City boasts 'top' cop, firefighter

by Laura Freeman

Reporter

Summit County prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh has named two local officials the "top cop" and "top firefighter" of December for their work in a double homicide case.

Hudson Fire Chief Robert Carter was named "top firefighter" and Hudson Police Lt. Kevin May was named "top cop" for their work in the arson and murder case involving Michael S. Knudson. Knudson was sentenced to 22 years in prison in November after pleading guilty to the April murders of his mother and brother.

Bevan Walsh said the case against Knudson was "virtually airtight due to [their] thorough investigative work."

"As a resident of Hudson, I feel fortunate to live in a community with so many outstanding police officers and firefighters," she said.

City Manager Anthony Bales said he agreed with the prosecutor and appreciated the recognition of the city's employees.

"We're very proud of them, and they deserve it," Bales said.

Carter and May said that the Knudson investigation involved fire, police and other officials and agencies.

"I certainly appreciate it, and it's not so much personal as recognition of a team effort," Carter said. "We had support from a number of other organizations."

May said he was honored to be nominated.

"We [normally] don't handle double homicide/arson cases in Hudson," May said. "I'm very proud of the organization and everyone's cooperation and professionalism."

The investigation

Carter said his involvement in the case began when the Hudson Fire Department responded to a house fire at 1280 Connecticut Woods Drive on April 5.

The fire was well advanced, Carter said. Streetsboro, Valley, Twinsburg and Macedonia fire departments assisted with the fire. Twinsburg and Macedonia assisted to dig out debris in the following days.

"The fire was discovered by someone who had stopped to look at the house after seeing it on the foreclosure list," Carter said. "Windows were left open and the fire had been burning some time."

Because of a 1,300-foot driveway and no nearby hydrants, a tanker shuttle had to bring water in to fight the fire, Carter said.

"We knew from the start we weren't going to save the main house, but we saved the section not initially involved in the fire," Carter said. "We knew the house would be demolished at some time, but were suspicious of the nature of the fire and wanted to preserve any evidence."

Safety officials determined that members of the Knudson family were missing.

"We knew from early on there were two parties unaccounted for and early on knew they were likely deceased," Carter said. "Their location was unknown."

May, who heads the detective bureau for the Hudson Police Department, began to search for Patricia Knudson, 64, and her son, John Knudson, 42.

Another son, Michael S. Knudson, 40, was seen leaving the property April 5 soon after the fire.

May said the police were able to track down Knudson using his mother's cell phone, which he had taken with him.

Police arrested him April 6 at the Haven of Rest in Akron, where he had personal belongings of his mother and brother, and their blood in the back of his SUV, according to the prosecutor's office.

May searched for the bodies through fire debris, utilizing such resources as the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, cadaver dogs from Ohio Search and Rescue, investigators from the State Fire Marshall's office, members of Summit County Medical Examiner's office, and police officers from Hudson.

"Initially, we thought the victims burned in the house," May said.

While walking around the property April 11, Hudson Police Lt. Sean McAleese pointed out a suspicious-looking wood pile, and police took another look at it. After moving the wood, they saw a blanket and garbage bag.

The bodies of Patricia and John Knudson were located in a shallow grave under the wood pile.

Bevan Walsh also recognized McAleese for his "keen eye at the crime scene" and Hudson Police Detective Kaija Jeantet for her attention to details as she handled much of the paperwork.

Knudson was sentenced Nov. 20 to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty in October to the beating death of Patricia and John Knudson. Knudson said in court he had been arguing with his mother and brother about financial problems.

Bevan Walsh called it "one of the most horrifying crimes the city of Hudson has ever witnessed."

May said if the investigation had gone to trial, police and prosecutors had more than enough evidence to convict Knudson. The guilty plea by Knudson ensures he will remain in prison for a long time, May said.

"We never had a chance to develop a case in court because of his guilty plea," Carter said.

Carter said the building has since been leveled and filled in. The building was insured, and a bank owns the property, he added.

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