Man Manipulated Teenage Foster Daughter To Fatally Stab His Wife

“I can't explain how much remorse I have and how much sadness I deal with,” Sabrina Zunich says of committing murder.

Lisa Knoefel, pictured here smiling, was stabbed nearly 200 times by her foster daughter, Sabrina Zunich, in Willoughby Hills in November 2012.

On Nov. 16, 2012, Lisa Knoefel was stabbed nearly 200 times by her foster daughter, Sabrina Zunich, in Willoughby Hills.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "Dateline on ID")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "Dateline on ID")

By: Aaron Rasmussen

An Ohio truck driver who took in a foster daughter with his social worker wife manipulated the teenager to commit murder after he told her he was in love with her.

In July 2011, Sabrina Zunich, then 16, was placed in the care of Kevin and Lisa Knoefel in Willoughby Hills, a Cleveland suburb, when the girl’s family was unable to take care of her.

“They thought it was a good fit,” Zunich’s attorney, Charles Grieshammer, later said of his client’s placement in the Knoefel family’s home, according to The Columbus Dispatch. “But it was the absolute worst thing that could have been done.”

By the spring of 2012, court documents show, Zunich and her foster father were involved in a sexual relationship with each other.

According to prosecutors, Kevin told Zunich that he loved her and wanted to be with her but was worried he would lose custody of his toddler daughter if he and his wife, Lisa, were to divorce.

Zunich later testified that her foster father convinced her to stab his wife of six years by claiming he would kill himself if she didn’t die. Prosecutors said Kevin’s motive for getting rid of Lisa was to collect on a $750,000 life insurance policy in her name.

On November 16, 2012, Kevin was out on the road for a job when his teenage lover plunged a 10-inch serrated kitchen knife into his wife 12 times and cut her 160 times, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The victim’s then-13-year-old daughter, Megan Zanella, witnessed her mother’s violent murder. “I was hearing screaming. I was also hearing the dog barking and I was like, 'What the hell is going on downstairs?’” She recently told HLN's Sex & Murder. “So I walked down there and Brina is stabbing my mother to death and immediately I stay, 'Stop, get off of her!’”

“I was actually on top of her at one point and she shoved me,” Zanella recalled. “I immediately go into the office and call 911 and say, ‘My sister is stabbing my mother to death. She is going to die.’”

Zunich, now 28, eventually cooperated with investigators and pleaded guilty in 2014 to the aggravated murder of 41-year-old Lisa two years earlier. She was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The convicted killer expressed remorse at her sentencing hearing, saying she was sorry to “all those I hurt.”

“Lisa did not deserve what happened to her. I ask forgiveness be given to me — not for my benefit but for those who need the healing process to begin,” she said. “I can't explain how much remorse I have and how much sadness I deal with.”

Her defense attorney, Grieshammer, said, “There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that she wouldn’t have done this without Mr. Knoefel’s urging.”

Despite his insistence Zunich acted alone, a jury convicted Kevin, now 52, on conspiracy to commit murder and sexual battery charges. He received a sentence of 42 years to life in prison.

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