Investigators testify in Butterfield murder trial

From left to right: MSP Trooper Steve Arendt, Lake Co. Det. Sgt. Ron Brown, Det. Sgt. Dave Johnson and Trooper Wes Smith testify about the death of Trooper Paul Butterfield. (Feb. 20, 2014)

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Several police officers testified Thursday about how they tracked down and arrested Eric Knysz after he allegedly fatally shot a Michigan State Police trooper.

Eric Knysz, 20, is accused of shooting Trooper Paul Butterfield II on Sept. 9, 2013 during a traffic stop in rural Mason County. Butterfield, 43, died later that night during emergency surgery.

Eric Knysz listens during his trial for the murder of Trooper Paul Butterfield. (Feb. 20, 2014)
Eric Knysz. (Feb. 20, 2014)

Thursday, the third day of Knysz’s murder trial, several officers took the stand. Much of the focus was on building a timeline of what happened on the night Butterfield was killed and Eric Knysz and his wife Sarah Knysz were arrested near Wellston in Manistee County.

Inside Photos of the murder trial of Eric Knysz

Evidence was presented confirming that Butterfield was, in fact, an MSP trooper and that he was on duty when he was shot. Butterfield’s log for the day showed he checked his equipment, voicemail and email between 6 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. He was shot at about 6:20 p.m.

Eric Knysz was allegedly driving a pickup truck that belonged to his father when he was pulled over by Buttefield. Investigators who located that truck testified they found it in Lake County and that Knysz’ mother Tammi Spofford was behind the wheel. Police say the truck had visible blood on it — which they clearly suspected was Butterfield’s.

Officers testified they approached the Dublin General Store gas station near Wellston a couple of hours after the shooting when officers noticed the car Eric Knysz and his wife allegedly stole after leaving the pickup with his mother.

When Knysz saw police, they said, he took off running and pulled a gun. Believing Knysz had already shot one trooper and may shoot again, MSP Trooper Steve Arendt testified that he fired three rounds at Knysz. Knysz was hit once in the leg, which dropped him to his knees. Police say Knysz struggled before he was ultimately taken into custody.

The testimony drew into the limelight just how important multi-county, multi-agency communication was in the search for the Knyszes.

The gun Knysz allegedly pulled, recovered by police at the gas station, was shown to the jury. Knysz’s defense attorney David Glancy challenged whether the fingerprints found on the gun where his clients’, but an MSP forensic scientist was confident they were.

Trooper Wes Smith testified that he assisted at gas station scene. Smith was also the officer who identified Butterfield at the hospital.

Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield. (Undated courtesy photo)
Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield. (Undated courtesy photo)

The jury also learned that Butterfield’s police cruiser did not have a dash cam in it. Only eight of the MSP Hart Post’s 22 cruisers have cameras.

Testimony was wrapped up for the day around 5 p.m. The trial was expected to continue Friday at 9:30 a.m. and will probably last about nine days total. Still to testify is Knysz’ father Jack Knysz, and the doctor who performed the autopsy on Butterfield may also take the stand.

By the end of the day, the defense’s strategy still had not been made clear — though defense attorney Glancy had been working to poke holes in the quality of investigation and the reliability of the evidence presented.

Police said Eric Knysz confessed to the shooting not long after it happened. But he pleaded not guilty and took the case to trial. A jury was seated Tuesday evening. Wednesday, the passersby who were the first to come upon Butterfield after he was shot testified that he was awake and moving when they found him.



Jury seated in Trooper Butterfield’s murder

Witnesses: Butterfield was awake, ‘in pain’


Sarah Knysz — who was pregnant at the time of the shooting — told police she was with  her husband when he shot Buttefield. During her own court proceedings in November, she said Butterfield did not even had time to finish greeting them before her husband opened fire.

Sarah Knsyz pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and auto theft for her role in the crime, and will serve at least two years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to testify against her husband during his trial.

Tammi Spofford is scheduled to go to trial in May in the case for allegedly helping the young couple to get away from police after the shooting. She will not have to testify in her son’s trial because she said it may incriminate her.

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