PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A man accused of being romantically involved with his teenage foster daughter was convicted Wednesday of conspiring with her to kill his wife.
Prosecutors told jurors that Kevin Knoefel, 43, showed his foster daughter Sabrina Zunich how to stab his wife and that he wanted her out of the picture but was afraid he'd lose custody of their 3-year-old daughter if they divorced.
A Lake County jury convicted Knoefel on six counts of sexual battery, three counts of complicity to aggravated murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. Knoefel, who plans to appeal, could face 25 years to life in prison.
Zunich, now 19, testified last week that she put on a ski mask and fatally stabbed 41-year-old Lisa Knoefel in her bed as she fought back in November 2012, when she was 17. Prosecutors said Zunich stabbed and cut her more than 150 times with the 10-inch serrated knife.
Zunich said she had fallen in love with her foster father and feared he would commit suicide if she didn't carry out their plot to kill his wife. Knoefel picked out the knife and showed her how to plunge it in once and twist, she said. She hid the weapon under her bedroom dresser in the home in Willoughby Hills, west of Cleveland.
She said they were carrying on a sexual relationship and discussed several plans to kill Lisa Knoefel, including shooting her and making it look like a burglary, or finding a hit man. Knoefel finally suggested that Zunich stab his wife, she said.
Defense attorney Michael Connick said that Zunich was mentally ill and acted alone. He said she was upset because the Knoefels had told her she would need to move out before her high school graduation.
Zunich said she reached an agreement to testify against Knoefel in exchange for a sentence of life in prison with the chance for parole in 30 years. Zunich was arrested the night of the slaying. Police said they found Zunich in the house covered with blood and holding a knife after getting a 911 call from a 13-year-old girl screaming that her sister had a knife and was attacking her mother.