By Joe Olenick
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Hans S. Diefenbach could be looking at 10 years in state prison, after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter Thursday in Niagara County Court.
Diefenbach 47, 70 Genesee St., admitted to stabbing 66-year-old Norma Confer several times with a pair of knives on April 21, leaving one of them in her back. She died in May after being in a coma for
five weeks. Diefenbach was originally charged with first-degree murder.
The plea deal required Diefenbach to admit guilt to manslaughter. In return the district attorney’s office would recommend County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III give Diefenbach a 10 year sentence. After release, Diefenbach would be subject to five years of supervision.
Assistant District Attorney Lisa Baehre said the prosecution felt the lesser charge was more appropriate than going to trial. It would guarantee years in prison, instead of a chance of a not guilty verdict due to Diefenbach’s mental state at the time of his arrest.
“Based on the investigation, we considered all options and felt this was the most appropriate,” Baehre said. “And the family is in agreement with the offer.”
Diefenbach will be sentenced March 8.
Diefenbach’s mental state has been a major plot point throughout the court proceedings. In June, Diefenbach was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a state mental facility. He was released in July and was then declared mentally fit to stand trial by an evaluation.
At the time of his arrest, Diefenbach admitted to police he stabbed Confer because she was trying to poison him with “green, slimy, nasty, vampire” feces. He countered the poisoning by eating daffodils.
At Thursday’s hearing, Diefenbach said he wasn’t taking medication at the time of his arrest. Diefenbach was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006.
As he does with each plea offer, Murphy asked Diefenbach if he was in the right state of mind. Diefenbach said he has been on mediation since his arrest, which has helped him improve his mental health.
“More so now than I’ve ever been,” Diefenbach said. “I’ve had time to think, the drugs I’m on do not affect my mood.”
Robert Viola, Diefenbach’s attorney, said his client has shown he understands what was going on during the court case.
“He has demonstrated to me that he can evaluate his options, evaluate what’s on the table,” Viola said.
Diefenbach told Murphy he did not want to go to a mental health unit, instead feeling prison was the best place for him.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.