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Brazil man back in court

Monday, January 21, 2013

GREENCASTLE -- A 26-year-old Clay County man, who has already served out a five-and-a-half year prison sentence for causing a fatal 2006 accident while intoxicated, was placed on home detention Friday.

Michael W. Knight, Brazil, was in Putnam Superior Court on a petition to revoke probation regarding his March 2, 2007, sentencing following his conviction in the Class C felony of causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

The June 4, 2006, crash took the life of Knight's girlfriend, 19-year-old Elizabeth N. Wehrheim, a South Putnam High School senior, and permanently disabled Nathan Archer, another passenger in Knight's 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada.

Former Superior Court Judge Robert Lowe had sentenced Knight to 11 years, less than six of those to be served in prison and the remaining years on probation.

Lowe sentenced Knight to eight years for the death of Wehrheim and three years for causing serious injury to Archer.

"This is a good example of how devastating drinking and driving can be," Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said after the 2007 sentencing. "Elizabeth's life has been taken and Mr. Archer lives with his injuries every day."

Knight has been out of prison and on probation in the case. However, alleged failure to abide by the terms of that probation landed him back in court in front of Judge Denny Bridges Friday morning.

Deputy Prosecutor James Ensley noted Knight has not reported to the Probation Department since May 2012, and has failed to pay the $61,377 owed in restitution in the case.

"There is a very large amount of restitution on this," Ensley said, "and I don't think any of it has been paid."

Probation Officer Teresa Parrish agreed with the assessment.

"I have a victim who is very angry that he is out and not paying restitution," Parrish said in court.

"The victim, in turn, is going to be mad at me," Judge Bridges added, "which is why I am making it part of the terms of your bond that you must pay something, even if it's only $5 a week, when you get paid."

The Prosecutor's Office had asked that Knight be held without bond.

However, Judge Bridges, noting that Knight has not committed a new crime and has not tested positive for drug use, ordered the Brazil man released on home detention.

That way, he won't lose his job and can begin paying on the hefty amount of restitution he owes.

"This is your one and only bite at the apple, as they say," Judge Bridges said, meaning it's Knight's last chance.

The defendant was ordered to report to the Probation Department, either in Putnam County or in Brazil, where he resides with his girlfriend.

Bridges appointed attorney Trudy Selvia to represent Knight, whose next court appearance will be an evidentiary hearing at 9 a.m., Feb. 20.

The 2006 fatality occurred, Indiana State Police reported, as Knight was traveling at speeds in excess of 75 mph when he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree on County 1000 South, near Cloverdale.

Tests showed Knight had a blood-alcohol level in excess of the legal limit of .08 percent prior to the early-morning crash.

Prior to January 2007, Knight had maintained his innocence, claiming he was not the one driving.

Knight later changed his story, pleading guilty to charges of drunken driving and causing serious bodily injury.

Knight testified he had attended a graduation party with Wehrheim the night of the crash and had consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana.



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