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Teen Girl Kills Foster Mom

November 16, 2012 permalink

Ohio teenager Sabrina A Zunich has fatally stabbed her foster mother, Lisa M Knoefel. So far no hint of a motive. A later enclosed report says Knoefel worked for the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services as a sex-abuse social worker.



New Details to be Revealed in Foster Mom Stabbing

suspect in stabbing of Lisa Knoefel

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio — A teen is considered a suspect in the fatal stabbing of her foster mother overnight, Willoughby Hills police confirm.

It started with a frantic 911 at around 1:15 a.m. from a 13-year-old girl who told dispatchers her sister was attacking her mother with a knife.

When officers arrived to the home in the 2500 block of Chagrin Drive, the 13-year-old girl ran out of the front door to meet them.

Then, after going into the house, officers encountered an 18-year-old girl who was covered in blood and holding a knife. She was detained, then taken to Lake West Hospital.

Soon after, officers located 41-year-old Lisa Knoefel in a first floor bedroom with multiple stab wounds.

EMS workers were unable to resuscitate her and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Willoughby Hills police say Knoefel is the foster mother of the 18-year-old, who is now considered a suspect in the stabbing.

Police have scheduled a press conference for Friday afternoon to release more details.

Source: WJW Fox 8 Cleveland

Police say no motive known in fatal stabbing of foster mother

Lisa Knoefel
Lisa Knoefel
Courtesy of Willoughby Hills police

Willoughby Hills -- An 18-year-old foster child is expected to be charged in the stabbing death early this morning of a Cuyahoga County social worker who lives in this Lake County community.

Police received a frantic 9-1-1 call at 1:15 a.m. from Lisa Knoefel's 13-year-old daughter, who was awakened by the attack and was screaming into the phone that her sister had a knife and was killing her mother.

Police arrived at the Chagrin Drive home and confronted the 18-year-old, Knoefel's foster daughter. Officers reported that the young woman was covered with blood and holding a knife.

They found Knoefel, 41, on the floor in her bedroom, with stab wounds in her face and neck. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Knoefel had worked for the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services as a sex-abuse social worker.

Police did not know a motive for the attack, Chief Christopher Collins said during an afternoon news conference. The teen had lived in the home for about a year-and-half with Knoefel, her husband and Knoefel's two children. The victim's husband is a truck driver who was on the road at the time, the chief said.

The suspect, a student at Willoughby South High School, was in the Lake County Jail Friday. Collins said charges would be filed next week.

"It's a tragic loss for them and the community," Collins said.

Workers at the Cuyahoga child-welfare agency where Knoefel worked since 2000 also were grieving.

"We learned this morning our colleague, Lisa Knoefel, was murdered at her home," Patricia Rideout, director of the Cuyahoga agency, told her staff in an email.

"Lisa's commitment to children led her not only to us, as a dedicated member of the DCFS family, but also to become a foster parent," Rideout's statement said. "Her heart and home were opened to a child who needed her."

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Addendum: Police charge foster father Kevin Knoefel alleging a love triangle and insurance scam.



Kevin Knoefel pleads not guilty to plotting with foster daughter to kill wife (with videos)

Kevin Knoefel, Gary A Vick and Michael J Connick
Kevin Knoefel stands for Judge Vincent A. Culotta on Friday with defense attorneys Gary A. Vick, left, and Michael J. Connick, in Lake County Common Pleas Court where he was arraigned in his wife's murder. Bond was set at $5 million.
Duncan Scott/

After his wife was murdered, Kevin Knoefel bought vehicles, took pilot lessons and paid off his Willoughby Hills house with her life insurance money, prosecuting attorney Patrick Condon said.

Kevin Knoefel, 43, pleaded not guilty Friday in Lake County Common Pleas Court to conspiring with his foster daughter to kill his wife.

Arraigning Judge Vincent A. Culotta set bond at $5 million cash or surety, as was Condon's recommendation. If Knoefel posts bond, he must be monitored electronically and by GPS.

