Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 12, 2013

Trooper-death suspect wife sentenced as accessory


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) — The pregnant wife of a man charged with fatally shooting a Michigan state trooper during a traffic stop has been sentenced to two to five years in prison for helping him escape.

Mason County Circuit Judge Richard I. Cooper in Ludington on Tuesday sentenced Sarah Knysz, 20, for being an accessory after the fact and auto theft. She's due to deliver the baby this month.

"There wasn't anything that I thought I could have done that day," she said.

Eric Knysz faces trial starting Feb. 18 on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Trooper Paul Butterfield II. Butterfield was killed during a traffic stop Sept. 9 in Mason County's Sherman Township.

His mother also is charged in the case, and she agreed Wednesday to stand trial on charges of being an accessory after the fact to the killing and to auto theft.

Tammi Lynne Spofford, 55, waived her probable-cause hearing in Mason County District Court in Ludington and agreed to stand trial.

Sarah Knysz pleaded guilty Nov. 5 and agreed to testify against her husband.

She told the judge Tuesday that she was afraid of her husband and helped him to keep herself and her baby safe.

"He had a gun and he shot the trooper," she said, "and if he did that, what was he going to do to a witness that was going to tell on him and was going to turn him in? I just wanted to keep me and my baby safe.

"I was just thinking about my baby."

On Tuesday, the trooper's fiancee and father gave accounts of their loss. Jennifer Sielski told the court that Butterfield was a wonderful man who "provided an energy you couldn't help but feel inspired by."

The trooper's father, Paul Butterfield, gave Sarah Knysz's attorney a photo of the late trooper for Knysz to look at during the hearing. He said her actions and decisions condoned her husband's actions.

"I have seen your tears," he said. "I believe your tears are not a result of sorrow for our son's death, but because you got caught."