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Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Leader-Telegram
By Chuck Rupnow, Leader-Telegram staff
ELLSWORTH – A former Prescott teacher said Wednesday she has no excuses for the affair she had with a 13-year-old boy last year.
“I made a horrible, terrible mistake,” Anne M. Knopf told Pierce County Judge Robert Wing shortly after he found her guilty of second-degree sexual assault of child. “I am truly sorry for my horrible mistake.”
An emotional Knopf said she prays daily for her family, the victim and his family.
The case drew national attention for various reasons, including: their ages at the time, 38 and 13; they were having sexual relations in the basement of Knopf’s rural Ellsworth home while other family members slept upstairs; and the boy previously was seeing Knopf’s daughter.
“This is entirely the fault of Ms. Knopf,” Wing said, adding that he was concerned about the repeated contact Knopf had with the boy for about five months early last year.
Wing placed Knopf on probation for five years, requiring her to serve nine months in jail, receive counseling, continue her medication for mental illness and not have any contact with boys. She is scheduled to report to jail Aug. 1.
Knopf, 39, and her attorney Fred Bruno detailed a list of medications Knopf has been taking for several years to battle depression and bi-polar illnesses. She was hospitalized about five years ago for those illnesses.
Wing said mental illness was not an excuse for her crime, while Bruno called Knopf’s actions “pathetic” and said she developed “a period of grooming” the boy.
Bruno suggested and Wing agreed that Knopf’s behavior was isolated with the boy because no others have come forward with claims.
District Attorney John O’Boyle said the boy’s accusations, a long list of e-mails between the boy and Knopf, and Knopf’s DNA on the boy’s clothing were major items of evidence.
“She allowed it to take place; she encouraged it to take place,” O’Boyle said before recommending probation and a six- to nine-month jail term. “This is an unusual case to say the least.”
The boy’s mother read a prepared statement, chastising Knopf for destroying trust for authorities and endangering her son’s welfare in a variety of ways, including having him drive to her residence at such a young age.
According to court records:
Knopf was a teacher in the Prescott school district until being suspended in May 2007 and eventually released. Knopf had sexual intercourse with the boy several times between Jan. 1 and May 18 at her residence.
The boy drove his mother’s car to Knopf’s house about midnight May 18 and left it about a quarter-mile from the Knopf residence. The boy’s father had become suspicious in previous weeks about the boy’s e-mails and other activities and installed spy software. He knew his son was having late-night conversations with Knopf.
When the boy’s mother called the father, saying the boy and her vehicle were missing about midnight, the father went to Knopf’s house. Knopf answered the door in a robe and said she had not seen the boy.
The father called police, who spoke with Knopf and looked for the boy. The boy was found walking in the area and told police he had gone to the Knopf house to visit her daughter, a friend.
In subsequent interviews, the boy told police he and Knopf developed a friendship over the past year and it became intimate last spring.
Knopf served as a substitute teacher at the elementary through high school levels and also taught at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Prescott several years ago.
Rupnow can be reached at 830-5831, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.