Third woman linked to killing of Jay County man pleads guilty


JAY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — The final suspect in the killing of a Jay County man over an apparent child custody battle has pleaded guilty in her alleged role.

Hannah Knapke

Hannah L. Knapke, 19, of Fort Recovery, Ohio, has pleaded guilty through a plea agreement to Voluntary Manslaughter Intentional killing commit – def. acted under “sudden heat,” according to court records.

Knapke was an accomplice in the Jan. 12, 2020, killing of 31-year-old Shea Briar. Shelby Hiestand and Ester Stephen have both been sentenced to 55 years apiece for the shooting death.

According to case documents, Stephen and Hiestand met at a church with Knapke where they discussed using Knapke as a driver to pick up Briar before killing him since the two had no known connections. Knapke told investigators she agreed to the plan of driving to the bridge on County Road 125 W in Jay County with everyone involved where Briar would be killed.

There, while Stephen distracted Briar, Hiestand shot him in the heart through his back with the rifle, the affidavit says. Knapke was standing near Hiestand when the shooting happened.

Court records show Stephen and Briar were in a custody battle over a child. Briar intended to establish paternity for the child, petitioned for child custody, and filed to provide support, parenting time, and a name change for the child.

The Fort Recovery Local Schools in Fort Recovery, Ohio confirmed Stephen and Hiestand were softball coaches at the school. Knapke had been a member of the team.

Knapke will be sentenced Nov. 17.

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