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Renville County man returning to prison for second attempted murder conviction

OLIVIA -- Brian Denton, 51, of rural Redwood Falls will return to prison on his second conviction for attempted murder.

Denton pleaded guilty Thursday in District Court in Renville County to a charge of second-degree attempted murder. He admitted that he struck his wife, Connie, repeatedly over the head with a crowbar on the morning of April 4 in their home in southern Renville County.

Asked by the court if he intended to kill her, Denton replied: "By doing what I did, I suppose that's correct.''

In exchange for his guilty plea, charges of first-degree attempted murder and assault in the first degree were dismissed. The plea agreement calls for Denton to serve 139 months in prison, with credit for the 275 days he has served in jail since his arrest.

District Judge Randall Slieter ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

Sentencing guidelines offer a range of 278 to 391 months in prison based on the offense and Denton's prior misdemeanor convictions in Minnesota. They range from check forgery to domestic abuse, violating an order for protection and disorderly conduct, brawl or fight.

Denton was convicted in February 1977 for attempted murder - burglary in Franklin County, Ill., and served at least two years in prison, according to Laurence Stratton, assistant county attorney in Renville County. Records from Illinois show that Denton -- also known there by an alias of Robert Denton Bilbrook -- took a glass vase and struck a woman repeatedly in the head and face, Stratton said.

In court Thursday, Denton said that he struck his wife over the head and face with a crowbar after an argument. After entering his guilty plea, he looked toward her and said he wanted to apologize. "I'm very, very sorry for what happened and I will pay for it,'' he said.

After the proceedings, Connie Denton said she believes her husband deserves life in prison for the offense. Denton said she agreed to the plea bargain due to her mistrust of the system. She feared that he might not be convicted in a jury trial.

The certainty of a conviction and prison time -- along with Connie Denton's consent -- led prosecutors to agree to the plea, Stratton said after the proceedings. Due to the 31 years of elapsed time, the Illinois conviction could not have been used to significantly influence court proceedings or sentencing in Minnesota, he said.

Denton said she remains fearful that her husband will attempt to seek her out after his release. She said his characterization of what happened on April 4 as an "argument'' reflects his continued practice of placing blame on her.

She said doctors told her that it was a miracle that she had survived the assault. She said she suffered 14 lacerations to her head and face; four of them were pointed out in court testimony due to their severity. Doctors rebuilt an eye socket and parts of her skull with plastic and titanium due to the multiple bone fractures.

Two of her fingers on her left hand were broken and permanently disabled while she attempted to defend herself against blows from the crowbar.

She suffers some short-term memory loss as a result of the injuries, but said she has otherwise made a good recovery.

Along with striking his wife with the crowbar, the complaint charged that Brian Denton attempted to strangle her. The assault occurred shortly after 9 a.m., but Denton did not bring his wife to seek medical attention in Redwood Falls until 1:30 p.m. The complaint charged that he brought her only after she agreed to a cover story that she had been assaulted by an unknown intruder.

Connie Denton said that her husband had not come home on the night preceding the assault. He had been drinking and in a motor vehicle accident. She said she was in their bedroom and questioning him about what happened when she turned away to brush her hair. The complaint charges that he had hid the crowbar in his jacket and suddenly attacked her with it.

Denton said her husband of 13 years had been physically abusive to her for nearly two years. The situation had become aggravated when she made known her desire for a divorce.

Denton said she is still seeking a divorce, but currently does not have the money to complete it.