprich does not currently suffer from any illness or defect, attorneys said.
Authorities said his wife had been struck in the head with a hammer 14 to 23 times.
Zimprich's attorney, Tom Dickson, of Bismarck, said Zimprich had been taking "a laundry list of medications that 78-year-old cancer patient would take."
Cynthia Feland, an assistant Burleigh County state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said Zimprich also suffered from sleeplessness and stress.
"It was a perfect storm of situations," Feland said. "Sleep deprivation, the stress of cancer and chemicals -- you start mixing that stuff together and you never know what you come up with."
Dickson said Zimprich's two grown sons and their families will care for him.
"He didn't know what happened then and he still doesn't know what happened," Dickson said today.
The killing shocked neighbors, who said the couple were always together and had shown no sign of problems. Police said they had no earlier reports of domestic violence involving the couple.
"They were happily married for 48 years, no alcohol problems, no domestic problems -- nothing," Dickson said.
During his time in jail, Zimprich was allowed to leave for chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer. Dickson said his physical health is improving.
"He is actually better today than he was then," Dickson said.