Man accused of cutting-up-wife died in custody

Murder case against Frederick Hengl will be dismissed next week

“He really lost the will to live after his wife died.” The attorney for Frederick Joseph Hengl said the 69-year-old man was found deceased on Sunday morning, September 29.

Hengl was being held in the medical ward of San Diego’s downtown jail, where staff discovered that he had passed during the night, according to public defender Deborah Kirkwood.

“He had been in and out of the hospital, he was being treated at USCD medical center in Hillcrest,” the attorney said in a phone interview. Hengl had two surgeries since he was taken into custody on November 16, 2012, Kirkwood said.

Hengl suffered from prostate cancer which had spread to his bones, according to his attorney. “Part of his bone cancer was in his skull. That could have had something to do with his thought process.”

Hengl was accused of killing his wife and then cutting her apart. The head of Anna-Maria Hengl was found in their freezer, and other body parts were simmering in several pans on the stovetop, according to a prosecutor.

“It was just his way of disposing of the body. He was not eating her. He is not a cannibal.” Defense attorney Kirkwood suggested that both the bone cancer in his skull and the trauma of his wife dying in his arms could have caused his strange behavior. “He wasn’t in his right mind at the time.”

The defense attorney believes that 73-year-old Anna-Maria died of illness. The elderly woman had been diagnosed with Alzheimers some years earlier, the attorney said, and this had advanced to a fatal condition. “He was feeding her with Ensure through a turkey baster at the end, because she couldn’t swallow.”

Police had been called by neighbors complaining of a terrible smell coming from the home at 419 Ditmar Street in Oceanside, California. Neighbors had also noticed that the elderly woman, sometimes known as Anna Faris, had not been seen for more than a week. Previously she had been seen walking around the neighborhood partially clothed, and there were also reports that she had brandished a large knife on the street.

“She had passed a few days before, some time before he was arrested,” defense attorney Kirkwood acknowledged. “He just didn’t know what to do. They were estranged from all families and friends because of her behavior.”

Hengl quit his job to care for his dying wife, according to Kirkwood. “He basically dedicated his life to taking care of her. She died in his arms.”

The defense attorney claimed that Frederick Hengl passed a polygraph test when he declared that he did not kill his wife. Defendant Hengl had been charged with murder and unlawful acts with human remains, both felonies.

“I had witnesses lined up to testify, character witnesses how much he cared for her. He called her my bride. He would tell the bartender, ‘Got to get home to my bride.’”

Deborah Kirkwood expects the case to be formally dismissed next week, on October 15, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.

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Comments

He looked like a walking skeleton when he first appeared in court. Regardless of what it was that happened, he wasn't your usual killer. This is one of those cases that makes us all wonder just what was going on. And we will probably never know that, either.

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