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Trial: Custody of 3-year-old key in brutal slaying

PAINESVILLE, Ohio – A northeast Ohio man who was having an affair with his teenage foster daughter conspired with the girl to kill his wife to get her out of their way, a prosecutor told jurors on the first day of the man’s trial.

Prosecutor John O’Donnell told a Lake County jury on Monday that 43-year-old Kevin Knoefel even told his foster daughter Sabrina Zunich how to stab Lisa Knoefel.

“He told Sabrina, ‘Once you plunge the knife, twist it to cause more internal damage,’ ” O’Donnell said.

The prosecutor said Kevin Knoefel wanted his 41-year-old wife out of the picture and was afraid he’d lose custody of their 3-year-old daughter if they divorced, according to The (Willoughby) News Herald ( He also wanted to collect nearly $800,000 in insurance money, O’Donnell said.

Knoefel is charged with murder conspiracy.

Prosecutors say Lisa Knoefel was killed on Nov. 16, 2012, by the then-17-year-old Zunich.

Defense attorney Michael Connick told jurors that Zunich, now 19, is mentally ill and acted alone in stabbing Lisa Knoefel 178 times. Connick said Zunich is the only person who can link Kevin Knoefel to his wife’s killing, and she is being offered a plea deal to testify against him.

Connick said Zunich was about to be ordered from the home by the couple and wanted to get Lisa Knoefel out of the way because she wanted the victim’s 3-year-old daughter for herself.

“She viewed the girl as her own,” Connick said.

Willoughby Hills police Officer Randy Mullenax testified that Zunich was covered in blood from head to toe and was carrying a large knife in her right hand when police arrived at the home.

The trial continues Tuesday.