Lisa Knoefel’s death was a brutal murder, perpetrated by her foster daughter who stabbed the 41-year-old nearly 200 times in front of Knoefel’s two daughters. Authorities were quick to arrest her foster daughter, 18-year-old Sabrina Zunich, but it wasn’t until 10 months later that they were able to understand the motive behind the brutal act.
On November 16, 2012, Lisa Knoefel’s 13-year-old daughter called 911 and said Zunich was stabbing her mother. According to 911 tapes obtained by Oxygen, the 13-year-old girl told operators crying, “She’s stabbing my mom with a knife and she’s beating her! My sister! She’s trying to kill my mom!” When police officers arrived at their home, they found Zunich holding a bloody knife and the body of her foster mother. The youngest girl, aged 3, was hiding in a closet.
Authorities discovered that Lisa Knoefel’s husband, Kevin Knoefel, had been having a sexual relationship with Zunich which began when his foster daughter was 17 and he was 41, the outlet wrote. Not only that, but Zunich claimed that Kevin Knoefel had encouraged and advised her to commit the murder.
Zunich Revealed That She Entered the Foster Care System at 14 & Was Placed With the Knoefels When She Was 16
Zunich told Oxygen in an interview that she was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder when she was very young as well as oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. A Cleveland Scene article described her upbringing as being a bit tumultuous, with the teenager getting into fistfights at school. She was mostly raised by her grandmother since her parents struggled with drug addictions and were in and out of jail.
Zunich entered the foster care system at the age of 14 when she was sent to the Emma Caley Receiving Home in Lake County, Ohio. In July 2011, when the teenager was 16, she was placed in the foster care of Kevin Knoefel, a truck driver, and his wife Lisa Knoefel, a social worker for the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services. Lisa Knoefel worked in the sex abuse department and had decided to foster children in addition to raising her own two daughters, Oxygen reported.
Zunich grew closer with Kevin Knoefel than with Lisa as she had frequent arguments with her foster mother, accusing her of treating her two daughters better than her. Zunich told authorities that her relationship with her foster father became sexual in the spring of 2012 and continued in the summer and fall of that year, court documents show.
Zunich Testified About What Led to the Decision to Kill Her Foster Mother & Kevin Knoefel’s Involvement
According to the News-Herald‘s report of Zunich’s friend’s testimony, it appears that Kevin Knoefel and Zunich began discussing Lisa Knoefel’s murder in the fall of 2012. Zunich’s friend Autumn Pavlik said that Zunich asked her if she could get her a hitman: “She said that they [Kevin and Lisa] were going to get a divorce, and she was worth more dead than alive.”
Kevin Knoefel had told Zunich that his wife had $800,000 in life insurance policies and they could use the money to start a life together, the outlet wrote. On November 15, 2012, Zunich said that her foster father broke down crying in the car after driving her to school. He told her he’d fought with his wife and he would kill himself if she wasn’t dead, Zunich later told the court, and that she told Knoefel she’d kill his wife herself. The following day, she went through with the violent act.
In the months that followed, Knoefel collected his wife’s life insurance and used the money to buy a house in Florida, several cars and even took flying lessons while Zunich sat in jail. The teenager decided to come forward about her former foster father’s role as she said she felt abandoned by him and told authorities the part he’d played, Oxygen reported. Her decision to cooperate with the authorities led to Knoefel’s arrest on August 9, 2013.