Tarafa sentenced to 20 years

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Murder case began as act of self-defense, prosecutors say

By Sarah Bennett

When the judge dismissed Robert J. Tarafa on Tuesday to begin serving his 20-year sentence for murder, a family member of the man he repeatedly shot stood in the gallery and said, “Thank you.”

Tarafa, 27, pleaded guilty in April in the shooting death of Frank Knapp, 32, who police found lying on a lawn June 8, 2012, on East Memorial Drive in Elizabethtown. According to police, Knapp suffered nine gun shot wounds, including several to his back.

“I want God to be with him, Tarafa, for the act that he committed,” said Kristy Pool, mother of Knapp’s child, after Tuesday’s sentencing. “Judgment day will come.”

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Carr said Knapp’s family opposed the agreement that prosecutors reached with the defense. However, Carr said it is appropriate based on the events of June 8, 2012.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young said the shooting began as an act of self defense but escalated.

According to Young, Knapp instigated a physical fight over a woman, punching Tarafa and knocking him to the ground. Knapp reportedly climbed on top of Tarafa and removed a pistol from the other man’s pocket, he said.

As the men struggled over the weapon, shots fired, one of which struck Knapp, Young said.

Knapp attempted to leave the residence, but Tarafa pursued him and continued firing, ultimately shooting the man nine times, he said.

Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard said while he understood the family’s position, the expectation of the commonwealth is to examine the case objectively. He ultimately accepted the agreement.

Tarafa pleaded guilty to charges of murder, tampering with physical evidence and two counts each of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and receiving a stolen firearm. The commonwealth recommended a total of 20 years in prison.

Before concluding Tuesday’s sentencing, Howard addressed Tarafa’s criminal history. Although this was his first felony offense in Kentucky, the judge said the defendant has history of misdemeanor and juvenile offenses.

Howard said people who make those choices eventually spend time in prison.

“I expect you will meet your match in prison,” he said. “That’s your choice.”

Tarafa, who has been lodged at Hardin County Detention Center for more than a year, will reach parole eligibility after serving 85 percent of his 20-year sentence.

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