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Crouse: Prison time is form of early retirement

Court documents detail account of fatal stabbing

March 5, 2009
By ABIGAIL McWILLIAM, Messenger news editor

Denny Crouse views his prison time as an early form of retirement, according to Arizona court documents.

Crouse, 54, was sentenced on Friday to 13 years in prison for stabbing his wife to death.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the 2006 stabbing death of 36-year-old Dianne Crouse.

Denny Crouse was interviewed at the Pinal County Jail on Feb. 5. At that time, an officer asked him how he felt about going to prison at his age and he stated that he considers it an early form of retirement.

"Because we didn't go through a trial, I want people to know about him," said Gayle Rabbitt, Dianne Crouse's sister, who attended the sentencing as a victim representative.

Denny Crouse is a former Otho fire chief. Both he and Dianne Crouse worked at Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge before moving to Arizona in early 2006.

Rabbitt, who is raising Dianne Crouse's two daughters in Gowrie, has traveled to Arizona five times to deal with the aftermath, she said.

"I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours going through Dianne's things and talking to detectives and investigators, and Dianne's friends, trying to figure out how this could have happened. Not to mention the many sleepless nights going over and over things in my head," Rabbitt wrote in her victim impact statement.

Rabbitt concluded that perhaps they were arguing about Denny Crouse's obsession with pornography. The investigation showed that the day before she was killed, Crouse had been viewing pornography Web sites all afternoon, she said.

"Knowing Dianne, she was probably threatening to expose his dirty little secret," Rabbitt said. "And he wanted to silence her."

Meanwhile, Rabbitt said the couple was deeply in debt.

"I believe the stress from overwhelming financial difficulties could have contributed to their arguments as well," she said.

From the beginning, Rabbitt was told that all the evidence pointed to Denny Crouse, she said.

An 8-year-old daughter, Rosalyn Crouse discovered her mother covered in blood when she arrived home from school at about 4 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2006, according to an Arizona court document. Her 1-year-old sister was in the house and could be heard crying when Rosalyn Crouse called 911.

Denny Crouse left his job at the Mesa General Hospital at about 10 a.m. that day and returned at about noon, according to court documents. Co-workers said when he returned he had cuts on his hands and appeared disheveled. Crouse explained the injury by saying he had fallen in the parking lot, according to the court document.

Staff members said he seemed upset or distraught. His work supervisor later reported that he returned to work with blood on his shirt and told his colleagues that he felt "empty inside" and he believed that "something terrible" happened at home. When his shift was over at 4 p.m. he was reluctant to leave the hospital and stayed a half hour beyond his shift, the documents says.

When Denny Crouse arrived home he was met by a detective who reported that he appeared to have blood stains on his shirt and had a bandage on his arm. When he was taken in for an interview, Crouse said he believed his wife's ex-husband may have committed the crime. He also stated that he had gone home when she asked him to check on a car for her, ate a sandwich for lunch, got in a minor argument with her and then left.

Denny Crouse denied a truth verification exam, but a voice stress analysis indicated deception in his response, the document states.

Further investigation at the scene of the crime showed that a bloody shoe print near Dianne Crouse's body appeared to match the shoes Denny Crouse had been wearing.

After Denny Crouse was notified that a detective found his shoe print, he changed his story.

He said that when he went home he checked the car, then began looking for clothes to pack for an upcoming trip and that's when he heard his wife yell in him from the kitchen. Crouse said he ran downstairs because he heard her "scream in pain from something." He said he ran downstairs and tripped over the gate in the kitchen doorway and fell onto her. He said he ran to the kitchen to get a dish towel to use as a cold compress, and when he turned around, Dianne was holding a knife.

Denny Crouse said he grabbed her arm and they fell to the floor fighting over the knife. During the struggle, the knife "somehow" sliced near her face and the "force from the cut" caused the knife to come back, cutting her across the neck. Denny Crouse said the last thing he recalled about the incident was Dianne Crouse bleeding and holding her throat, and telling him to call 911. He said he then washed his hands and returned to work.

When the interview was completed, Denny Crouse was booked in the Pinal County Jail on suspicion of murder.

He was initially charged with first-degree murder. Last year, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but quickly withdrew his plea. That deal would have sent him to prison for 16 to 20 years.

As part of the agreement with prosecutors, seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor were dropped. Those charges were filed after investigators found child pornography on a computer belonging to Crouse.

In addition to the 13 year prison sentence, the plea bargain calls for him to pay $500,000 in restitution to his late wife's estate. A hearing on the restitution payment will be held in May.

"He will only serve 13 years for killing my little sister," Rabbitt said. "We are not satisfied with this plea agreement, but are relieved we won't have to sit through two trials with the risk that a jury may find him not guilty due to mistakes made during the investigation."

The worst part, Rabbitt said, is that he shows no remorse for what he did.

Contact Abigail McWilliam at (515) 573-2141 or



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