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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Man who killed wife eligible for parole in one year

Husband shot self after strangling her

By Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer

Years of domestic violence ended in a fit of rage at a rural home near Rathdrum last year when a man strangled his wife to death, then turned a gun on himself.

But William Virgil Brinnon, 46, survived the self-inflicted shot wound to the head and went blind in both eyes. Now he’ll spend at least a year in prison for killing his wife of more than 20 years in an incident the judge who sentenced him Monday said ended in the worst way possible for Brinnon.

“He shot himself to avoid going to prison,” said 1st District Judge John Mitchell in an interview. But now, not only will Brinnon serve at least one year of a 15-year sentence, “he’s lost his wife, he’s made himself blind and he will live every moment the rest of his life with those two realities.

“He’s exacted more punishment than I could ever give him.”

Brinnon pleaded guilty in October to voluntary manslaughter, reduced from second-degree murder, for the March 31 strangling of Dana Brinnon, 43.

Police were sent to the home on Cross Creek Road when the couple’s 21-year-old son called 911 after finding his mother’s body and hearing his father say he’d killed her.

Brinnon’s gunshot wound left him with no memory of the incident, Mitchell said, and he spent several weeks at Kootenai Medical Center.

Mitchell sentenced him to a 15-year sentence with one year fixed, meaning he’s eligible for parole after one year. He’ll get credit for time served at the Kootenai County Jail. Prosecutor Bill Douglas had asked for seven and a half years fixed; Public Defender Anne Taylor had asked for probation.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this gentleman is not a threat to the public,” Mitchell said. But “you need to have punishment to set an example.”

Court records show the Brinnons had a history of domestic disputes, including William Brinnon’s arrest in 1997 for alleged domestic battery and Dana Brinnon’s 2006 arrest on the same charge.

Less than three weeks before his wife was killed, Brinnon filed for a protection order against her, but a Kootenai County judge dismissed it March 20, according to previously published reports.

After his March 31 arrest, Brinnon told investigators his wife had been “picking and picking at him and he lost control,” according to court documents.

Mitchell said Dana Brinnon suffered from borderline personality disorder triggered by mental and physical abuse at the hands of her father that “made living with her very, very difficult for this man.”

“I told him, ‘I’m convinced that your wife died at your hands,’ ” Mitchell said.

“But you wouldn’t have been in that position if she didn’t have borderline personality disorder that was compounded by her methamphetamine addiction.”

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or

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