Trials to start
in Knepp murder case
Emily Mullen, Staff Writer
11/12/00 Three Rivers Community News
- The murder trials of Dale Smith, 42, of Stevensville, Mich., and
Lisa Dolph-Hostetter, 42, of Elkhart, Ind., two of the four people
charged with the 1996 death of Carol Knepp, will be held Nov. 21
in the St. Joe County Circuit Court.
John Hostetter, 39, of Plainwell, a third alleged co-conspirator
in the murder, pleaded guilty to a second degree murder charge at
his Oct. 30 arraignment, naming Smith as Knepp's shooter.
Joe County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Middleton offered Hostetter
a reduced plea in exchange for his testimony against Dolph-Hostetter
and Smith for murder, and Sherry Dolph-Smith, 41, of Elkhart, for
a related perjury charge.
was previously charged with conspiracy to commit open murder, which
calls for a mandatory life sentence, and with possession of a firearm
during a felony. The firearm charge was dropped in the plea bargain.
said Hostetter's plea agreement does not include any sentence cap
or recommendation of sentencing by the prosecution.
have yet to actually try to calculate the guideline range for Mr.
Hostetter on this charge," Middleton stated in the plea offer. "We
did discuss, in general terms, the fact that the defendant's cooperation
could be a consideration for the court at the time of sentencing."
testified at last month's arraignment that Smith shot Knepp from
the passenger's seat while he drove the vehicle the night of the
died on Feb. 19, 1996, from a 20-gauge shotgun blast to the chest
while driving her car on M-103 in Mottville Township near the Indiana
was under independent counsel at the arraignment and given three
days to appoint an attorney after he told District Court Judge James
Noecker his family was in the process of finding him counsel.
least one person has been convicted after four years," Middleton
said after Hostetter's arraignment.
Dolph-Hostetter pleaded not guilty for her participation in conspiring
to commit the murder under the counsel of defense attorney George
Horn at her arraignment, which was also Oct. 30.
John Hostetter testified during preliminary examinations that his
ex-wife convinced him to author a false letter covering up her role
in the alleged murder based on the fact that someone had to care
for their children.
said Lisa Dolph-Hostetter told him she was receiving telephone threats
of physical violence from Knepp, who believed her husband, Gary
Knepp, was romantically involved with Dolph-Hostetter.
Dolph-Hostetter soon began discussion on Carol Knepp's murder after
approaching her ex-husband, and the four defendants finalized the
plot in early 1996.
trials for Dale Smith and Lisa Dolph-Hostetter will take place within
90 days of the charges, as required by Michigan law.
Dolph-Smith's preliminary examination was originally scheduled for
Oct. 19, adjourned twice, and finally took place last Thursday.
John Hostetter will testify against all three accused co-conspirators.
is able to testify against Dolph-Hostetter under recent changes
made to the Michigan spousal privilege law, which states the privilege
is now with the witness as opposed to the defendant.
will be sentenced sometime after the trials of Dale Smith and Lisa
Dolph-Hostetter, and after that of Sherry Dolph-Smith if she goes
said if Sherry Dolph-Smith's case goes to trial, he expects it to
occur some time after the first of the new year.
would propose that Mr. Hostetter's sentence be set for after the
trials," Middleton said. "That will have given Judge Noecker an
opportunity to see Mr. Hostetter testify against the co-defendants
and be in a position to use that information for sentencing."
four defendants were arrested on Aug. 28 of this year for the Knepp