Early in the morning on November 16, 2012, Lisa Knoefel was brutally murdered in her home in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, in front of her two daughters. Responding officers found her foster daughter, 18-year-old Sabrina Zunich, holding a bloody knife and arrested her. Knoefel had been stabbed nearly 200 times while her husband, trucker Kevin Knoefel, was out of town driving.
After spending months in jail, Zunich eventually agreed to a plea deal that included testifying against her foster father, who she said encouraged her to commit the murder and told her how to do it.
She was asked in court why she murdered her foster mother, who was described as someone who “loved children and she loved to help people,” and she replied, “Because I was doing what I was told to do.” According to Fox 8, prosecutors asked Zunich who told her to murder Lisa Knoefel and she replied, “Kevin [Knoefel].”
Where is Sabrina Zunich today?
Zunich Pleaded Guilty & Was Sentenced to Life in Prison With the Possibility of Parole After 30 Years
After Knoefel’s trial where Zunich provided testimony about his involvement in her foster mother’s murder, the young woman pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in August 2014. Zunich was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Public records show that she will be eligible for parole in 2042, at which time she will be 47 years old.
Zunich, now 26, is serving her sentence at the Dayton Correctional Institution, a state prison for women in Ohio which opened in 1987 and holds 857 inmates as of 2019, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction.
According to Cleveland.com, Zunich cried at her sentencing hearing, where the judge told her the only reason she received the possibility of parole was due to her cooperation with investigators. Zunich said, “I want to say how sorry I am for 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. I can’t explain how much remorse I have and how much sadness I deal with.”
Although the judge agreed that Zunich had been “manipulated and used” by Knoefel, her crime was beyond those considerations: “Aggravated murder is aggravated murder. But this was not a single violent act.”
Zunich Has Spoken About the Case in Interviews From Prison & Testified About the Instructions She Received From Knoefel
Zunich has spoken about that period in her life in interviews from prison, telling Oxygen that she and Lisa Knoefel were very close when she initially moved in with the family: “We started off as friends and then we moved into sisters.” However, she said she began feeling like her foster mother was more present for her two daughters than for her foster daughter and that’s when she grew closer with Kevin Knoefel.
“He was my friend and my father,” she explained to the outlet. “Kevin was there to catch me because he never judged me and he always made me feel wanted.” When she turned 18 in October 2012, she was able to leave foster care but she said she requested to remain with the family until she finished high school.
However, only three weeks later, she was arrested for Lisa Knoefel’s murder. Regarding that day, Zunich said, “I was not mentally there. I was in and out the whole time.”
She testified that her foster father had given her instructions about how to kill his wife with a knife, including to rotate it after stabbing her and to make it look like a burglary. He also said that if she was caught, she should claim insanity or self-defense, court documents show.