• Her sentencing set for Dec. 17
• Eric Knysz faces February trial
Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield was in mid-sentence asking Eric and Sarah Knysz of Luther how they were doing when Sarah heard a shot, she said Tuesday in Mason County’s circuit court.
Eric drove off and Sarah looked back to see the trooper lying in the road, Sarah said.
Sarah, 20, of Luther, had her final conference on charges of accessory after the fact related to Butterfield’s Sept. 9 death and unlawful driving away of an automobile.
Sarah Knysz, wife of 19-year-old Eric who is charged with murdering Butterfield and related crimes, pleaded guilty to her charges in a plea deal, which calls for 12 to 24 months on accessory after the fact and 0-11 months for unlawful driving away of an automobile.
As part of the plea agreement, she said she would testify against any defendants in the case, which would include her husband. The unlawful driving away of an automobile charge would be dropped in Manistee County.
Her sentencing on the charges is at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Her husband’s trial is set for Feb. 18-28.
During her final conference Tuesday, Sarah testified about what happened Sept. 9.
She had her hair in a bun and spoke quietly as she answered questions from 51st Circuit Court Judge Richard I. Cooper.
Sarah, who is visibly pregnant and who told the court she was almost seven months along back the night of the incident, told the court she didn’t know why the trooper pulled the truck over that night.
She said Eric had borrowed his father’s truck and was driving when he brought them to Ludington that day so he could sell guns. She said he sold some, but not all of them and there were still some in the truck behind the seat under blankets, plus a handgun in front when they were pulled over.
She answered questions about details she saw and heard of the trooper in the road, saying she was in the passenger seat and looked back and saw him there bleeding as Eric drove away.
After the shooting, Sarah said Eric drove to his mother’s house in Irons and either before or after that stopped at his boss’s house, also in Irons, to get money. At his mother’s house, Sarah said Eric got out of the truck (borrowed from Eric’s father) and used what she believed were napkins to clean up blood that was on his side of the truck.
She said he had his mother, Tammi-Lynne Spofford, get in the truck with them and Eric then told her he’d just shot a state trooper.
“She acted shocked and asked if he was serious,” Sarah told the court.
She gave more detail about what he said about the cleanup.
The stolen car
Eric then drove to Walhalla, Sarah said, where they got out of the truck and into a white vehicle belonging to Timothy Schultz that she and Eric had looked at to buy earlier in the day.
The judge asked if she knew whether Schultz had been paid for the car and Sarah responded that Eric said he couldn’t pay for it because he needed the money for them to get gas to leave town after the shooting.
Sarah testified Eric’s mother was to drive the Chevy truck they had been in most of the night back to Eric’s father’s in Irons, after Eric and Sarah transferred their things to the white car at 5915 E. Hansen Road.
Their things included pop, snacks, cigarettes, which Sarah said she helped move, and the rest of the guns and a chainsaw, among the items she said Eric moved.
Sarah said Eric told his mother he loved her before they drove away from the East Hansen Road scene.
His mother had been on the phone with her boyfriend, Sarah said, telling him she didn’t know why police were looking for Eric.
Sarah told the court Eric told her “how sorry he was … about how he killed a state cop.”
She said he told her they’d have to get rid of her phone so they couldn’t be tracked but that he’d get her a new one.
“Was he making sense?” Judge Cooper asked about whether Eric was coherent at the time.
She answered that he was.
Sarah said Eric stopped at a convenience store and got cigarettes and drinks, then drove to a friend’s house to “buy a bag of weed,” before driving to Dublin Store to get gas.
“I was inside (the store),” she said.
Sarah said she saw a state trooper looking at the car and waited in the store. She heard loud noises, went out the front door and saw her husband on the ground and “had guns pointed at me. I was told to get on the ground.”
She answered questions mostly from Judge Cooper Tuesday, but she also answered a couple from Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola.
Spaniola asked about what happened to parts of her phone. She said she broke a card and threw it out the window. Another card (there was discussion about a Sim card versus a memory card) was found in her bra while she was at West Shore Medical Center in Manistee later in the evening.
Sarah said she didn’t have a pocket to put it in.
Why not run?
The judge asked whether Eric had pointed the gun at her, asking her to explain why she didn’t run away when the car was stopped.
“Fear and shock,” she said, noting the officer had just been shot. She also said she was almost seven months pregnant at that time and “I can’t run faster than the car.”
She said she was afraid because of “the fact that he already shot somebody” and because of past instances with Eric, which she called “our history.”
She told the judge that Eric had threatened to kill her in the past. She said she didn’t run because she was afraid of him.
What brought her here
Judge Cooper asked Sarah where she grew up and what brought her to the area. She said she was from Shiawassee County but moved to Irons to live with her grandparents. She said she moved back to Shiawassee County at one point then returned up north, where she then lived with Eric.
Cooper said Tuesday the plea agreement jail/prison time recommended for Sarah is within the guidelines for those charges.
Eric was not offered a plea deal during his final conference Oct. 23 and is due to stand trial Feb. 18-28, 2014 on charges of murder of a peace officer, transporting a stolen firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, and unlawful driving away of an automobile. He was given notice he is also being charged as a habitual offender second offense due to a felony home invasion second degree conviction in Lake County four years ago.
Spaniola offered no deal during Eric’s final conference, saying only that Eric could “plead unconditionally to the charges.”
He also faces charges in Manistee.
The night of the shooting
Trooper Butterfield was working in Mason County when he was shot during a traffic stop on Custer Road near Townline Road approximately at 6:20 p.m. Sept. 9. He died later that night in a Traverse City hospital.
In the meantime that night, police say Eric and Sarah left the scene, stole a car and drove northeast to Dublin, a rural Manistee County community, where they were arrested.
Police said, in Dublin, Eric pointed a gun at an MSP trooper when he was cornered at the gas station and a trooper then shot Eric in the knee.
Eric was on crutches when he was in the Mason County Courthouse on his charges two weeks ago, still healing from the knee wound.