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Finley woman accused of murder claims mental illness

FINLEY, N.D. — A defense attorney for a Finley woman accused of murdering her husband has filed a notice stating she was mentally ill at the time of the killing and was not responsible for her actions.

Investigators said Sherry Midstokke, 61, admitted to them that she killed her husband, Lyle Midstokke, 66, in the couple’s home using a combination of drugs and asphyxiation on Feb. 3.

“At the time of the offense, Ms. Midstokke lacked substantial capacity to comprehend the harmful nature or consequences of her conduct,” her attorney, Blake Hankey, wrote in a notice filed April 24. “… her conduct is the result of a loss or serious distortion of her capacity to recognize reality and is therefore not criminally responsible for her conduct.”

In late February, State District Judge Steven Marquart ordered a mental evaluation for Midstokke. She was transported to the North Dakota State Hospital on Monday and brought back to the Cass County Jail the same day.

Finley, a town of 445 people in Steele County, doesn’t have a jail, so Midstokke has been kept in Fargo.

Hankey also has filed a motion to move Midstokke’s trial to another county or municipality, citing numerous media reports about her crime and the size of her community as reasons she could not receive a fair trial in Finley.

Both Sherry and Lyle Midstokke grew up in Finley. In recent years, Sherry worked as a certified nursing assistant in the nearby town of Aneta while Lyle farmed.

Midstokke’s next hearing date had not been set as of Wednesday.

Brandi Jewett

Brandi Jewett is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald with beats focusing on northwest Minnesota, unmanned aircraft systems and East Grand Forks city government. A native of Valley City, N.D., 26 years worth of winters haven't scared her out of the state yet. Follow her work at grandforksherald.com, on her blog at droningon.areavoices.com and on Twitter and Instagram: @brandijewett. Send tips and story ideas to bjewett@gfherald.com. 

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