Full day of testimony in Knapp trial

Monday, September 12, 2022
During a break in court proceedings Thursday, Thomas Knapp chatted with a family member from the gallery. Knapp is on trial for murder in the May 11, 2020, shooting death of his stepson.
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk)

PLYMOUTH CO. — Testimony from witnesses began Thursday, Sept. 8, in the trial of Thomas Knapp, who is charged with first degree murder in the death of his stepson, Kevin Juzek, on May 11, 2020.

The first witness was Plymouth County Law Enforcement Center dispatcher Brenda Arens.

Plymouth County Attorney Darin Raymond asked if 911 calls are recorded, with Arens affirming they are.

On Thursday, Plymouth County Chief Deputy Rick Singer testified in the Thomas Knapp murder trial. Headphones and a live-time transcription of the proceedings on a tablet allow Knapp to hear all that is said in the court room. He is seated beside his lawyers, public defenders Wendy Samuelson and Jill Eimermann.
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk)

She testified that she took two 911 calls from Darlene Knapp, the defendant’s wife and mother of Juzek, on May 11. There was a time lapse of a couple minutes between the two calls.

A transcribed copy of those two calls was entered into evidence by Plymouth County Attorney Darin Raymond, and was provided to the jurors and defense as the 911 audio recording was played in the courtroom.

District Court Judge James Daane told the jury the written transcript was to be used to follow the audio recording, but that the recording is the evidence.

“I need help,” Darlene said in the recording, giving her address in Echo Road and continued that her husband had beaten her up.

“Get somebody here right away,” she said and continued her son was trying to hold the door shut so he (Knapp) can’t come out.

When the dispatcher asked about a weapon, Darlene said he had a gun in his bedroom.

Later in the call, she said, “He killed my son.”

In the second call, the dispatcher told Darlene, “I need you to go to a safe place.”

As Darlene said Knapp was after her, and she was so scared, the dispatcher directed, “Don’t hang up on me. I’ll keep talking to you.”

The dispatcher continued to try to keep the woman calm.

“He’s crazy, he’s got to be put away,” Darlene said.

Public defender Wendy Samuelson only questioned the dispatcher about the time between the two calls.

Plymouth County Chief Deputy Rick Singer was off duty on May 11, 2020, but was contacted by cell phone and went to the Echo Road residence, the seventh or eighth law enforcement person on the scene.

He observed Knapp walking toward law enforcement officers, but not following commands to show his hands. Singer said he later learned that Knapp had a hearing problem.

Singer testified about clearing the house, starting in the basement as a door was open to that area.

Le Mars Senior Police Officer Jeff Kramer was with Singer when the house was cleared and they found Juzek lying on the living room floor.

Singer indicated they were not searching the house at that time, but he did see biological matter on the door frame to the southeast bedroom.

About an hour later, the official search warrant was brought to the location, and utilizing the Le Mars Police Department Crime Team, searched the house.

Singer testified a Remington 1100 gun was found in the southeast bedroom, and identified the gun in the courtroom.

In cross examination, Samuelson questioned if Singer had overheard anything Knapp had said to other officers. Singer answered, “Not that I recall.”

She also questioned if the hole in the door with powder was tested. Singer said he did an observation identification only.

Also testifying was Kramer, who is a trained crime scene investigator with the Le Mars Police Department and also a member of the Emergency Response Team. He is also an EMT.

He said he was monitoring radio traffic and went to assist at the scene.

He said upon arrival, he secured the perimeter and took lead at the site.

Kramer testified he saw Knapp coming from the south side of the house, and told him he wanted to see his hands. Knapp put his hands in his coat pocket.

Kramer said he did not know the status of Knapp at that time, and indicated the officers had their weapons drawn.

Knapp then cooperated, and was secured and handcuffed and put in the squad car.

Kramer said he asked if anyone was hurt or needed an ambulance, and noted Knapp was hard of hearing. Kramer continued that Knapp said his stepson was in the house and he was dead.

While clearing the house, Kramer observed Juzek on the floor, and once the house was secured, checked Juzek and found no pulse.

Kramer identified exhibits submitted for evidence as pictures he had taken at the scene of the rooms. Other exhibits included sketches of the house and room layouts Kramer had made.

On cross examination, Public Defender Jill Eimermann questioned the time lapse between the the walk through to clear the house and the time the search warrant arrived. Kramer said he did not know.

Eimermann then asked about identifying and marking evidentiary items, noting Kramer and Singer returned the next day after learning Juzek had been shot twice.

On the return trip to the scene, a second empty shell casing was found behind the headboard in the southeast bedroom.

Eimermann also asked if a search of the basement yielded electronic devices. Kramer answered, “None that stood out.”

Later on Thursday, the jury heard testimony from State Medical Examiner Dr. Michelle Catellier, who confirmed there were two gunshot wounds and ruled the death a homicide.

The jurors also viewed Merrill Police car cam video where Knapp had been secured, heard testimony from Plymouth County Deputy Scott Dorhout, as well as an audio interview of Knapp by Dorhout.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: