Victim Date of Birth
Date of Death
Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Date of Conviction
Body Discovered Date
Lisa Knoefel was brutally stabbed almost 200 times with a 15-inch knife by her step daughter Sabrina Zunich.
Lisa Knoefel was born on May 2, 1971, in Reynoldsburg, Lisa always loved kids and she was a mother of two girls. Megan Zanella, her oldest daughter born in 1991 when Lisa Knoefel was married to Nicholas Zanella; and Hailey, born in 2009 during Lisa’s second marriage with Kevin Knoefel. Lisa was known for loving spending time with her family, she adored her daughters and was profoundly in love with Kevin. The couple had gotten married after dating for 1 year and by the time of the unfortunate events, they had been married for six years. Lisa worked as a social worker with the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, and Kevin was a truck driver. They had a happy family already but Lisa always had more love to give, so they signed in to become a foster family for kids in need. In 2011, they would welcome 16 year old Sabrina Zunich to their loving home, in Willoughny Hills, Ohio. Sabrina was the first teenager they’ve ever fostered.
Once Sabrina started living with the Knoefel family, things would start taking a not so positive turn for them. Everything was great at the beginning, Sabrina got along really well with Megan and Hailey, and she was also doing very well in school. She was getting good grades, always early, model student. Sabrina’s life was the most stable ever. Unfortunately things would change soon. Lisa was very uncomfortable with Sabrina’s relationship with her husband Kevin; they seemed to be awkwardly close. It wasn’t just Lisa seeing this; Sabrina’s friends described Kevin as a ¨creepy touchy dude¨, always making sexual jokes about Sabrina.
Another thing that made Lisa Knoefel uncomfortable was the relationship between Sabrina and her youngest daughter Hailey Knoefel. The closer Sabrina and Kevin got, the more motherly Sabrina would act towards four year old Hailey. All of these together just created chaos in the Knoefel marriage; they were now talking about getting a divorce. Less than a week before the incident, Lisa had sent Kevin a text saying ¨Cut the damn cord, spending too much time with her and less with your real family¨.
Incest gone wrong
In the spring of 2012, one night after Kevin came back from work, he asked Sabrina if she could massage his inner thigs, which naturally escalated to them having their first sexual encounter. They would carry on with the sexual affair behind Lisa’s back without any ¨inconvenience¨, 42 year old Kevin Knoefel and 17 year old Sabrina Zunich were having sex every day in Kevin’s car on their way to school. They were in love. Aside from the recurrent arguments, Kevin was having with Lisa, Sabrina herself started having problems with Lisa and Megan, always having Kevin on her side of the course. Arguments, fights, cheating…nothing too out of the ordinary from a perfect dysfunctional family life, right? Until Kevin started telling Sabrina how bad and sad he fell for having to deal with Lisa every day and how life for them would be so much better if she was gone. Kevin also mentioned that Lisa Knoefel was worth a lot more dead than alive due to the life insurance policy she had. At this point, Sabrina started asking her friends if they knew any hitman. ¨She just wanted to know¨.
On the morning of November 15, 2012, before dropping off Sabrina in school, crying Kevin told Sabrina how bad he needed Lisa dead or he would commit suicide. He asked Sabrina to do it. He even told her what to do and how to do it. Kevin would pretend he had to work out of town which wasn’t unusual for him being a truck driver.
November 16, 2012- 1AM in the morning- 911 received a disturbing call from 13 year old Megan Zanella screaming and crying. She told the police her sister was brutally attacking her mother with a knife. When police arrived to the scene, they found Sabrina Zunich who seemed to have showered in blood, holding a 15-inch blood dripping knife.
The Crime Description
41-year-old Lisa Knoefel was stabbed 178 times in her head, neck, torso and extremities. She had also been stabbed in the eye and she had defensive wounds all over her hands. The autopsy also showed that some of Lisa Knoefel’s fingers were nearly severed off. The fatal wounds were the stab wound to the lungs and the carotid artery. The stabbing was so gruesome, it looked like Sabrina had twisted the knife after very stab wound, which caused a lot more damage to Lisa. Sabrina twisted the knife so hard, it ended up bent.
