Man accused of killing wife while high on marijuana enters insanity plea

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(Photo: Denver Police Department)

DENVER — The man accused of shooting and killing his wife at their home in Observatory Park while high on marijuana last year changed his plea Friday to not guilty by reason of insanity.

Richard Kirk, 49, had pleaded not guilty in March but changed the plea during a court appearance Friday. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of his 44-year-old wife Kristine Kirk on April 14, 2014.

Kirk was scheduled to go to trial in October but because of the plea change, he will be transferred to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for a sanity evaluation.

Kristine Kirk called 911 and said her husband was asking her to shoot him and “totally hallucinating.” She was on the phone for 13 minutes while police responded to the home near East Evans Avenue and South St. Paul Street.

Richard Kirk ate a marijuana edible just before the shooting, and investigators later found a partially eaten pot candy and an untouched joint in the house.

During a preliminary hearing in August 2014, lead detective Troy Wisgaard testified that Kristine Kirk first told 911 operators her husband was acting irrationally and that he was on marijuana.

Twelve minutes into the call, the detective says she panicked and told the operator “I don’t know what my husband is going to do.”

She says “‘my husband had marijuana.’ And then you hear her scream, ‘Don’t go in there! Stay away from the gun! Stop! Stop!'”

By that point police still had not arrived. Wisgaard said Kristine Kirk’s screaming and running could be heard followed by the fatal gunshot. The length of time it took police to get there ultimately led to the dispatcher’s resignation.

Defense attorneys have said Richard Kirk did not have the mental capacity to play or intentionally kill his wife, while prosecutors claim he acted deliberately.