A Luther, Michigan couple is being charged in the death of Michigan State Trooper Paul Butterfield II, who was shot earlier this week, while making a routine traffic stop in Mason County.
According to the Michigan State Police, Trooper Butterfield stopped a vehicle on Custer Road near Townline Road in Mason County about 6:20 p.m. Monday evening, September 9. At 6:23 p.m., a passing motorist called 9-1-1 to report finding Butterfield on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Butterfield was airlifted to Munson Hospital, where he passed away during emergency surgery.
Based on information Butterfield relayed to dispatch about the vehicle he stopped, a suspect was developed. Through a series of incidents in the area, troopers located the suspects at a gas station/convenience store in Wellston, in Manistee County, at approximately 8:30 p.m. When troopers approached, the suspect displayed a handgun, pointing it at one of the troopers. One trooper fired, striking the suspect.
The two suspects were taken into custody. The male was transported to the hospital with a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
The two suspects were identified as Eric John Knysz, 19, and his pregnant wife, Sarah Renee Knysz, 20, both of Luther. Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola announced that charges were filed Wednesday against the couple. Sarah Knysz was arraigned Wednesday in 79th District Court on a two-count felony complaint: Accessory after the fact to the murder of Trooper Paul Butterfield, which is a felony punishable by up to five years confinement and/or a $10,000 fine; and unlawful driving away of an automobile, which is a felony punishable by up to five years behind bars. A preliminary exam was scheduled for her for September 25 at 1 p.m. and bond was set at $250,000 cash or surety. She was remanded to Mason County jail.
Eric Knysz will be arraigned on his charges once he is returned to Mason County. He is facing four charges: Count one is homicide-murder of peace officer for the murder of Trooper Butterfield, which is punishable by life without parole; count 2 weapons felony firearm for the possession of a firearm during the commission of murder of a police officer, punishable by two years served consecutively after sentence for count 1. Count 3 is carrying a concealed weapon, a felony punishable by up to five years in jail or a $2,500 fine; and count 4, unlawful driving away of an automobile, punishable by up to five years in jail. He also has been given a notice of habitual offender-second felony offense, which would elevate the penalties to one and a half times the maximum set by the statute. Manistee and Lake Counties are also reviewing possible charges.
Trooper Butterfield joined the MSP in 1999, graduating as a member of the 118th Trooper Recruit School. He has served at the Manistee and Hart posts. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army.
Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP issued the following statement Monday evening: “Tonight we lost a hero. The entire MSP family, as well as our greater law enforcement family, mourns alongside the Butterfields. Trooper Butterfield’s sacrifice will never be forgotten; may he rest in peace.”