Knoefel faces a maximum prison term of life without parole if convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, three counts of complicity to commit aggravated murder and six counts of sexual battery.

Lisa Knoefel, 41, was found stabbed to death in their Chagrin Drive home around 1:15 a.m. Nov. 16. Her foster daughter, 18-year-old Sabrina Zunich, was arrested and charged with the murder immediately afterward.

The victim's husband was arrested Aug. 9 after a nine-month investigation.

According to the indictment, Kevin Knoefel and Zunich had a sexual relationship up until the day the victim died and discussed multiple plans to kill Lisa in her bedroom as she slept.

The two decided Zunich would kill Lisa and make it look like a burglary by rummaging through her jewelry drawer. Kevin Knoefel even showed Zunich which knife to use, how to twist it in his wife's body and how to cut her own legs to make it look like the teen acted in self defense, Condon said.

If Zunich was caught, she agreed to claim insanity or that she did not remember what happened, according to the indictment.

Knoefel was in court with defense attorneys Michael Connick and Gary Vick Jr. and did not speak other than to enter his pleas.

Connick objected to the high bond, saying 10 percent of $750,000 was adequate because the defendant -- who had six or seven supporters in the crowd -- was not a flight risk.

"If Mr. Knoefel wanted to abscond, he would have by now," Connick said. "The reality is, they have not presented any evidence that he should be prohibited from raising his child."

The defendant told Zunich his wife was "worth more dead than alive," Condon said.

Foreclosure action on Knoefel's property was initiated in Lake County Common Pleas Court in 2010.

Zunich's case has not yet been presented to a grand jury. She remains in Lake County Jail on $750,000 bond.

The victim was a social worker. Kevin Knoefel had been working as a truck driver.

Police arrived at the home after a report of a woman with a knife.

The victim's 13-year-old daughter told the officer to hurry up because "her sister was stabbing her mother to death."

The officer testified that Zunich was covered in blood from head to toe, sobbing hysterically, and carrying a 12-inch knife. A 3-year-old daughter had been cowering in the closet.

The older daughter is not the defendant's biological daughter, Connick said.

It is not yet known how much life insurance money Knoefel -- who had no prior criminal record -- inherited from his wife, the prosecutor said.

The case has been assigned to Judge Joe Gibson. A trial date had not yet been scheduled.

Source: News-Herald

Addendum: On June 11, 2014 foster father Kevin Knoefel was convicted on eleven charges including conspiring with his foster daughter Sabrina Zunich to kill his wife. Zunich, who testified against Knoefel, will be spending decades behind bars.

Addendum: Zunich was sentenced to life.

Sabrina Zunich had no father to guide her onto the straight and narrow. The principal authority figure in her life was a derelict foster dad who was also her lover. It would have been difficult for her to find a reason to resist his urgings to commit the crime. The killing of Lisa Knoefel resembles a miniature version of the Manson family murders. This explanation is not a reason to excuse Sabrina's conduct. It is a reason to recognize that foster care has many modes of failure, and should be used as sparingly as possible.



Sabrina Zunich sentenced to 30 years to life in prison by judge who says her crime was "gruesome, shocking and revolting"

Sabrina Zunich
Sabrina Zunich holds back tears as Lake County Common Pleas Judge Richard Collins Jr. sentences her to life in prison with parole eligibility after 30 years. Her lawyers Charles Grieshammer and Terry Hess, right, provided support.
Karen Farkas, The Plain Dealer
Alice Matt and Susan Edwards
Alice Matt and Susan Edwards, Sabrina Zunich's grandmother and mother, sat by the door she would enter into the courtroom.
Karen Farkas, The Plain Dealer

PAINESVILLE, Ohio - Sabrina Zunich carefully folded three tissues on the table before her as she awaited a hearing that would determine how long she would be in prison for brutally killing her foster mother.

