Testimony sheds more light on character of accused cop killer Eric Knysz

February 24, 2014

 

Prosecutor Paul Spaniola shows John Knysz the murder weapon. John bought the gun in 1972.

Prosecutor Paul Spaniola shows John Knysz the murder weapon. John bought the gun in 1972.

Story by Lisa Enos. MCP Correspondent.  

Photographs by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Detective Sgt. Gary Green of Michigan State Police Mt. Pleasant post arrived around midnight Sept. 9, 2013 at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City while Eric Knysz was being treated for the gunshot wound he sustained while apprehended by police in Manistee County earlier that evening.

Eric Knysz speaks with his attorney, David Glancy.

Eric Knysz speaks with his attorney, David Glancy.

Green appeared in court Friday and again Monday to give his testimony about the interviews he conducted with Eric Knysz, the 20-year-old Irons resident accused of killing MSP Trooper Paul Butterfield around 6:20 p.m. that same day on North Custer Road in Free Soil Township.

“Prior to talking to him did you confer with medical staff about his condition?” asked Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola.

Green answered that at approximately 1:30 a.m. the morning of Sept. 10 he asked  the doctor or nurse when Knysz would be lucid enough to have a conversation. They said at about 2:30 in the morning.

“I saw him at about 3 and he was sleeping,” said Green. “I spoke to Jessica McGluathlin (a nurse) at about 4:30, I asked her again, ‘When do you think he wiil be well enough to talk?'”

Sarah Knysz appeared in court.

Sarah Knysz appeared in court.

Green said the nurse asked Knysz a series of questions, including his name, birth date, if he knew what date it was, etc. and that he answered all the questions correctly. ”

At that time Green approached Knysz.

“I went to him and he just rolled over like he didn’t want to talk,” Green said.

Just prior to 6 a.m. Green said that Knysz was taken to a CAT Scan and when he came back he was communicating with staff, so he took the opportunity to engage him in conversation. He advised Eric Knysz of his Miranda warnings.

Knysz waived his right to have an attorney present and that is when he admitted to killing Trooper Butterfield with a .357 Colt Python handgun he allegedly stole from the residence of his father, John Knysz.

Green interviewed Eric Knysz two days later at Munson Medical Center and again read him his Miranda warnings. Eric Knysz again waived his right to remain silent or have an attorney appointed to him.

Transcripts of the recordings of both interviews were provided to the jury and the Mason County Press Monday.

MSP Det. Sgt. Gary Green, the arresting officer.

MSP Det. Sgt. Gary Green, the arresting officer.

During the interview Eric Knysz described some of the events of the day. He talked about how he had gone to his dad’s house that morning to help him clean out a trailer.  He said he went to the house of his boss, Ed Fitzgerald, to borrow $400. Knysz worked for a tree service (police found climbing equipment and a chainsaw in his getaway car). He talked about how after he shot Trooper Butterfield he threw the shell casing from the murder weapon out the window of his truck near the former Camp Sauble prison camp on East Free Soil Road (though Knysz did not know the name of the prison).

He also said that he went to his mother’s house to have her drive him to the house in Branch Township where he allegedly stole a white Pontiac Grand Prix. He said his wife, Sarah, was with him during all of this.

“She was smiling and then balling her eyes out, so that didn’t help me much,” Knysz said.

Knysz also told Det. Sgt. Green that he had sold some guns — hand guns and long guns — earlier that day to Travis Gajewski of Grant Township in the parking lot of Stix Bar at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and M-116 in Hamlin Township.

Knysz didn’t mention a trip to  the home of Mark and Deborah Harris who testified Friday that Eric and Sarah Knysz had stopped by and told them that Eric had killed a cop.

According to Sarah Knysz, 21, who took the witness stand Monday, they stopped at the Harris home “to buy weed” before heading to the Dublin store to get gas. It is not clear where the couple were planning to go.

