NO DEAL. Trooper Butterfield shooting case going to trial

October 22, 2013
Sheriff Kim Cole, right, and Sheriff Sgt. John Mendham watch Knysz.

Sheriff Kim Cole, right, and Sheriff Sgt. John Mendham watch Knysz.

LUDINGTON — Eric Knysz of Luther was offered no plea deal from the prosecutor during a final conference hearing today in 51st Circuit Court. The 19-year-old is being charged with multiple counts in connection with the Sept. 9 murder of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, including murder.

Several law enforcement officers, including MSP Hart Post Commander Lt. Kevin Leavitt and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, were in the Mason County courtroom during Knysz’ appearance Tuesday afternoon. Members of Knysz’ family, including his mother and father, were also present.

eric_knysz_oct_22_2013bMason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola told the court that he would only accept a guilty plea agreeing to the maximum sentences as charged. As a result, Judge Richard Cooper scheduled a 9-day trial, which will begin on Feb. 18, 2014.

Knysz faces charges of murder of a police officer, felony firearms, carrying a concealed weapon, auto theft and being a second time offender. He has also been charged in Manistee County with receiving and concealing a stolen firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Trooper Butterfield was shot in the head after he pulled over the vehicle Knysz was driving on North Custer Road in Free Soil Township the evening of Sept. 9. Following a manhunt, Knysz and his wife, Sarah, were apprehended at the Dublin General Store in northeastern Manistee County. Eric Knysz was shot in the leg prior to his apprehension.

Sarah Knysz, Eric’s 20-year-old pregnant wife, is charged in Mason County with accessory to murder, after the fact and unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle. In Manistee County she has been charged with unlawful driving away of a vehicle. She waived her circuit court arraignment in Mason County.

Cooper told the court that law enforcement officers need to use caution in the next few months due to the high profile of this case. He said that any inflammatory remarks could taint the jury pool and force a change of venue for the trial.

“I’m asking all individuals to not say things that inflame the situation,” he said. Cooper said officials are allowed to make factual comments on the case but need to keep their emotions in check.

The judge said he expects a very large jury pool will be needed for the trial.

“Now we will let justice take its course,” Lt. Leavitt said after the hearing.

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