They were used and wadded and she continued to cry when Lake County Common Pleas Judge Richard Collins Jr. said she would serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison but be eligible for parole after 30 years.

Collins made it clear that his recommendation for parole was due to Zunich's cooperation with prosecutors that led to the conviction of her foster father, Kevin Knoefel.

"I don't think there was any question she was manipulated and used by the co-defendant," Collins said. But he said the seriousness of the crime outweighed all factors.

Zunich, 19, had stabbed Lisa Knoefel 12 times and cut her 166 times with a 10-inch serrated kitchen knife. She pleaded guilty to aggravated murder last month.

"Aggravated murder is aggravated murder," Collins said. "But this was not a single violent act."

He said Lisa Knoefel suffered before she died.

"She was screaming for help and begging the defendant to stop. She did not die immediately. I cannot imagine the nature of terror and fear."

Zunich apologized before she was sentenced.

"I want to say how sorry I am for all those I hurt," she said. "Lisa did not deserve what happened to her. I ask forgiveness be given to me - not for my benefit but for those who need the healing process to begin. I can't explain how much remorse I have and how much sadness I deal with."

She made a comment that she had "talked" to Lisa Knoefel and she forgave her.

Collins said he had received letters of support for Zunich from two women in the jail ministry, one who visited weekly. He also received a poem from Zunich, he said. He and Zunich's attorney, Charles Grieshammer, said they could not release the poem because it was included in the pre-sentence report.

At the hearing Grieshammer asked Collins to allow parole eligibility after 20 years, saying Zunich was emotionally blackmailed by Kevin Knoefel, who convinced her to kill his wife.

"Had she been placed in a loving foster home she might have made it," he said. "Kevin hijacked her."

No one spoke on behalf of Zunich, although the courtroom was filled. Among those in the front row was her mother, Susan Edwards, and Edwards' mother, Alice Matt.

"I'm sorry this happened and I love her with all my heart," said Edwards prior to the hearing. She was unable to care for Zunich because of drug and alcohol abuse, according to court testimony.

Matt said she writes weekly to Zunich but hadn't seen her since before her arrest on Nov. 16, 2012.

Zunich did not look at either of them as she entered and left the courtroom.

Prosecutors, who said they did not know of Kevin Knoefel's involvement in his wife's death until Zunich told them, told Collins they recommended she have an opportunity for parole.

Zunich, who has been in the Lake County Jail for almost two years, will be transferred to prison in about a week, deputies said.

Zunich was not indicted on the aggravated murder charge until July 15, after a Lake County jury convicted Kevin Knoefel of conspiring with Zunich to kill his wife.

Prosecutors have said they were unaware of Zunich's sexual relationship with Kevin Knoefel or that he had persuaded her to kill Lisa Knoefel until Zunich spoke with them in May, 2013.

Zunich's attack occurred while Lisa Knoefel, 41, was in bed and Kevin Knoefel was driving a truck from Michigan to Ohio.

The case against Kevin Knoefel for the most part rested on the testimony of Zunich, whose graphically detailed her relationship with Knoefel and what led her to kill Lisa Knoefel.

Zunich had lived at the Knoefel's Willoughby Hills home since July, 2011. She had been in custody of Lake County officials since 2010 when it was determined she could not longer live with her paternal grandmother because she was unruly.

She testified in Knoefel's trial that she was doing well in high school and had plans to model or enter cosmetology school.

She said she expected the Knoefel's to divorce and she would live with Kevin Knoefel. They had had sexual relations since March, 2012.

She testified Knoefel told her he didn't love his wife anymore and didn't want a divorce because he didn't want to share custody of Hailey, their 3-year-old daughter. He told her they could raise Hailey together.

On Nov. 15, 2012, he cried and told her he had gotten in a big fight with his wife and was going to kill himself if she was not dead. So, with his encouragement, she decided to kill Lisa Knoefel.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer