Knysz guilty of Butterfield murder

No witnesses called by defense, shooter declines to testify

LUDINGTON – After it heard all of the testimony and its instructions from the court, a jury took about 90 minutes to find Eric Knysz guilty of murdering Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield.

The jury — consisting of three men and nine women — also found Knysz guilty of felony firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and unlawful driving away of an automobile. At his sentencing on April 8, Knysz faces up to life in prison without parole.

Eric Knysz (left), 20, of Irons, was found guilty of the murder of Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield on Tuesday in Mason County's 51st Circuit Court.

Eric Knysz (left), 20, of Irons, was found guilty of the murder of Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield on Tuesday in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court.

“I feel strongly that the cold blooded killer of trooper Paul Butterfield was found guilty today,” MSP director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue told the media after hearing the verdict. “It was all because of a lot of really great law enforcement investigation.”

Testimony in the case revealed that Knysz, 20, of Irons, shot Butterfield during a traffic stop on Sept. 9, 2013, on Custer Road in Mason County.

After the verdict was read, Butterfield’s loved ones hugged and thanked the investigators and the many current and former law enforcement officers who filled Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court.

Butterfield’s fiance, Jennifer Sielski, stated that she doesn’t yet know if the verdict will bring her peace, adding that she still grieves daily.

“I believe that justice was done today,” she said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring Paul back, but at least his killer won’t be out to hurt anyone else.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Spaniola called Dr. David Start, expert witness in forensic pathology, who testified that Butterfield died from a bullet wound to the head and that the manner of death was a homicide. Start testified that the bullet went from right to left and downward into the substance of the brain. Butterfield had no exit wound.

“This gunshot wound caused extensive damage to the brain,” Start said. “When a projectile such as a bullet travels with sufficient speed through a tissue, tissue is damaged along the track of the bullet, parallel to the bullet, because that energy is dispersed.”

Forensic pathologist Dr. David Start testified on Tuesday that Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield died from a gunshot wound to the head and that the manner of death was homicide.

Forensic pathologist Dr. David Start testified on Tuesday that Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield died from a gunshot wound to the head and that the manner of death was homicide.

From the bullet, Start was able to collect two metal fragments left in Butterfield’s brain. He added that Butterfield sustained abrasions to his left forehead, left upper eye and left lip, consistent with a forward fall onto pavement.

As his last witness, Spaniola called Det. Sgt. Scott Rios of the Michigan State Police Hart Post. Rios acted as lead detective of the case and on Tuesday presented a cumulative timeline and geographical map of all evidence gathered by the numerous investigators involved. Rios stated that at the time of the murder, Knysz was driving on a suspended license.

Paul T. Butterfield, father of fallen Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield, cried after a jury found Eric Knysz, 20, of Irons, guilty of murdering his son.

Paul T. Butterfield, father of fallen Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield, cried after a jury found Eric Knysz, 20, of Irons, guilty of murdering his son.

In his summary, Rios highlighted Knysz’s multiple confessions of the shooting. The defendant was documented confessing to the murder twice to MSP Det. Sgt. Gary Green, to Mark and Deborah Harris on the night of the shooting and in a letter written from the Mason County Jail to his wife’s defense attorney John Spillan.

After the prosecution rested, the defense called no witnesses and Knysz chose not to testify.

In his closing statement, defense attorney David Glancy argued that Knysz may have been motivated to confess in an attempt to acquit his wife.

“I believe that you can infer that he was trying to cover for her while giving his statement to officers in the hospital,” Glancy said.

He also tried to create doubt by stating that Knysz’s fingerprints weren’t found on the trigger of the murder weapon, and that his DNA and fingerprints weren’t found on the napkin that he used to wipe Butterfield’s blood off of the truck or the shell casing that was found on the side of Free Soil Road.

“Tire marks that were said to have been seen pulling away from the scene,” Glancy additionally argued. “There is no testimony that those matched the vehicle mentioned.”

Spaniola, in his closing statement, reviewed all of the testimony given in the six day trial and articulated how the evidence matched the elements required for a guilty verdict of murder of a peace officer.

“In this case, the truth is that Eric Knysz murdered Paul Butterfield on the side of the road and left him to die,” Spaniola said.

Knysz will be sentenced at 4 p.m. on April 8.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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