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Warren man given years in prison for attempted murder, arson

Jackson Knappenberger

A Warren man will spend a minimum of nearly 17 years in prison after he set fire to a house last December with his own child — and his sexual assault victim — inside.

Jackson Kent Knappenberger, 25, was sentenced to a minimum of 202 months on criminal attempt – murder and arson charges before President Judge Maureen Skerda on Friday morning.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, Knappenberger was angry at a woman with whom he is “romantically involved,” who lives at the Wilson Road address, for “not picking him up.”

He allegedly brought a mixture of oil and gasoline in a plastic bag to the residence, poured it on both of the doors to the residence, set fire to it and ran.

“The defendant’s boots fell off his person as he was running from the scene,” police said. One of the victims identified the boots as Knappenberger’s and police started looking for him.

“I observed a male that fit the description of the suspect,” police wrote in the affidavit of probable cause. “The suspect was wearing a brown coat as described, he was not wearing shoes of any sort, and his clothes were muddy.”

Barefoot, muddy, and smelling strongly of gasoline, Knappenberger allegedly told police he had started the fire, knew the residence was occupied and was trying to frighten one or more of the people inside.

There were a total of seven people inside when the fire was set, including his daughter, girlfriend, his girlfriend’s husband, and their children.

At the time, Knappenberger was out on bail on charges that he molested a 12-year-old girl, who was in the residence when the fire was set. He was convicted after a May jury trial and was sentenced to over four years in state prison and to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life on those charges.

Knappenberger’s attorney, Chief Public Defender John Parroccini, acknowledged his client’s “rather serious prior record” and said he has taken responsibility for his conduct by accepting the plea rather than taking the case to trial.

District Attorney Rob Greene started his comments by citing a letter that Knappenberger wrote in which Knappenberger claimed that, just because he made some bad choices, he was not a bad father.

Greene said Knappenberger “doesn’t recognize his daughter was in the trailer” in addition to the sexual assault victim.

He asked for an aggravated range sentence on the arson charge, which Skerda concurred with.

Greene referred to the “love affair” between Knappenberger and his girlfriend, who is married to one of the victims, as a “three-ring circus.”

He said he is opposed to any contact between Knappenberger and any of the victims, “because he almost killed them.”

Knappenberger told the court that he takes responsibility for his actions and said he never wanted to hurt anyone.

“I want to say I’m sorry,” he said, noting he would like to have contact with his child and her mother.

Skerda noted that Knappenberger failed to adjust in the county jail by repeatedly calling the mother of his child — who is also a victim in the case — even after he was told not to.

She noted that Knappenberger wrote her a letter and said he wants contact with his daughter and that the mother is not opposed.

She also noted that his mother’s child’s husband told the court that Knappenberger destroyed his family.

“You gave them no means of escape,” she said, though Knappenberger claimed that he did leave one door available.

She then sentenced him to 100 to 200 months incarceration in state prison, $900 in fines and fees, a no-contact/trespass order and submission of a DNA sample on a count of criminal attempt (murder). On a count of arson – danger of death or bodily injury, Skerda sentenced him to an additional 102 to 204 months incarceration, a no-contact order with the victims, mental health and anger management evaluations and any recommended treatment. He is not boot camp or recidivism risk reduction incentive eligible. A count of recklessly endangering another person merged for sentencing purposes.

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