GREENFIELD — A man accused of stabbing his friend to death during an argument two days before Christmas now faces additional charges based on statements he made during taped phone calls from jail, court records state.
On multiple occasions since his arrest Dec. 24, Colby McKnelly violated a court order by contacting his former girlfriend, a witness in the murder case against him, and asking her to change her statements to police, court documents state.
McKnelly, 26, of Greenfield, is being held without bond in Hancock County Jail on charges including murder, criminal confinement and battery. McKnelly is accused of killing Steven Rogers Jr., 26, of Indianapolis.
Prosecutors have now tacked on 11 additional charges: four counts of obstruction of justice, one count of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, one count of attempt to commit obstruction of justice and five counts of invasion of privacy.
The new charges stem from phone conversations McKnelly had with Jessi Parsons-Freeman, 27, of Greenfield. Parsons-Freeman, McKnelly’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, serves as the lone eyewitness against McKnelly, who has been ordered to have no contact with her.
According to a supplementary probable cause affidavit filed this week, McKnelly used a third party, Amanda Cooper, to get in touch with Parsons-Freeman. Cooper, 29, of Greenfield, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and also faces a charge of obstruction of justice.
In a call on Dec. 27, McKnelly called Cooper and asked her to deliver a message to Parsons-Freeman, that “she has no reason to testify” and to “stay away from the courthouse, period,” the affidavit states. Cooper agreed to relay the message, the affidavit states.
Two days later, McKnelly called Cooper again, and Cooper told him there was someone there who wanted to speak to him and gave the phone the Parsons-Freeman. McKnelly asked Parsons-Freeman whether she was on his side, the affidavit states.
McKnelly called Cooper four times that afternoon, sometimes pleading with her to talk to Parsons-Freeman and sometimes talking to Parsons-Freeman himself. In one call, McKnelly tells Parsons-Freeman she “can get him out of jail with just a few words,” and that if she does, “they will take the kids and leave,” court documents state.
Parsons-Freeman repeatedly asks McKnelly not to talk about the case, but McKnelly persists, telling her she can save him from going to prison, that he is sitting in a cold cell, and she would be a hero if she helps, the affidavit states.
McKnelly knew his calls were being recorded, as a warning message stating as much is played for inmates to hear at the beginning of each call, police said.
Investigators described McKnelly’s tone as manipulative and said it was clear he knew the call was being recorded when he told Parsons-Freeman to tell the truth and tell police he was defending himself.
Parsons-Freeman told police McKnelly’s attack on Rogers was unprovoked, that the pair was talking but not arguing when McKnelly stabbed Rogers, then struck him repeatedly with a flashlight until he could no longer stand, according to court documents.
Parsons-Freeman didn’t offer any information on a motive, but McKnelly, who also suffered knife wounds during the altercation, told police he and Rogers began to argue after Rogers had accused McKnelly of hitting a former girlfriend. They had been drinking alcohol at the time, McKnelly said.
McKnelly was due in court Monday, but that hearing was rescheduled because McKnelly hired a private attorney who was not available, according to court records. The attorney has not yet been identified.
McKnelly is scheduled to return to Hancock Circuit Court at 2:30 p.m. today.
Amanda Cooper is charged with six counts of obstruction of justice, all Class D felonies. There is some confusion about the woman’s identity. Police say she has also gone by Amanda Crosier, but her current driver’s license lists her last name as Cooper.