Worth More Dead Than Alive

Kevin Knoefel Sits in Jail After Allegedly Beginning a Relationship With his Foster Daughter and Convincing Her to Murder His Wife

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Connick tells Scene he has "no clue" why it took nine months for his client to be arrested.

Terry Hess tells Scene his client's case has been on hold. She hasn't been indicted and "we are waiting to see what the state is going to do. I know the other side has made allegations involving our client and I can't speak to those."

Hess declined to comment on Zunich's level of cooperation against her foster father; those answers can only be provided by the state's prosecutors, he says.

Documents show Sabrina became a major witness in the state's case against Kevin likely around the beginning of May.

In the exhibit list for the case against Kevin is a May 9 proffer (an interview with a cooperating witness) with Sabrina, the first recording on the list since Kevin was originally interviewed by police on Dec. 4. On May 21, cops interviewed the friend of Sabrina who had written on Facebook that Sabrina told her she was going to kill Lisa. Five additional interviews and a second recorded interrogation of Kevin round out the prosecutor's evidence.

What hasn't been mentioned yet, either by attorneys in the courtrooms or in the case file are several other money-related issues regarding Kevin Knoefel and the death of his wife.

They didn't elaborate on what Kevin did with the life insurance money. They did not mention anything about the $225,000 Summerfield, Fl., house that Scene found he purchased on March 25 with his mother.

Records also show in April, Kevin was awarded $47,210 from the Attorney General's Ohio Victims of Compensation Program on behalf of his young daughter, because he's the guardian of her estate.

They also never mentioned why Kevin applied to be the legal guardian of his dead wife's mentally challenged sister on May 13 in the Lake County Probate Court. When Lisa died, her sister, a 39-year-old Painesville resident with Turner Syndrome, had no more adult family left (and no next of kin). Kevin was granted legal guardianship of Laura (not her estate), on June 14. Several days after Kevin's August indictment, a new form was filed. Nick Zanella, Laura's former brother-in-law, has since applied to take over guardianship.

Kevin Knoefel, meanwhile, enjoyed months of deep-pocketed expenditures, from the house in Florida to flying lessons to new cars. A lawsuit filed by Zanella on Sept. 5 to recover life insurance money on behalf of his and Lisa's 13-year-old daughter alleges Knoefel also used the funds to buy a boat. It was the life he couldn't afford to lead before, not while his wife was alive.

The troubled life of Sabrina Zunich continues behind bars, though her future remains unclear. Just weeks after becoming an adult, the minor blips of her youth seemed more innocent still as she stood facing a cop, drenched in blood, having just stabbed her foster mother 178 times. This, despite her checkered past, was not where she was supposed to be.

"She was vulnerable," says one of the Wickliffe neighbors. "He took advantage of her."

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About The Author

Doug Brown

Doug Brown is a staff writer at Scene with a passion for public records laws and investigative reporting. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., he has an M.A. in journalism from the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a B.A. in political science from Hiram College. Prior to joining Scene,...
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