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Woodbury school bus aide pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Woodbury school bus aide Harvey Kneifl pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Tuesday, saying he stabbed his wife with a knife 14 times in order to save her from a life of pain and suffering.

Kneifl, 72, said Julie A. Kneifl, 72, had Parkinson’s disease, which caused her to have dementia. “She was living the life of, basically, a vegetable,” he said during a hearing in Washington County District Court in Stillwater. “She was in constant pain, constant suffering. I decided to help her move on to the next life where she would no longer have any pain or suffering.”

Harvey Kneifl

Officers discovered her body on the morning of Jan. 31 when they went to the couple’s home in the St. Therese of Woodbury senior housing complex to check on the whereabouts of Harvey Kneifl, who had failed to appear in court in Stillwater on charges of molesting 10 young children on his school bus. They found him in a shower, bleeding from a neck wound; two knives were on the floor close to him.

On Tuesday morning, Kneifl, wearing handcuffs and a blue jail-issued shirt and pants, spoke candidly about the injuries he inflicted.

“I slit her carotid artery, so her death would be fast and painless,” he said. “I wanted to kill her and have it be quick and painless.”

When Prosecutor Imran Ali questioned Kneifl as to why he needed to stab her 14 times and impose six blunt-force wounds, including some on her hands, Kneifl said Julia Kneifl struggled prior to her death.

“It wasn’t intentional,” he said. “She was flailing for a minute or two.”

After she died, Kneifl said he removed his wife’s bloody t-shirt and covered her with a blanket. He threw the t-shirt in the trash and then took the trash bag out of their apartment and put it in the place “where we take the trash,” he said. “I used towels to clean up, and I threw those in the trash as well.”

30 years in prison

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Kneifl was sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined $5,000. He was given credit for serving 118 days in the Washington County Jail and waived his right to a pre-sentence investigation.

Kneifl will remain at the jail until his June 5 sentencing on 10 felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly groping 10 girls in 2017 as they rode the South Washington County School District bus.

Kneifl, who has a high-school diploma, said he was on medication for gout, but had clear thoughts and was able to think rationally and make informed decisions during the court hearing.

Kneifl’s daughter and son-in-law were in the courtroom, but declined to make a victim-impact statement.

A brutal murder

Ali called Julie Kneif’s death a “brutal murder.”

“This defendant took the life of his innocent wife in the most cold and calculated and brutal manner,” Ali said. “For the sake of the victim, I won’t go into the amount of blood found at the crime scene.”

Kneifl’s attorney, Nathan Sosinski, said his client tried to commit suicide after killing his wife. “He thought he was going to prison,” Sosinski said. “He was concerned about who was going to take care of her, and he was worried about her being a burden. That was what was in his head.”

His client, he said, will be “dying in prison” and not have a source of income to pay the $5,000 fine.

When Judge Tad Jude asked if Kneifl would like to address the court, Kneifl responded: “No thanks.”

“It is an exceptionally sad occasion for your family and for the community,” Jude said.

Separate case's emotions boil over

A relative of one of the children in the criminal-sexual conduct case also was in the courtroom. He shouted at Kneifl as a bailiff was leading Kneifl out of the courtroom: “You touched the wrong 4-year-old girl.”

Kneifl has been charged with groping at least 10 children over their clothes as they rode the school bus; each victim was 5 or younger.

At the time of the alleged incidents, in January and February 2017, Kneifl was working as a bus aide on a route for pre-K and special-needs children.

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