Sabrina Zunich was sixteen years old when she murdered her foster mother. According to court documents Sabrina Zunich was manipulated by Kevin Knoefel to kill his wife and her foster mother. On the day of the murder Sabrina Zunich would stab the victim over a dozen times and cut her over a hundred times. This teen killer would be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for thirty years.
Sabrina Zunich 2020 Information
InstitutionDayton Correctional Institution
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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.
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Sabrina Zunich is currently incarcerated at the Dayton Correctional Institute in Ohio
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Sabrina Zunich first parole hearing is not until 2042. She is serving a life sentence
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