Murder trial twist: Prosecutors reveal seduction plot in foster mom killing

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PAINESVILLE, Ohio-- During opening statements at the murder conspiracy trial of Kevin Knoefel, 43, prosecutors told the jury that the seeds of the murder plot that ended with the stabbing death of Knoefel's 41-year-old wife, Lisa, at their home in Willoughby Hills in November 2012, were planted when Kevin Knoefel, seduced the couple's 17-year-old foster daughter, Sabrina Zunich.

Assistant Prosecutor John O’Donnell said, "The defendant did nothing but put his own concerns, and his own self-gratification right there in front…there was a day that the defendant came home and he complained that his legs were sore. He was sitting in the truck all night driving and he asked Sabrina to massage his legs, which she did."

Prosecutors told the jury that as the sexual relationship between Kevin Knoefel and Sabrina Zunich intensified, Knoefel began discussing ways that Zunich could kill his wife. "One way that the defendant brought up was to shoot Lisa Knoefel, and make it look like a robbery, rifle some jewelry around, leave the sliding glass door open," said O’Donnell.

The prosecution also told the jury that Kevin Knoefel repeatedly said that his wife was worth more dead than alive. "Ladies and gentlemen, you will hear that the defendant was the beneficiary on several life insurance policies, policies that insured Lisa's life, and that approximately $785,000 was paid out  as a result of Lisa's death," said O’Donnell.

Prosecutors said that Knoefel eventually gave Sabrina Zunich specific instructions on how to kill Lisa Knoefel.  According to O’Donnell, Knoefel said, "Once you plunge the knife into Lisa, twist it, to cause more internal damage to ensure her death."

In response, defense attorney Michael Connick told the jury, "From our standpoint, the state's entire case is fiction."

The defense team is trying to convince the jury that Sabrina Zunich, a deeply troubled teen, killed Lisa Knoefel on her own, because she was angry that Mrs. Knoefel wanted her removed from the home.

"She stabbed her, as the coroner will testify, at least 178 times. I challenge any of you to do something you like 178 times, to get a perspective to the rage that Sabrina Zunich had," said Connick.

The defense told the jury  that Sabrina Zunich has made a deal with prosecutors, and will serve a prison term of 30 years to life, in exchange for her testimony against Kevin Knoefel. "She is going to be rewarded for implicating Kevin Knoefel. She is going to be rewarded for being the only person to have a story that connects Kevin Knoefel to the butchering of his wife," said Connick.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to continue at the Lake County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Read more on the case.

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