LUDINGTON (WWJ/AP) – The mother of a man accused of fatally shooting a Michigan state trooper has been charged with helping her son steal a car to flee.
Fifty-year-old Tammi Lynne Spofford appeared in a Mason County courtroom earlier this week on charges of accessory after the fact and auto theft in connection with the death of Trooper Paul Butterfield. Both charges carry up to five years in prison.
Spofford’s 19-year-old son Eric Knysz awaits trial on charges of murder of a peace officer. Knysz’s 20-year-old pregnant wife, Sarah, earlier pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the killing.
Authorities say Eric Knysz shot Butterfield in the head during a traffic stop Sept. 9 in Mason County’s Sherman Township, about 80 miles north of Grand Rapids.
According to police, Butterfield had stopped a speeding vehicle around 6:20 p.m. on Custer Road near Townline Road. Sarah Knysz testified that Butterfield approached their truck and began to ask how they were doing when her husband fired the gun. The couple then sped off.
A few moments later, a passing motorist called 911 to report finding Butterfield on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Butterfield was airlifted to Munson Hospital, where he passed away during emergency surgery.
Sarah Knysz testified that after the shooting, the couple drove to Spofford’s house where Eric Knysz cleaned Butterfield’s blood and tissue off the truck with napkins.
“I just went in and told her we needed her and we went back out and got in the truck,” she said. “He left his mom’s and she asked what was going on and he said that he needed her to drive the truck back, that he was going to get a car, and he told her that he just killed a state trooper. … She acted shocked and asked if he was serious. I started crying and he started telling her that he just got done wiping off the officer’s brains from the truck.”
After picking up Spofford, the trio then drove to nearby Walhalla where the young couple had earlier looked at a car for sale. At that time, Eric Knysz allegedly stole a vehicle. Sarah Knysz testified that Spofford drove the truck back home, while she and her husband took off in the stolen vehicle.
The couple then drove to the a convenience store in Manistee County’s Wellston where police finally caught up with them around 8:25 p.m.
“I went inside the store, he was outside getting gas,” Sarah Knysz testified. “After he came in, I saw a state cop looking at the car and my husband ran out the back. I waited in the store and then I heard loud noises and when it registered that it was more gunshots, I went out the front door and I saw my husband laying on the ground. And then I had guns pointed at me and I was told to get on the ground.”
Both were then taken into police custody. Eric Knysz was also transported to the hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the leg.
In addition to murder of a police officer, Eric Knysz is charged with felony firearm, concealed weapons violation, unlawfully driving away an auto, and being a habitual offender. He faces up to life in prison if convicted as charged. His trial is scheduled to start Feb. 18.
Sarah Knysz’s plea deal calls for her to get one to two years in prison when sentenced on Dec. 17.
Spofford is due back in court for a preliminary examination on Nov. 27.
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