Saturday, October 9th, 2021
Knapke pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter
Sentencing set Nov. 17; 2 others already convicted
By Sydney Albert
PORTLAND, Ind. - A Fort Recovery native charged in connection with the death of 31-year-old Shea Briar of Portland, Indiana, has pleaded guilty to an amended charge of voluntary manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
Hannah Knapke, 20, originally had pleaded not guilty to unclassified felony murder for her role in Briar's death on Jan. 12, 2020, a case in which two other women have already been convicted.
Knapke agreed to change her plea to guilty to the lesser charge as part of a negotiated plea agreement.
Jay County Prosecutor Wes Schemenaur said Knapke's defense attorney approached his office to discuss a possible plea bargain and Schemenaur said he felt obligated to share the proposal with Briar's family.
Schemenaur said after the second jury trial, he thought the family felt ready to put the events of the day when Briar was killed behind them and were willing to support a lesser charge.
Former Fort Recovery Local Schools girls softball coach Esther Stephen and assistant coach Shelby Hiestand both were sentenced to 55 years in prison earlier this year after juries found them guilty of Briar's murder.
Knapke is a former Fort Recovery High School student and softball player who'd known both Hiestand and Knapke.
Both Hiestand and Stephen had reported using Knapke's vehicle to transport Briar to the bridge on which he was killed because their own vehicles would have been too noticeable. Knapke reportedly was in the vehicle with them when Briar was shot.
A motorist found Briar shot but alive on County Road 125 West at about 2 a.m. Jan. 12. Hours later, he was pronounced dead at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. The cause of death was a gunshot wound made by a bullet that reportedly entered his right mid-back and penetrated his heart.
Knapke is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 17 in Jay County Circuit Court.