SYCAMORE – A Pekin man who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in April was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday.
John Knell Jr., 45, of the 1800 block of Center Street, was arrested Dec. 25, 2017, after he punched his 62-year-old stepfather-in-law, Henry Berenz of Sycamore, in the face Christmas Day 2017, sending him down several steps.
Knell was initially charged with 10 counts, and court records state that Knell also punched another family member in the face, from which some of his charges stem, and that Berenz was trying to intervene in the fight.
On Wednesday, nine of those counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Knell also will receive credit for 136 days already served.
Knell was represented by Public Defender Tom McCulloch. McCulloch said the plea agreement was the result of negotiations between the state and the public defender’s office, as well as Knell.
DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato said the Berenz family was consulted before the agreement was reached. On Wednesday family members read victim impact statements in court.
Berenz’s fall left him unconscious with injuries that included a fractured sternum, fractured ribs and bleeding of the brain, records said.
Berenz was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital and was later transferred to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where he died about 4:30 p.m. Dec. 26, 2017, after being taken off life support, records show.
Tazewell County court records show that Knell was convicted in July 2009 of battery and aggravated assault of an officer or firefighter, for which he received a year of probation, a fine, and was ordered to attend classes for mental health, drugs and alcohol. The records show that he satisfied the requirements a year later.
Knell also was convicted in July 2013 and June 1995 of battery and fined as a result in both cases. The records also show that he was convicted in May 2011 of aggravated battery, although the charge was reduced to battery, resulting in a fine.
Knell pleaded guilty April 18. He had been out on a $75,000 bond, of which he was able to post the $7,500 necessary to be out of jail awaiting trial and sentencing. Five years is the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Source: The Daily Chronicle