Friday, December 01, 2023

Yaak man pleads guilty to assaulting wife following pet’s death

The Western News | November 21, 2023 7:00 AM

A Yaak man accused of assaulting his wife after an argument over the death of a dog earlier this year has pleaded guilty.

Benjamin Michael Manheim, 63, was first charged with one felony count of strangulation of a partner or family member following an incident on May 23 at a River View Drive residence. 

On Monday, Nov. 13, Manheim entered his plea to an amended charge of criminal endangerment. District Judge Matt Cuffe set a sentencing date of Jan. 8.

According to charging documents, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Huff, he and fellow deputy James Derryberry were responding to a reported disturbance when they learned Manheim and the alleged victim had been separated by family members and Manheim was at the food bank on River View Drive.

When Huff spoke to Manheim, the defendant allegedly said he and the woman had been fighting about their dogs. The fight then turned physical and Manheim alluded to the woman hitting him, but refused to actually say that she did, Huff reported. 

The deputy also reported that Manheim said he grabbed the woman by the throat and mimed what he did, giving the officer the impression that Manheim gripped tightly and applied pressure.

Manheim also said several times that he needed mental health help and wanted to go to Pathways, according to the court document.

Huff and Derryberry then spoke to another woman outside of the pantry. She said the woman and Manheim had a young dog die during the winter. Manheim allegedly told the woman he thawed the ground and buried the dog. 

The second woman said Manheim took the dog to a shipping container and placed it on a love seat. The woman said the dead dog was posed on a love seat, propped with pillows, eviscerated and its entrails spread on the furniture and walls of the container. The second woman said it had been left in that state until the morning of May 23 when Manheim allegedly showed it to both women.

The second woman said she and another person removed the dog and it had been buried.

Huff and Derryberry left the food pantry with the second woman who said she wanted to be there because the alleged victim was very afraid of law enforcement and the house was surrounded by many aggressive dogs.

The second woman got the victim to speak with the officers. The woman said Manheim allegedly punched her in the chin before grabbing her by the throat. She said during the struggle Manheim allegedly said he was trying to pop her head off. The alleged victim said a family member arrived and separated the couple. The woman said she was afraid of Manheim and they had a history of physical violence when fighting.

According to the charging document, Huff photographed the woman and did not see any redness or bruising on her throat or on her chin where she said she was struck. Huff asked the woman if she needed medical assistance, but she declined.

Huff then spoke to Manheim, who said an ambulance had arrived. Crew members said they didn’t have any immediate medical concerns after checking Manheim.

Huff reported that based on the statements made by the alleged victim and Manheim, he concluded Manheim had been the predominant aggressor.