‘I am left here to serve a life sentence without the man I loved’

April 8, 2014
Jennifer Sielski reads her victim impact statement to the court.

Jennifer Sielski reads her victim impact statement to the court.

The following is the victim impact statement read by Jennifer Sielski, fiance of Trooper Paul Butterfield. Sielski read the letter today during the sentencing of Eric John Knysz in 51st Circuit Court. 

Your honor, I know that nothing can bring Paul back into this world or ease the pain of my devastating loss. But, just as Paul did his duty to uphold the law, serve his community and keep us all safe, I ask that you do the same by holding the responsible parties accountable for their heartless actions, which caused the death of my beloved fiance.

I felt like the luckiest woman in the world just to be part of Paul’s life. He had the ability to make me laugh when I was feeling my worst. He could inspire me when I felt defeated. He was trustworthy when I needed a friend. He was comforting when I needed to share my feelings. He was intuitive when I had a problem I tried to hide. He protected me when I needed to feel safe. He was my friend, my inspiration, my hero, my soul mate.

Trooper Paul Butterfield

Trooper Paul Butterfield

On September 9, 2013, I returned home from work, gave Paul a kiss and told him I loved him before he started his shift for the night at 6 p.m. — something I had done countless times. But that time would be the last. Twenty minutes later, Paul would be lying in the road, just several miles from our home, clinging to his life after being shot in the head by Eric Knysz.

As Eric and his wife, Sarah, fled toward the freedom they were literally willing to kill for, I was at home walking our dog, not realizing the love of my life was alone, suffering, and only hours from death.

Unaware of what was happening to Paul, I had etched the message “I [heart] U” in the sand in our yard, taken a photo of it and sent it to him, hoping he would know that he was always in my thoughts, even when we couldn’t be together. To this day, the message remains unread on his cell phone.

The chase for the suspects continued, and my hero continued to fight. Sometime later, Lt. Leavitt arrived at my door to tell me Paul had been shot. In that instant, my life. stopped.

Soon after we arrived at the hospital, the doctor informed me, Paul’s dad, his brothers and sisters in blue, and friends, that CPR was being performed but it was futile. The damage to his brain was too severe for survival. I walked down the hall to see Paul, my mind in a daze, thinking that it was all just a bad dream and I would wake up any moment. I entered the room to see Paul lying in a pool of his blood with eyes hemorrhaged, connected to needles and tubes. I held his hand as he lost his fight. My only hope was that he knew I was there with him.

I still continue to live with my mind in a daze like that night, unable to focus or concentrate on the simplest of tasks. My grief is so overpowering that completing every day tasks, working at my job, and caring for our seven animals takes all of the energy I can muster. Every day I am overcome with a feeling of panic that rushes through my body. I struggle to accept what has happened and that my partner in life is no longer on this earth to comfort, to listen, to protect and to make me laugh.

Paul was a person who was passionate about life. Whenever he would do something, he wanted to do it the best he could. He would research it and put his heart into it. On our first date, Paul asked me what I was passionate about. At that time, I told him I hadn’t experienced enough in life to feel passionate about any particular thing. I believe he took that as a personal challenge. Whether we were on wine tasting tours, traveling, running, biking or watching a favorite TV show together, everything we did together I found passion in it.

That was the wonderful thing about Paul: he provided an energy that I couldn’t help but feel inspired by. Now my passion is to ensure that others know the man that Paul Butterfield was and to honor the life he lived, rather than focus on those who took it away. But for the purpose of continuing to keep the community safe and finding justice for this amazing man who was senselessly taken away from those who loved him and those in his community he was trying to protect, I must focus on trying to ensure that these cowardly criminals do not cause the pain and anguish to anyone else that I feel daily.

Prior to September 9, I spent most of my days planning our wedding. After September 9, I spent all of my days planning Paul’s funeral. Today, my wedding dress hangs in the my closest next to Paul’s State Trooper uniform, neither one ever to be worn again. Together, they symbolize my dreams of living a life and having a future with my hero, my best friend, my life partner — dreams that were shattered by the actions of three irresponsible people on September 9. The maximum sentence of life without possibility of parole is the sentence most deserving of the crime that was committed by Eric Knysz. Eric decided my fate and the fate of my fiancé that night. He gave Paul a death sentence; and I am left here to serve a life sentence without the man I loved — a fate that neither of us deserve.

Thank you.

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