Earlier this year, a 67 year-old Fairfield, Alabama man was sentenced to life in prison without parole, after having been convicted of murder during the commission of a rape in relation to the death of 15 year-old Stacey Knappenberger in her Oxnard home in 1980. He is also accused of sexual assault.
Knappenberger was found beaten and stabbed to death on July 30, 1980 in her home. She suffered 50 to 60 wounds from a glass ashtray found at the scene, and at least two-dozen additional injuries from other objects. Her official cause of death was loss of blood and brain swelling. At the time, the police were unable to identify any potential suspects, and the murder investigation went cold.
Ventura Cold Case Task Force detectives submitted DNA from the Oxnard murder to a national DNA database in 2000. Subsequently, Thomas Coalt Young’s DNA profile was entered into the same national DNA database for an unrelated sexual assault crime in Illinois. Young had spent time in California in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but returned to his home state of Alabama in the early 1980’s. He moved to Illinois in 2008, but again returned to Alabama.
Young’s DNA profile was matched to the Oxnard murder in 2010. Detectives from the Ventura Cold Case Task Force investigated Young’s whereabouts and discovered that he was in California at the time of the Knappenberger murder. Young was arrested in September 2012 at his home in Fairfield, AL on the Ventura murder charge. He was finally extradited to California and arraigned on murder and sexual assault charges in 2014. He was convicted, and was sentenced to life without parole in March 2015.
If you’ve been arrested for murder, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney like Robert Helfend to defend your rights in court. In very old murder and sexual assault cases, witness testimony can be unreliable. A witness may move away or die, or their testimony may differ significantly from statements they made at the time the crime was committed. Additionally, investigators and witnesses may make assumptions or assertions that later can be proven false.
The way physical evidence is stored and preserved in murder and sexual assault cases is also significant. Physical evidence related to a murder or sexual assault case may have been lost, destroyed, mishandled or contaminated, leading to inconclusive or incorrect scientific analysis. An experienced criminal defense attorney can bring together the resources you need to defend yourself in court.
Murder in California can result in the death penalty or in life in prison, with or without parole. It is also a Three Strikes Law offense, which can effectively turn a conviction into a life sentence.
Robert Helfend has more than 30 years of experience in murder defense and takes cases in Ventura County. When your freedom is on the line, your best defense is an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Robert Helfend or call toll-free to (800) 834-6434, (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317 or (818) 591-2809 for an immediate consultation on your Ventura County murder case.