18-year-old Sabrina Zunich was born on October 27, 1994, in Ohio, USA. Both her parents struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. She was sent to live with her grandmother but Sabrina wasn’t an easy teenager and by 14, and when she was caught stealing money from her grandmother to buy alcohol and drugs, Sabrina entered the foster care system, where she would stay for two years. When she was 16, the Knoefel family took her in as a foster daughter, they already had two daughters. By December 2011, Sabrina and Kevin became unnaturally close. In the spring of 2012, Sabrina said her relationship with Kevin had become sexual. In early October 2012, Sabrina asked her friends if they knew about any hitman. On October 27th, Sabrina turned 18 and since she could have left the foster care system but she decided to stay with the Knoefel family. By this time, Lisa was a bit suspicious of Sabrina and Kevin’s relationship.
Sabrina had a diagnosed of ADHD, Bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. This wouldn’t be a reason to plead insanity though, her levels weren’t bad enough to justify the act.
After the brutal murder, Sabrina was arrested and taken into police custody. When they asked her why she would do such thing, she answered that she just didn’t remember. She blacked out. It was insanity. She would stick to this story for a few months.
In the meantime, poor husband Kevin didn’t take even a couple of days to call the insurance company and ask them for Lisa’s life insurance money, he did it on the same day of Lisa’s murder! Kevin called around four insurance companies, including Lisa’s employers, and collected 785000 dollars!
During Elisa’s funeral, On November 17, 2012, Kevin told his friend he wanted to visit Sabrina in jail. By then he had already called Willoughby Hills police and asked about visitation hours and restrictions to see Sabrina, but when he made it to jail on November 18, police told him she had run out of visitation time. That same day, Kevin visits the crime scene and hires a cleaning crew to have Lisa’s belongings removed from the house, he also asked them to look for a possible severed finger because it could have a ring on it still. A few months later, Kevin would use Lisa’s insurance money to buy the house he was living in, the house where Lisa was murdered. He would also buy several Chevy cars and a new boat.
Kevin’s dream life would come to an end on May, 2013, when Sabrina spoke uot and told the police Kevin had planned the murder with her. She described several options Kevin had proposed in order to kill Lisa. Kevin had even told her the timing, what weapon to use, what to do inmediately after killing Lisa-he wanted Sabrina to make it look like it was a robbery gone wrong-Kevin even instructed Sabrina on how to twist the knife when stabbing Lisa. Kevin had convinced her by telling her that if she played insanity, she would probably be out of jail soon. And after they could take little Hailey with them and be a happy family together. He promised he would pay for the best lawyers for her.
During trial, Sabrina testified against Kevin, she told the jury about their little love affair, how it started when she was 17, and how Kevin, knowing Sabrina loved him and wouldn’t want him to hurt himself, manipulated her into killing Lisa. Sabrina Zunich pleaded guilty to aggravated murder.
Kevin Knoefel’s defence was that Sabrina was indeed mental ill and everything was done on her own. He was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated murder and six count of sexual battery.
Even though all the proof against Kevin Knoefel was circumstancial, was given a life sentence with possibility of parole in 30 years.
On October 2014, Sabrina was sentenced to Life in prison with a possibility of parole after 30 years. The judge granted her possibility of parole because of her collaboration to have Kevin convicted too.
Frequently asked questions
Where is Megan Zanella now?
Right after the horrific events of November 2012, Megan Zanella remained in the custody of her biological father Nicholas Zanella who Megan seems to get along really well with. She lives now in Chagrin falls, Ohio and has a degree in Criminal Justice from Eastern Gateway Community College.
What happened with Hailey Knoefel?
After Lisa’s murder, Hailey Knoefel’s custody was given to Attorney Douglas Arthur by the court. As far as today goes, and Hailey still being a minor, it’s best to not disclose her whereabouts.
Where is Kevin Knoefel today?
Kevin Knoefel is servin his Life sentence in Lake Erie Correctional Institution. He still claims he is not guilty.