Thomas Knapp listens to testimony in his murder trial. (KSCJ photo)

A Plymouth County jury only deliberated for about an hour on Tuesday before finding an elderly Merrill man guilty of murdering his stepson.

Eighty-four-year-old Thomas Knapp was also convicted of five other charges, including willful injury and domestic abuse. Prosecutor Darin Raymond played two 911 calls made by Knapp’s wife, Darlene, in May of 2020 when Knapp fought with her and shot his stepson, 51-year-old Kevin Juzek.

In the call Knapp can be heard saying, “I’m so scared for my son and I know he’s going to shoot me now.” Dispatcher: “Just stay on the phone with me until they get there, okay, Darlene, don’t hang up with me.” Knapp: “Okay, I can do that, yeah.” Dispatcher: “They’re a couple miles away from you right now, okay? Just stay on the phone with me.”

Raymond also played a 30-minute-long police interview with Knapp after his arrest as part of his closing arguments. In the recording, Knapp admitted shooting Juzek because he was mad at him for a variety of reasons, including that Juzek apparently knocked over a birdbath in the yard.

Police: “What was Kevin doing before you shot him?” Knapp: “Trying to open the door.” Police: “Okay, he wasn’t in the bedroom at that time?” Knapp: “No, he was trying to open the door. I shot him through the goddamn door.”

The defense attorneys told the jury in their closing arguments that Knapp shot Juzek in a fit of rage and should be found guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. Knapp faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced on October 7th.

(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)