Man sentenced to 25 years for crash that killed boy

Posted: Tuesday, December 03, 2002

PALMER (AP) -- A man convicted of second-degree murder in the drunk-driving crash that killed a little boy last year has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

John M. Knauss was drunk when he slammed into another vehicle on the Parks Highway near Wasilla, killing five-year-old Floyd Mack Jr. on Nov. 27, 2001 and seriously injuring Linda Mack, and her daughter Jeanette Seybert.

At the time of the crash, Knauss was a fugitive from a halfway house where he had been serving time for a previous drunken driving accident in which he seriously injured a man.

The boy's father, Floyd Mack, tried to hold back the tears, but he couldn't do it Monday in a Palmer courtroom as he faced Knauss.

''It's hard to come up here and see this man,'' he told Superior Court Judge Mike Wolverton as he looked at Knauss.

Mack struggled for words to describe what his family's life has been like since the crash and what sentence he thought Knauss deserved.

No sentence could bring back the happy, outgoing boy the family knew by his nickname, ''Mister,'' he said

''I wanted a son all my life, and now he's gone,'' Mack said, wiping tears from his face. ''In our hearts, he will always be with us, but we will always be missing him.''

No one in the courtroom disagreed. Not even Knauss. He told members of the Mack family who filled the courtroom that if he could swap his life for the boy's, he would.

''If I myself could trade places with Mister, I would right now,'' he said, turning to face the family.

Judge Wolverton said nothing could restore the Mack family to its previous existence. But a long sentence would send a message about the consequences of drunken driving.

Knauss' criminal history and the devastation caused by the crash also warranted a long prison term, he said. He sentenced Knauss to 25 years on the two counts. He also placed a lifetime revocation on Knauss' driver's license.

''Time and time again you've shown you're not amenable to supervision,'' Wolverton said.

Knauss has a criminal record dating back two decades, including convictions for forgery, assault, negligent driving and drunken driving.

Linda Mack and her daughter, who also spoke at the sentencing, described a year of turmoil since the crash.

Linda Mack spent two months in the hospital and has undergone 10 surgeries so far to repair, among other injuries, a fractured pelvis, a broken arm and severe burns to her face and head. She has yet to replace four teeth that were knocked out, and she still wakes up sometimes to find blood on the pillow from the wounds healing on her head.

Jeanette Seybert, now 16, suffered burns on her neck and left ear that required months of painful rehabilitation. The scars are now mostly hidden beneath her thick black hair.

More severe than their physical pain are the emotional scars. Both are seeing psychologists.

Linda Mack still has nightmares about the accident, and her daughter initially dropped out of school because the questions from other students were too painful.

''My family and I will never be the same again,'' Linda Mack said.

Wolverton praised the Mack family for their compassion and strength. He was particularly struck by Floyd Mack's testimony, in which he told Knauss to do something -- anything -- to try to keep others from repeating his mistakes.

Mack also handed Knauss a copy of the program from Mack Jr.'s memorial service that included a picture of the boy.

''Don't forget about him,'' he said.

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