Three of accused Fargo murderer's four wives met unfortunate ends
FARGO - Henry Leo Deniger Sr. is charged with stabbing his wife to death in Fargo last month. But she wasn't the first of his four spouses to meet a tragic end.
In fact, she wasn't even the first to suffer fatal injuries in North Dakota.
More than 30 years ago, Deniger's first wife, Peggy, a 17-year-old preacher's daughter he married in Maine, was fatally hurt in a car accident near Beach, N.D., where the newlyweds were visiting his parents.
Deniger's second wife also died in a car crash, though it was in 2005, long after they had parted ways.
His third wife divorced him, taking their two sons with her to escape Deniger, whom she described as a charming, handsome man who turned violent three months into the marriage - eventually threatening to kill her.
His fourth wife, Kathye Deniger, was found dead in their Fargo apartment March 6. Henry Deniger, 50, was arrested the next day in St. Cloud, Minn., and charged with murder.
'I thought he was OK'
The youngest of Pastor Franklin and Eleanor Libby's three daughters, Peggy was a 17-year-old girl working in a sardine factory in Prospect, Maine, when she met Deniger.
It was a brief courtship, her mother said.
They exchanged vows Sept. 19, 1981, on a Saturday. The following weekend, they went to stay with Deniger's parents in Beach, N.D., where his father had sought work in the oil fields, Eleanor Libby said.
"He seemed to be a nice fellow," she said of her new son-in-law, who went by the nickname Butch. "Of course, I hadn't known him very long."
On Oct. 11, 1981, Peggy was riding in a car with Deniger's younger sister, who was learning how to drive, when the car rolled near Beach. Deniger wasn't in the car at the time, Libby said.
Libby said she still doesn't know what caused the accident. Deniger's sister, who wasn't seriously injured in the rollover, said afterward "that she couldn't remember what happened," Libby said.
Peggy sustained serious injuries. Her parents flew to North Dakota the next day on the first available flight and spent the next seven months in the hospital as Peggy slipped into and out of several comas.
"The last one she went into, she didn't come out of, and they said she was brain dead. She was on life support," said Libby, 78.
Deniger visited Peggy often in the hospital, including after her transfer from Beach to Bismarck.
"He was there a good part of the time," Libby said.
Two weeks before Peggy's death, her parents flew her back to Bangor, Maine. She died in a hospital there on May 14, 1982, at age 18.
After her death, Deniger kept in touch with her family.
"He would call me every now and then," Libby said.
One time, he called her from prison and asked her to send him some items he needed, she said.
Libby said she last spoke to Deniger "quite a while" ago, when he said he was living in Washington.
"He told me he was a diabetic, and I guess he was in a hospital," she said.
When told about the murder charge Deniger now faces, Libby said, "I'm sorry to hear that.
"As I knew Butch, I guess I'm surprised to hear that, and I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't know him a long time, but I thought he was OK."
Libby said she knows Deniger's parents well, "and it's going to be hard for them."
Deniger's 70-year-old mother, Alice Deniger, declined to comment at length when reached by phone last week.
Asked if she had anything she wanted to say to Kathye Deniger's family, she said, "They don't want to hear from me, I'm sure. I feel sick about it."
For Libby, whose husband died in 2001, the news added to a long list of family tragedies. Two years ago, a car accident in Maine claimed the lives of her great-granddaughter, granddaughter and her granddaughter's husband, she said.
"It's just been one thing after another," she said. "I've had a lot of tragedies in my life, but I'm still going. With the Lord's help, I'm still going on. And this doesn't help."
Omitted from obituary
Deniger married his second wife, Cindy Beal, in Cherryfield, Maine, Sept. 25, 1982, about four months after his first wife's death.
They had two sons. An infant daughter died shortly after birth on Oct. 18, 1985, according to www.mainegenealogy.net.
Maine court records show Henry Deniger was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct on Oct. 15, 1985, and fined $100, half of which was suspended.
He was arrested again on Oct. 6, 1989 and charged with criminal trespass, also a misdemeanor. He was convicted the following May and sentenced to five days in jail.
It's unclear when Henry and Cindy Deniger split. He married his third wife, Elizabeth Stanley, in January 1992.
Cindy Deniger died at age 42 in a head-on collision on May 30, 2005. According to media reports about the Memorial Day crash, police said her Chevy Cavalier crossed the centerline into the path of an oncoming Chevy Trailblazer. She was killed instantly. The driver of the SUV and her two teenage passengers sustained minor injuries.
Cindy Deniger's obituary in the Bangor Daily News didn't list Henry Deniger as a survivor.
Reached by phone recently, one of the two sons, Gabriel Deniger, declined to comment about his mother's marriage to Henry Deniger. Other relatives of Cindy Deniger did not return messages.
'It all went to hell'
Elizabeth Deniger, now 43, said Henry Deniger was "absolutely charming" and "very handsome" when they met in early 1991 outside her apartment in Machias, Maine.
He'd open the car door for her, help her clean her apartment and make her lunches for work, she said.
"And approximately three months after we got married, it all went to hell," she said.
Henry Deniger started drinking, and "by then he had me, and I was his meal ticket," she said.
He also became physically abusive, she said.
"He would get drunk and he would thoroughly damage the house, throw things, break things," she said. "I've had a shotgun in my face. He told me exactly how he was going to kill me."
Elizabeth Deniger said she would have police document the damage after her husband left the house, one of several steps she took to ensure she would gain sole custody of the kids when she left him.
The couple produced two sons, in 1992 and 1993. Elizabeth Deniger said she feared for their safety and would stand between her husband and children to protect them. She left him in December 1994.
"There is no doubt in my mind, if I had stayed with him, I would not be around right now," she said. "I got my kids out of the house before I told him I wanted a divorce, so my kids would be safe."
The older of the boys, Chris Deniger, 19, said his biological father contacted him last summer. Before that, he hadn't seen him or heard from him since 1994.
"He's never really been a part of our lives," he said.
Chris Deniger said it was "just weird, because we've never talked to him before."
"There wasn't something right about him," he said. "I knew he wasn't all there in the head.
"He just said that he loved us and he wanted to get together as a family and do some stuff, and just try to meet up as a family and how much he missed our lives throughout the years," he said. "We didn't really talk about much. Like I said, I only talked to him probably three or four times."
In the profile section of his Facebook page, Henry Deniger listed his four sons by name.
"Most important to me at this time is Kathye Raven Deniger and find My Boys," the page stated.
That was followed by an entry dated Jan. 22, 2012, stating it had been about year since he updated the profile. "WOW!!! Have contact with three out of four of the boy's (sic)."
The entry ends with "One greatful (sic) DAD!!"
Funds still needed
How to help: Karena Magnuson of Gresham, Ore., the daughter of slain Fargo resident Kathye Magnuson, says donations are still needed to defray the costs of retrieving her mother's belongings from Fargo. An account has been set up with Wells Fargo under the name Kathye Raven Magnuson Memorial Fund.