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Elderly man given probation sentence in rural shooting

BISMARCK--An elderly man accused of shooting through the door of a relative's home in rural Burleigh County east of Bismarck was given a probation sentence after his defense attorney explained the underlying mental health problems that may have l...

BISMARCK-An elderly man accused of shooting through the door of a relative's home in rural Burleigh County east of Bismarck was given a probation sentence after his defense attorney explained the underlying mental health problems that may have led to the event.

South Central District Judge David Reich gave 79-year-old Lyle Ennen a one-year deferred sentence for a period of unsupervised probation, after the man pleaded guilty to felony counts of terrorizing and reckless endangerment on Monday. The Menoken man is also required to follow through on any mental or physical health recommendations, and he cannot possess a gun for the next 10 years, which his attorney conceded may be the rest of his life.

The sentence was in line with a recommendation made by Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Julie Lawyer, who said she reviewed medical records that Ennen's attorney Justin Vinje provided. She said she notified but did not receive input from the victims.

"I believe these recommendations are fair and just under the circumstances," Vinje said.

Lawyer told the judge that, on May 18, Ennen went to a relative's house angry over a land deal. Warned by another family member that he was coming and may kill them, the family members would not open the door. Ennen shot into the door, where sheriff's deputies later found a bullet in the doorknob.

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Vinje explained that the dispute involved long-time family land that he sold to these relatives at a low price, and the relatives subsequently flipped for more.

"Sometimes, people handle these judgments and situations poorly," he told the judge.

Vinje also said Ennen has been diagnosed with a type of dementia that can hinder rational thinking. While held in jail following the incident, he suffered several small strokes and was hospitalized after his release.

Since then, Ennen has been taking medication and has gained a better understanding of what happened, Vinje said. Ennen has come around on the land issue, seeing it now more as disappointing than anger-inducing, he said.

"With the medication he's on, our conversations on the topic have gotten a lot more, I guess you could say, normal," he said.

"It's an unfortunate, and it's a sad story," he said.

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