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An attorney for a former police officer charged with murder said his client shot his wife because he was afraid of her and turned his gun on his stepdaugh-ter out of mercy.

Fred Hansen has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Joanne Hansen, 37, and Javonna Findlay, 18.Following Monday's arraignment in 2nd District Court, defense attorney John Caine said Joanne Hansen became increasingly volatile in the fall of 1994, when she learned her husband was in love with another woman.

The dispute over Fred Hansen's seeking a divorce escalated into a heated argument in the couple's bedroom the night of Feb. 15.

"It reached a point where I think he honestly believed she was going to get a gun," Caine said.

Hansen then accidentally shot his stepdaughter when she grabbed his arm, Caine said, and shot her a second time out of mercy.

Police say Hansen called 911 to report the deaths. When officers arrived, he repeatedly threatened suicide and refused to surrender for five hours.

A psychiatrist has been appointed to examine Hansen. Under an insanity plea, severe emotional distress lessens the defendant's responsibility for the crime.

Caine said he intends to seek a manslaughter conviction for his client. If convicted of manslaughter, Hansen, 40, could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Hansen is being held without bail in the Weber County Jail, where he feels he is being mistreated because his wife was a dispatcher for the Utah Department of Public Safety in South Ogden, Caine said.

Jail Commander Gerald Cook said he's unaware of any problems between Hansen and jailers.

Hansen is in maximum security and separated from the general prison population because he is a former Logan and Bear Lake County, Idaho, police officer.

"He's in here on a homicide," Cook said. "We consider him to be dangerous."