NORWICH – Following almost two hours of delay Wednesday in Chenango County Court, it was made known that William Danielson intended to not proceed with the jury trial, but instead wished to change his plea of not guilty to guilty in lieu of an offer made by the District Attorney's Office.
Danielson, 49, of Oxford was charged with the 2013 murder of his ex, Lucinda Knoll. Danielson has been incarcerated since 2013 and was set to begin his jury trial on the matter Wednesday morning, promptly at 9 a.m.
The murder of Lucinda Knoll took place in front of their then 7-year-old child, who was possibly going to have to testify in court, but will no longer have to do so.
“We have temporary custody of [the child]. He has been going to counseling at Catholic Charities. They have been great with him. They’ve helped give him tools to deal with his anger and his emotions. They’ve also helped us to learn how to deal with him, and the things that come up on a daily basis with him. And just giving him all the love that we’ve got,” said Knoll’s mother, Sheila Strobel, regarding her grandson who witnessed the murder. “He's one of the last things we have of Lucinda to hold every day and to love every day.”
When asked how often domestic disputes become this extreme, Chenango County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kevin Powell said, “It's very common, but nothing to this extent. Being citizens, normally people work their issues out. We have programs available through family court to help people deal with this. Usually if someone gets their feelings hurt or things don’t go their way in family court, well this definitely isn’t route they take. This is an extreme case at this time.”
Prior to any opening statements, Danielson chose to enter a plea of guilty to murder in the second degree, a class A-1 felony, which was the second count of the grand jury indictment.
“Maximum life, minimum 20, he pled guilty to felony murder. He admits that he robbed her. Our theory of the case has always been that the defendant went down there to rob her and hurt her, and kill her so he could blame it on someone else and get sole custody of [the child]. He admitted that today, he admitted the truth, but I’m not convinced that he doesn’t remember what he did to Lucinda; but the punishment is the same,” said Chenango County District Attorney, Joseph A. McBride.
After asking various questions as to if Mr. Danielson was physically and mentally able to change his plea, Chenango County Judge Frank B. Revoir Jr. read the first count of the indictment.
“Murder in the second degree, a class A-1 felony. On Dec. 27th, 2013 at approximately 6:30 a.m. in the Town of Norwich, with intent to cause the death and did cause the death of Lucinda Knoll by striking her numerous times on the head,” said Revoir.
The understanding of the court was that after Danielson decided to not proceed with the jury trial – that he was going to enter a plea of guilty to the first count of the indictment, murder in the second degree with intent to kill. However, he refused to admit to having intent to kill.
“I plead guilty to the fact that there was a confrontation, not that I went there and intentionally tried to kill her,” said Danielson.
At this time, Judge Revoir advised Danielson that the court could not accept the guilty plea, and he should take some time to speak to his attorney, Peter Delucia.
After taking a moment to discuss the situation with his client, Delucia explained how – based on the evidence and the magnitude of the injuries – a jury could reasonably assume that he intended to kill her. Delucia explained to Danielson and to the court that intent is a hard word to understand.
The court and the prosecution allowed Danielson to admit to causing physical injury that resulted in Knoll’s death. Danielson also stole a handbag from Knoll.
Both counts of murder charges, the first having to do with intent, and the second charge being felony murder after robbery, hold the same sentencing weight.
“I have talked to the family. As long as the sentence still holds the same weight, then this is acceptable to the people,” said McBride.
Revoir then read the second count of the grand jury indictment: “Murder in the second degree, a class A-1 felony. That on Dec. 27th, 2013 at approximately 6:30 a.m., in the Town of Norwich did commit the crime of robbery and during the robbery did cause the death of Lucinda Knoll by striking her in the head numerous times,” read Revoir.
“I have no recollection of kicking her in the head. I stole a handbag because it had a phone and laptop in it. I did punch her while trying to take the bag, so she couldn’t call,” said Danielson.
Danielson will receive a sentence of 20 years minimum with a maximum of life, in agreement that all other charges stemming from the grand jury indictment would be dropped. However, there will be additional fees and surcharges that may be added on. McBride alleged that the actual sentencing will take place within the next 30 days.
“I don’t believe we really have moved on until today,” said Sheila Strobel.
Step-father of Lucinda Knoll, Eugene Strobel, added, “Lucinda and Sheila were hooked at the hip. She was a loving mother, a loving wife, and she's got more friends than she ever realized.”
“Hopefully he will never see the light of day again for what he did to poor Lucinda, and there was a just result,” said McBride.
Danielson was remanded back to the Chenango County Correctional Facility immediately following court proceedings.
“The District Attorney’s office has done a tremendous job. Joe McBride is a superhero in my mind,” said Strobel. “As much as a compassionate loving person that he is, he goes after the truth and does not let go until he gets there. Detective Powell, he's a great guy too. He takes the information, collects it all, puts it together. Without him, we couldn’t have got here. I want to thank the Sheriff's Office, State Police that were involved, and all of the District Attorney's office. They’ve been really great to us. They’ve been always in our corner. I want to thank the community as well. We’ve had so much support from people we don’t even know – people we’ve never met, never heard of, who are coming up to us and doing whatever they can do to help support us.”
“Great day for Lucinda, and we can’t forget her or her family, may she rest in peace. Very happy with the result today, but it came about not just of what happened today, but because of a lot of hard work we have put in over the last two years,” said McBride. McBride additionally extended gratitude to the Norwich Police Department and the assistance of the department’s K9 Weeks. “The Sheriff’s Office took the lead and tracked down everything. The state police jumped in to help from day one. It was a team effort, the people from my office, including my secretary and staff, really put everything together so we could get this result today. This gentleman is going to prison for the rest of his life.”