Testimony, interview heard in court

Cold case murder proceedings move forward

MANISTEE — In the case of Manistee men Robert “Scott” Knauss and Peter Peterson, multiple actions took place Friday in 19th Circuit Court in Manistee.

Knauss and Peterson were arrested last year for the 1995 murder of Manistee man Vincent Adamczak.

The men are set to go to trial on June 2 through 5 then continuing on June 9 through 12, where two separate juries will preside over a single trial.

Motions filed

A motion was filed by Knauss, via his attorney John Spillan, to render null and void the bindover from the 85th District Court.

Charged with first-degree murder and bound over to the 19th Circuit Court after a preliminary exam last October, Spillan argued not all of the elements for the bindover were met.

“Premeditation was not met in our eyes,” Spillan told judge William Fagerman. “He needed time to consider his actions and I believe that didn’t occur.”

Fagerman took over the case in February after 19th Circuit Court judge David Thompson removed himself from the case after Knauss, via Spillan, requested he do so.

Douglas Baker, State of Michigan assistant attorney general, said the standard for premeditated murder is not set in the eyes of Spillan, instead arguing there was enough evidence for the bindover to have occurred.

He said the motion filed indicated “no clear means of death” being established when there was eyewitness testimony Adamczak was shot to death; circumstantial evidence that Adamczak’s body was burned after he was killed; testimony of a fight between Knauss, Peterson and Adamczak over the theft of Adamczak’s guns and examination testimony from witness Joshua Brown that Knauss would “dig the hole” of the victim.

“I think there was certainly no abuse of discretion on the part of the magistrate in finding all of the elements of first-degree murder,” Baker said.

Fagerman denied the motion to quash the bindover.

A motion in limine — or a motion to limit or prevent certain evidence from being presented by the other side at trial — was filed by the attorney general’s office in respect to hearsay statements made by Knauss implicating Peterson in the crime.

Counsel met with Fagerman to discuss supplementing an offer of proof, meaning to decide the value of testimony, of the six witnesses who testified last fall in 85th District Court.

Fagerman adjourned the motion, saying the admission of the testimony is important, however it was not focused on the issues faced in court Friday and that only two of the six witnesses testified in October on behalf of Peterson.

Finally, a motion filed by Spillan about the admissibility of a statement Knauss made lead to Friday’s evidentiary hearing to determine if Knauss’ statements were voluntary.

Fagerman allowed Baker to present witnesses supporting the admissibility of Knauss’ statements on the events of the crime. Spillan also had the opportunity to cross examine.

After this, the motion was adjourned to allow Spillan to prepare witnesses or evidence for the court to consider on this ruling.

Knauss 2011 statement and witness testimony

Baker called three witnesses to testify as to the admissibility of a statement made by Knauss on June 21, 2011, while in custody on a driving while license suspended charge in Wexford County.

Michigan State Police Det./Sgt. Mark Miller testified that Knauss was taken from the Wexford County Jail to the MSP Cadillac post for an interview, one of which was done off camera and, immediately afterward, conducted again on-camera.

“We went over information Rose Skyrzycki had provided in her statement, and then Mr. Knauss provided us with his recollection of the events,” Miller said.

In a statement made to Miller on June 21, 2011, Skyrzycki said Knauss was present at the time of the murder.

PETERSON

PETERSON

As part of Miller’s testimony, an audio recording of his June, 21, 2011 interview with Knauss was played for the court, where Knauss recounted the night in August 1995 when Adamczak was last seen alive.

On the recording, Knauss said he was released from a jail stint in August 1995, when he intended to leave the state with Skyrzycki and Adamczak.

They stopped by Peterson’s home on the way.

Knauss said he was upset with Adamczak about firearms not being returned to him.

Peterson told Knauss he would get the guns back but that Knauss wouldn’t understand what was happening at the moment.

KNAUSS

KNAUSS

This resulted in an altercation, according to Knauss, where punches were exchanged but the matter was shortly settled.

Peterson was upset with Adamczak, saying to Knauss that “friends don’t f— friends,” according to Knauss’ interview in 2011.

After a verbal altercation occurred between Peterson and Adamczak, Peterson retrieved a 12 gauge shotgun, shooting Adamczak in the head.

“I can’t say for sure (how far away Adamczak was away from Peterson when he was shot),” Knauss said in the 2011 interview. “I had my back turned … when it all happened. I was 40 yards away. By the pattern and the way it looked, it looked like a point-blank thing.”

Testimony of the polygraph test and related information was provided by James McCloughan, MSP specialist sergeant and polygraph examiner and MSP Det./Sgt. Mark Harris.

Harris conducted a polygraph test on Knauss on June 21, 2011, at the MSP Grayling post crime lab after being transferred from the MSP Cadillac post.

McCloughan said there was deception indicated in the results of his test, which included three questions: “Did Knauss kill Adamczak?”; “Did Knauss have anything to do with Adamczak’s death” and “Did Knauss help get rid of Adamczak’s body?”

The hearing will continue at a date yet to be determined.

 

 

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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