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Tarafa pleads guilty in Memorial Apartments shooting

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Sentencing scheduled for June 25

By Sarah Bennett

An Elizabethtown man pleaded guilty to fatally shooting another man last June at Memorial Apartments.

Robert J. Tarafa, 27, continuously bounced on his heels as he responded Friday to a litany of questions from Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Carr about his plea and the events of June 8, 2012.

Elizabethtown police found Frank Knapp, 32, lying on a lawn on East Memorial Drive. He had nine bullet wounds.

According to investigators, Tarafa and Knapp were involved in a physical altercation that escalated into a struggle over a weapon, which ended when Tarafa fired multiple shots.

On Friday, Tarafa pleaded guilty to murder, tampering with physical evidence, two counts of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and two counts of receiving a stolen firearm.

Under the agreement, prosecutors dismissed without prejudice a seventh charge of second-degree persistent felony offense.

The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office recommends Tarafa serve 20 years for murder, 7 years each for the two counts of possession of a handgun and three years each for the remaining charges. The sentences would run concurrent for a total of 20 years to serve.

During a series of questions from Carr, Tarafa admitted to an altercation with Knapp during which he shot the man. He also said he knew the two handguns he possessed were stolen.

After the shooting, he said he removed several shell casings from the scene.

Following the guilty plea, Tarafa waived a pre-sentence investigation, but Howard objected to the waiver and set a formal sentencing date.

“I think it’s important, especially in a murder case, that the court reviews the agreement,” the judge said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young described a pre-sentence investigation as a “biography.” It allows the judge to be fully informed before sentencing a defendant.

As part of a pre-sentence investigation, victim’s family members are allowed to write impact statements, which can be read during a formal sentencing.

During Friday’s hearing, Carr said Knapp’s family is “adamantly opposed” to the plea agreement reached with Tarafa.

According to Young, the family wanted to see Tarafa receive the death penalty, but under Kentucky law, there were no aggravators in the case to seek the death penalty.

Tarafa remains lodged at Hardin County Detention Center. Formal sentencing is set for 10 a.m. June 25.

Sarah Bennett can be reached (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.