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Foster Mom Attack: Teen’s Bio Family Talks

WILLOUGHBY HILLS – Police arrested a teen in the stabbing death of her foster mother on Chagrin Drive early Friday morning.

Police said Lisa Knoefel, 41, was sleeping in her bedroom when she was attacked and killed by her foster daughter, Sabrina Zunich, 18.

“Obviously it’s a tragic day in the city. Anytime you lose someone in a tragic way such as this it certainly affects all of us,” Willoughby Hills Police Chief Christopher Collins said.

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

“My understanding is she did try to intervene but was pushed back and continued to call and try to get help to the scene,” Collins said.

When officers arrived, they found Zunich covered in blood, Collins said.

“She came out into the hallway, had the actual knife in her hand. The officers confronted her, got her down onto the floor, then made entry into the bedroom where they found the victim,” Collins said.

Zunich was detained, and then taken to Lake West Hospital.

Officers located Knoefel in a first floor bedroom with multiple stab wounds, Collins said.

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

“You know, you are shocked. You are absolutely shocked that anything like this can happen. It makes no sense,” neighbor Bonnie Miletich said.

Police said Zunich, who is a Willoughby South High School honors student, had been in Knoefel’s home for a year and a half. They said she has no violent history.

Knoefel has two biological children: The 13-year-old who called 911 and a 3-year-old who they found hiding in a closet.

Both are with other family members.

Knoefel worked at the Cuyahoga County Division of Family Services in the sex crimes unit.

Police said Zunich was a foster child through the Lake County system.

“Very loving family, very devoted, helpful, good neighbors,” said neighbor Bonnie Miletich.

“Our prayers are with them and if they need anything they know they can give us a call,” Miletich said.

Fox 8 spoke with the Zunich’s biological family by phone. They, too, are devastated.

Zunich’s aunt said the teen was in foster care because her father, who recently passed away, was too sick to care for the teen and her biological mother suffers serious health issues.

Zunich’s grandmother said this weekend when she saw Sabrina everything seemed fine and she was excited about graduating.

Police said they expect formal charges to be filed against Zunich next week.