LE MARS, Iowa – Darlene Knapp knew her husband was mad when he returned to their home.
Tom Knapp noticed a pot of birds sitting in their yard that morning and went out to fix it. Darlene Knapp says the raccoon may have shoved it, but she knows Tom will likely blame her son, Kevin Juzek, who lives in their basement.
“We’re probably blaming both of them,” Darlene Knapp said, testifying that her husband didn’t like having Juzek in their home, but there was never any physical confrontation between them. “I guess he never really liked Kevin at all.”
Minutes later, Juzek was dead on the living room floor, shot twice by Tom Knapp after Juzek stepped in to stop him from assaulting Darlene.
Knapp, 84, pleaded not guilty in Plymouth County Court to first-degree murder and willful bodily harm in the May 11, 2020 shooting of his stepchild Juzek, 51. Knapp also was charged with willful bodily harm and domestic assault for assaulting Darlene prior to the shooting. If convicted of first-degree murder, Knapp faces the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
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Knapp allegedly shot Juzek with a 20-round shotgun through his bedroom door, stabbed him in the stomach, then shot him a second time from a gap in the chest on the living room floor.
Darlene Knapp testified that her husband punched her at least twice in the face when she brought him some soft drinks. In his bedroom, Tom knocks her out, then pulls her into bed with his hair. He then hit her with a wooden exercise stick similar to a broom handle at least twice, one of the blows breaking the finger on Darlene’s left hand as she tried to defend herself.
“Juzek came to the door,” said Darlene, and she bent down after Tom to leave the bedroom. She said Juzek closed the door so she could call 911. She didn’t hear the first shot.
“Kevin came out and told me Tom shot him in the stomach,” she said.
Juzek fell to the floor and was sitting up.
“Then Tom came out and he kicked Kevin in the leg and said ‘you mean you’re not dead yet?’ and then he shot him in the chest,” Darlene said. “Kevin was completely petrified. When (Tom) pointed the gun at him, (Kevin) said ‘oh, no,’ and those were Kevin’s last words.
“I’ll never forget it. It’s in my heart.”
Darlene Knapp said Tom chased her as she left the house, holding a gun against her.
“I was afraid I would get shot in the back,” she said.
Able to escape, Darlene called 911 a second time from outside, and officers soon arrived while Tom Knapp remained inside.
Knapp’s lawyers say his actions were justified and that he shot Juzek in self-defense.
In a tape recording of Knapp’s interview with investigators that was broadcast Thursday to the grand jury, Knapp said that Darlene threatened her with a stick, and he took it from her hand and beat her. . He also told deputies Juzek shouted at him from outside his bedroom.
Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo, who is retired, responded to the shooting and spoke to Tom Knapp, who was in the back seat of a patrol car. After Van Otterloo advised him about his right to remain silent, he asked Knapp why he shot his own son.
“Because he was attacking me,” Knapp said in a video recording of the conversation given to jurors. “He’s pulling the door. He’s got a piece of wood, he’s going to hit me with it.”
On Thursday, jurors heard other recordings of Knapp telling investigators that Juzek intentionally upset him, and even played some kind of electronic device that kept Knapp awake. apple at night.
Darlene Knapp testified that she never heard the noise her husband – now divorced – complained about.
At the conclusion of her testimony, Plymouth County District Attorney Darin Raymond settled her case after a day and a half of witness testimony and evidence.
After speaking briefly with Knapp privately, defender Wendy Samuelson then put the defense on hold without calling Knapp or any other witnesses to testify.
The trial will continue with the attorneys’ closing arguments Tuesday morning before the case is submitted to the jury.