National Roundup


Woman accused of seeking to have family killed 
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Authorities in central Alabama have arrested a 19-year-old woman they say tried to have someone she met on Facebook kill her family.
But the person she was talking to over the social media site was actually her aunt. reports that Marissa Williams was arrested Monday and charged with solicitation of murder. She was being held in the Tuscaloosa County jail on $30,000 bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if she had a lawyer.

Williams had been living with her aunt in Fosters, Alabama, since April and their relationship had become strained because Williams would invite strangers she met online to the house, court records filed Tuesday show. When her aunt asked her to stop doing that, Williams blocked her aunt from seeing her activity on Facebook.

Williams’ aunt told investigators she created a new Facebook profile for a fake man she called Tre “Topdog” Ellis that she could use to connect with her niece and chat with her online. The aunt told authorities she hoped to get an idea of her niece’s online activity and also wanted to teach Williams the potential dangers of meeting strangers online.

Williams began chatting with the fictional man, not knowing it was her aunt. She gave the fictional man her phone number and address, asked him to come over and get drunk with her and offered to have sex with him if he’d pay her $50 cell phone bill, according to court documents.

A few days later, Williams told the fictional man her family angered her and that she wanted to leave Alabama, according to court documents. Williams’ aunt told investigators her niece then asked the man to come take her away and to shoot her aunt if she tried to stop him.

The plans got more detailed with Williams telling the fictional man how to get into her aunt’s bedroom so he could kill her fiancé first and asking him to shoot her cousin and the dog on the way out.

The aunt called the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office for help after reading the plans.

When she was interviewed by deputies, Williams admitted to the plot but said she didn’t really mean for anyone to be killed.
Jury’s mistake on form sets free  burglary suspect 
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A defendant in a Central California burglary case walked out of a courtroom a free man after a jury mistakenly signed a not-guilty verdict form.
The Fresno Bee reports the flabbergasted judge said Wednesday he had no choice but to order defendant Bobby Lee Pearson to be set free from jail because the not-guilty verdict had been put on the record.

After it was too late, jurors told the judge they were hung on the charges against Pearson.

But Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin said he couldn’t change the form because double jeopardy was already attached. He said it had never happened in more than 100 jury trials he has presided over.

Police say Pearson and two co-defendants burglarized an apartment last year.

Pearson has previous felony convictions, including several on gun charges.
Welfare ag­e­ncy: Dead girl kept in fridge for months 
HOUSTON (AP) — Child-welfare officials say a Houston mother kept her 9-year-old daughter’s body in a refrigerator for six months after her death.
A Child Protective Services worker testified Wednesday that the woman acknowledged putting the body in a fridge drawer after finding the girl dead in January. A neighbor discovered the body Monday and went to police.
A court gave the agency custody of the woman’s 5-year-old daughter. No charges have been filed.

Caseworker Amber Keyes says the 9-year-old girl had cerebral palsy and weighed just 14 pounds when she died.

Keyes says the mother awoke one morning to find her daughter not breathing and tried unsuccessfully to revive the girl. After taking her younger daughter to school, the mother wrapped the body in a blanket and put it in the fridge.
Foster dad guilty in 2012 plot to kill wife with teen
PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A man accused of being romantically involved with his teenage foster daughter was convicted Wednesday of conspiring with her to kill his wife.
Prosecutors told jurors that Kevin Knoefel, 43, showed his foster daughter Sabrina Zunich how to stab his wife and that he wanted her out of the picture but was afraid he’d lose custody of their 3-year-old daughter if they divorced.

A Lake County jury convicted Knoefel on six counts of sexual battery, three counts of complicity to aggravated murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
Knoefel, who plans to appeal, could face 25 years to life in prison.

Zunich, now 19, testified last week that she put on a ski mask and fatally stabbed 41-year-old Lisa Knoefel in her bed as she fought back in November 2012, when she was 17. Prosecutors said Zunich stabbed and cut her more than 150 times with the 10-inch serrated knife.

Zunich said she had fallen in love with her foster father and feared he would commit suicide if she didn’t carry out their plot to kill his wife.

Knoefel picked out the knife and showed her how to plunge it in once and twist, she said. She hid the weapon under her bedroom dresser in the home in Willoughby Hills, west of Cleveland.

She said they were carrying on a sexual relationship and discussed several plans to kill Lisa Knoefel, including shooting her and making it look like a burglary, or finding a hit man. Knoefel finally suggested that Zunich stab his wife, she said.

Defense attorney Michael Connick said that Zunich was mentally ill and acted alone. He said she was upset because the Knoefels had told her she would need to move out before her high school graduation.

Zunich said she reached an agreement to testify against Knoefel in exchange for a sentence of life in prison with the chance for parole in 30 years.

Zunich was arrested the night of the slaying. Police said they found Zunich in the house covered with blood and holding a knife after getting a 911 call from a 13-year-old girl screaming that her sister had a knife and was attacking her mother.