Richard Kirk, accused of fatally shooting wife while high, pleads guilty

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DENVER -- The man accused of fatally shooting his wife while investigators said he was high on marijuana edibles pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Friday.

Richard Kirk, 50, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, citing marijuana intoxication, in September to a first-degree murder charge in the death of his wife Kristine.

Under terms of the plea, Kirk, who had been charged with first-degree murder, will be sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison and fined $5,000 to $1 million.

He will also give up parental rights to the couples' three children to Kristine Kirk's parents, Marti and Wayne Kohnke, and will be on parole for a mandatory five years upon being released.

The first-degree murder charge was dismissed and a second-degree murder charge was added in connection with the plea. He will be sentenced in March.

“We miss Kris every day," Kristine Kirk's family said in a statement. "We are grateful that this case has been resolved to save us all from the stress if a trial."

"All involved feel this is a fair resolution of a very complicated, tragic case," Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement. "The family did not want the case to go to trial given the personal and emotional toll family members have already suffered.

"Mr. Kirk has accepted responsibility for the murder of his wife and the range of sentence possibilities will allow the judge and the public to hear any facts in mitigation and aggravation of the situation.”

A judge ordered a mental evaluation for Kirk at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. In September, he was deemed competent to stand trial and a two-week trial was scheduled to begin March 6.

Kristine Kirk called 911 on April 14, 2014 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 in the Observatory Park neighborhood

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. The couple's three children were inside the home at the time of the shooting.

During a preliminary hearing in August 2014, lead Det. 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 said 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.

wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the marijuana store and manufacturer that sold the edible to Richard Kirk. Attorneys for Richard Kirk claim the marijuana edible karma candy orange ginger caused his “delirium and psychotic-like symptoms.”

The lawsuit claims marijuana retailer Nutritional Elements and manufacturer Gaia’s Garden recklessly failed to put “warning labels, instructions or recommendations” on the bite-size edible.