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Final suspect in Jay County murder case pleads to manslaughter charge

Hannah Knapke
Hannah Knapke(Fort Wayne's NBC)
Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 9:45 AM EDT
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JAY COUNTY, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - An Ohio woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a count of voluntary manslaughter, likely bringing to a close (barring appellate court action) the case stemming from the killing of a man in January 2020.

Hannah Knapke, now 20, is the third defendant to face prison time in the matter.

Her plea follows convictions for two other women. Esther Stephen was sentenced to 55 years in May. A jury found her guilty of murder in March this year. Attorneys representing Stephen have filed an appeal that remains open.

Shelby Nicole Hiestand was also convicted and sentenced last week to 55 years in prison. The three women worked together in the killing of 31-year-old Shea Briar, who was found shot to death on County Road 125 W. near County Road 850 N in Jay County.

Stephen and Briar had a child together and Briar had filed for additional parental rights and for the court to change the child’s last name.

The defendants were connected through a Fort Recovery, Ohio, high school softball team, where Stephen and Hiestand coached and where Knapke was a player. Fort Recovery is located in neighboring Mercer County, just east of the crime scene.

Knapke’s plea deal involves a single count listed as voluntary manslaughter intentional killing - def. acted under “sudden heat,” a Level 2 felony. She had faced an initial charge of murder.

Sentencing for Knapke is scheduled for Nov. 17.

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