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March 9, 2012

Diefenbach sentenced to 10 years

LOCKPORT — Not only couldn’t Hans S. Diefenbach believe he was so delusional last spring that he thought Norma Confer was trying to kill him, Diefenbach said he would have married the woman he stabbed to death if circumstances were different.

Diefenbach made that statement Thursday, just minutes before Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy sentenced him to 10 years in state prison, five years of post release supervision and a $5,000 fine.

Diefenbach’s attorney, Public Defender Robert Viola, reminded the court Diefenbach’s mental health has been a major issue throughout the proceedings.

“All of the psychiatrists who evaluated him said he was not competent to stand trial,” Viola said.

On April 21, 2011, Diefenbach, 47, Genesee Street, stabbed Confer, 65, several times with a pair of knives, leaving one in her back. She died in May after being in a coma for five weeks.

Diefenbach pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in December, as part of a plea deal. As part of the deal, Murphy agreed to cap the sentence at 10 years.

 Assistant District Attorney Lisa Baehre said the deal was offered because there was a chance Diefenbach would have escaped prison time.

“The concern the people had was that a further examination by a doctor hired by the District Attorney’s Office would have produced the same result,” Baehre said. “The people offered the defendant the plea to guarantee some state prison time.”

Had Diefenbach been found not guilty because of mental illness or insanity, he could have been sent to a state mental institution indefinitely.

In court, Diefenbach called Confer his “best friend,” adding he couldn’t wait to get out so he could visit her grave.

“I’m going to put a ring on her on her gravestone,” Diefenbach said.

Viola said the case was an unusual one, noting Diefenbach’s history of mental illness, drug use and his bizarre behavior on April 21.

“Earlier that day, he killed his goldfish by putting shampoo in the fishbowl, and in an effort to cleanse for all of that, he ate daffodils,” Viola said. “Never, at any time was there an effort to mislead.”

In his statements to police, Diefenbach said Confer was trying to poison him with “green, slimy, nasty, vampire” feces. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006.

“I miss Norma so much, she was my best friend for 17 years,” Diefenbach said. “I would do anything to turn back time and seek help.”

Baehre said according to a presentencing report, Diefenbach said 10 years wasn’t bad for killing someone. Diefenbach denied making the comment, instead saying it was something taken out of context.

“I said I can’t believe I was offered 10 years,” Diefenbach said. “That makes me sound extremely cold. I’m not that cold.”

Baehre said she read through Confer’s journals, noting Confer’s constant displays of love for Diefenbach. Confer was concerned and hoped he could change and overcome the drug addiction, Baehre said.

“It breaks my heart as a prosecutor and a human being,” Baehre said. “This is a woman who believed in him, who cared about him.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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