Sarah Knysz who is currently serving two years at the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility, arrived in court in her prison jumpsuit and chains. It was the first time she’s seen her husband since the incident 5 months ago. Sarah gave birth to their son, Jayden Christmas day. The baby is presently in the custody of Sarah’s mother.

Sarah is serving a term of 2 to 5 years in prison for accessory to murder of a police officer and unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle. As part of her plea deal, she agreed to testify against her husband.

Sarah gave a tearful testimony, telling the jury she had been in a relationship with Eric for the past 6 to 8 years.  She didn’t appear to make eye contact with her husband while describing the events of the day. She appeared remorseful, so much so that at one point Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola offered her a box of tissue to wipe away the tears.

Sarah described how the couple set out the day of the murder to buy the white Pontiac Grand Prix they had seen advertised on Facebook. She described the trip to the Stix Bar/Park Lanes Bowling Alley parking lot to meet Travis Gajewski, who purchased several guns. The money from the guns would be used to buy the car.

Gajewski also took the stand Monday. He described how he purchased five guns — two long guns and two hand guns — from Eric Knysz (operating under the alias, Floyd Kaminski) for $250. Gajewski was charged with possession of two handguns without a license, an offense that he served 6 days in jail for (defense attorney David Glancy suggested in his cross examination that this was a light sentence in exchange for cooperating with police and agreeing to testify as a witness against Eric Knysz).

Eric’s father, John Peter Kynsz. also testified in court Monday. A former police officer from Illinois, John Knysz was a collector of guns and said he had about 30 of them. He identified the guns that were recovered from Gajewski as ones that belonged to him and said that Eric did not have his permission to take the guns from his premises, nor to sell them. He said he didn’t know how Eric had come to have possession of the guns. He said that Eric hadn’t fired any of his guns since he was 10 or 12, that he wasn’t allowed to touch the guns “ever since he got in trouble.”

Trouble?

While questioning Eric Knysz, Detective Sgt. Gary Green asked him some leading questions about his past (Green appeared to have done quite a bit of research). Eric Knysz was hit with a vehicle while riding a pedal bike when he was about 15. He injured his back (his T-1 vertebra, “where my neck meets my back,” Knysz said). He subsequently became hooked on pain medication. Eric told Green that when he could no longer get the medication he decided to get a job and buy pills himself (illegally).

“I was taking Norco’s, sometimes Percocets, but that’s just so I can move,” he said.

“It’s not to get high off of.”

Green led with some more questioning,” So, you know, when people are in pain like that and they’re willing to do a lot of stuff and you know, and it sounds less like it kind of started this cycle of things that kind of got out of control. You know what I mean, drugs lead to, you know. You have to get them on your own, which you know is illegal and you don’t want to do it, but you’re desperate because you’re in pain. And so, a lot of times when people take those pills, you know, you might take one, that’s good for a little while, but then, you know, after a little while, one’s not cutting it anymore, you got to take two or take, you know, you understand what I’m saying, right?”

Kynsz: “Mmm-hm.”

“You get to a point where you’re not yourself anymore. You’re not, you know. You’re not Eric anymore, you’re something else…”

Following John Knysz’s testimony, Judge Richard Cooper announced to the jury that the trial was likely going to come to a close soon. He instructed the 13 jurors to not make any plans Tuesday night.

After closing arguments, one juror will be randomly selected as an alternate and dismissed prior to deliberation. Normally there are two alternates but one juror got sick the first day of the trial.

Eric Knysz is accused of first degree murder of a peace officer, carrying a concealed weapon, felony firearms and unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle.

For frequent updates visit www.facebook.com/MasonCountyPress or www.twitter.com/MasonCoPress, #TrooperMurderTrial.

 

Major sponsor of MCP’s trial coverage is FloraCraft of Ludington: www.floracraft.com. Additional sponsorship by:

– Dollars & Sense Accounting of Ludington: 231-845-7292.

Shoreline Properties of Whitehall, www.shorelinepropertiesofwm.com; 231-894-1930.

 

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