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Mitchell man pleads not guilty to murder charges in wife’s death

Mitchell resident, 39-year-old James Brinker, is escorted into court on Nov. 1 at the Davison County Public Safety Center. (Libby Leyden / Republic)

A Mitchell man pleaded not guilty to heightened charges Wednesday for allegedly killing his wife.

James Brinker, 39, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. He was arrested on Oct. 17 for first-degree manslaughter after police found 36-year-old Marie Brinker dead, an apparent victim of suffocation, at a residence on the 900 block of East Third Avenue.

With his parents, Rick and Karen Brinker, in attendance, James Brinker made his first public appearance since being arrested last month.

“I loved her. I just can’t stop crying,” Brinker said to his parents Wednesday before court started. “I just miss her so much.”

Brinker, dressed Wednesday in a blue jumpsuit with shackles around his hands and feet, was represented by court-appointed counsel Chris Nipe. Brinker appeared in front of Judge Chris Giles at the Davison County Public Safety Center.

Court documents say Brinker wrapped Marie in a blanket, placed her on a mattress, then put a sock in her mouth and tied a belt around her head to hold the sock in place. Brinker allegedly left the residence and picked up the couple’s three children and had two of their sons go inside and call 911.

When medics arrived to the residence, Marie was cold to to the touch and her body was stiff, court documents state. James Brinker was allegedly staying at the residence despite a protection order filed against him.

Brinker is in custody at the Davison County Jail and bond remains at $750,000. A motions hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9 and a trial was set for Feb. 13.

First-degree murder is a Class A felony, punishable upon conviction by death or life in prison. Second-degree murder is a Class B felony, punishable upon conviction by life in prison. A $50,000 fine may be imposed for either class of felony.

First-degree manslaughter is a Class C felony, punishable upon conviction by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.