Carrollton grandmother convicted of manslaughter in stabbing of daughter’s husband

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

An Isle of Wight County jury on Jan. 18 found 69-year-old Theresa Knightnor of Carrollton guilty of voluntary manslaughter for fatally stabbing her daughter’s husband.

The manslaughter conviction, which carries a sentence of one to 10 years in prison, is a downgrade from the original first-degree murder charge and associated five- to 40-year prison sentence prosecutors had sought.

Almost exactly two years ago, on Jan. 20, 2022, Isle of Wight sheriff’s deputies found 54-year-old Maurice Doctor dead on the floor of a bedroom in the Smiths Neck Road residence he’d shared with Knightnor’s 49-year-old daughter, Charlitta, and the couple’s children. Dr. Wendy Gunther, a medical examiner, testified during Knightnor’s trial that Doctor had been stabbed in the back with a kitchen knife near his right shoulder with sufficient force to create the 7¾-inch-deep fatal wound that punctured his lung.

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Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Edwards and Knightnor’s attorney, Mufeed Said, each noted during the trial that an argument and physical altercation between Doctor and his 14-year-old son, Kemaun, had immediately preceded the stabbing.

Said, who argued Knightnor acted in defense of her grandson, referenced an alleged threat Doctor had made to kill Kemaun. Knightnor, Charlitta and her children “all loved” Doctor, but that night “he was out of control,” Said told the jury. Gunther later testified that on the day in question Doctor’s blood alcohol level had been 0.122, nearly twice the legal threshold for driving under the influence, and he had also been high on cocaine.

Said had also contended the stabbing was accidental and that Doctor had fallen backward into Knightnor’s knife while the two were struggling. Edwards, however, repeatedly referenced Knightnor’s, “Move, child!” command to Kemaun, just before the knife went into Doctor’s back, as evidence of her intent to kill.

Edwards had further argued Knightnor was less than truthful with dispatchers when she called 911. Hers was the third of three 911 calls to come from the Knightnor residence in the span of five minutes on the night in question, and was only made after she’d already stabbed Doctor, Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ronald Bryan, director of Isle of Wight’s emergency dispatch center, had testified.

In an earlier call, which prosecutors played for the jury, Kemaun tells dispatchers, “My dad, he’s bleeding,” and “my grandma, she stabbed him.”

Edwards argued that while Knightnor had been hiding in a closet, telling dispatchers she was “scared” of her son-in-law, Doctor was “staggering down the hall and collapsing and dying” with a knife buried up to its hilt in his back. Sheriff’s Office Investigator Donald Edwards, during the trial, testified he’d found Doctor’s body face-up on his back in a bedroom, but believes the stabbing took place in another bedroom at the opposite end of the house where the knife was discovered.

The jury began its deliberations just after 11:10 a.m. following two days of testimony and returned with the verdict just after 3:30 p.m.

Despite the lesser-than-sought charge, Edwards said following the trial he was “delighted that the jury took as long as they did examining the evidence.”

“They took this very seriously,” Edwards said, adding, “This terrible tragedy is over.”

Said deferred commenting on the verdict, stating he preferred to wait until Knightnor’s scheduled March 27 sentencing hearing. Until then, Judge C. Peter Tench is allowing Knightnor to remain free on bond.

Knightnor’s family declined to comment on the verdict.

Editor’s note: This story is updated to correct the spelling of Judge Tench’s name.