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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two families ‘forever changed’: Man sentenced to 18 years for road-rage killing

Spokane County Courthouse.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

As 8-year-old Miguel Foster watched from the back of the courtroom while his father was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a road-rage killing last summer, his younger sister hugged him and cried.

Miguel gripped his folded notebook paper he had scribbled sentences on to tell Spokane County Superior Court Judge Pro-Tempore Michael Price that his father, Treven Lewis, “is a good dad.”

“He made sure we had food. My dad made sure we were warm. He loved us. He is the best dad,” the boy said when he addressed the judge, as an attorney adjusted the microphone to meet his height.

At the same hearing, another child who was not present described her own father, saying in a statement read aloud to the court how she spends her days wondering what would have happened if her parents had taken a little longer to eat dinner or hadn’t paid the check so soon on July 15, 2022. He might still be alive.

Two families were “torn apart” that night, as Price described it. Lewis, 30, shot and killed 34-year-old David Knoepfle in a road-rage incident on Interstate 90 in Spokane Valley.

Knoepfle and his fiancée, Nicole Wiens, were traveling home in separate cars following a downtown dinner date.

Before they got onto the interstate, either Wiens’ or Lewis’ car drifted into the other lane on Fifth Avenue near Maple Street. She told investigators that Lewis honked at her.

After the cars began traveling on the interstate, Lewis threw something at Wiens’ car, and then as he was driving in front of her, began to brake-check her.

She then attempted to avoid Lewis’ car and changed lanes so she was no longer following him. But Lewis continued to be aggressive and then pointed a handgun at her car.

This is when Knoepfle, who was following behind, drove his car between Lewis and Wiens.

Lewis then shot and killed Knoepfle and sped away. Wiens said she heard the shots, looked back and watched Knoepfle’s car crash into a fence along the interstate between the Freya and Sprague interchanges near the pedestrian overpass at Havana Street. Knoepfle had a visible gunshot wound, court records say.

Lewis was arrested a short time later and pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. His children were in his car at the time of the shooting.

During Lewis’ sentencing on Friday, Wiens told the court she remembers it like it was yesterday. There was so much blood, she said, and she can’t get the vision of EMTs pounding on Knoepfle’s chest to keep him alive out of her mind.

“Remembering me begging him to stay alive makes me ill,” Wiens told the court through sobs. She said as medical personnel pronounced the love of her life dead on the scene, “My life was altered in that moment.”

After he was killed, Wiens said, she could only sleep 45 minutes at a time. Her children were grieving the loss of the man who became a father figure to them. She struggled with depression, night terrors and anxiety. And she still avoids that stretch of freeway.

“Half of my soul was severed,” she said. “David saved my life that night, so I refuse to give up on his life.”

The couple’s daughter, who was not named in court, also wrote a letter that was read in the hearing.

“You are selfish,” Wiens’ daughter wrote, referring to Lewis. “I wish nothing more than to see your face behind cold metal bars, where you belong.”

Lewis was convicted of manslaughter for the 2012 killing of Vietnam veteran Frank Motta. Lewis punched Motta as the 65-year-old tried to disperse a party, resulting in his death several days later. He was released from prison in 2021.

Knoepfle’s mother, Sandra Knoepfle, also spoke directly to the court. She said nothing anyone does or says can change that her son is dead, and out of all of them, the children in this situation are experiencing the most loss.

“I don’t hate you, I pray for you,” she said to Lewis.

Lewis’ family spoke on his behalf, saying he is a hard-working, family-oriented man, especially after the family was displaced after an apartment fire last year. Anita Williams, Lewis’ mother, told the court there wasn’t a day her son was without his children. He worked multiple jobs to support them and even took a job as a wildland firefighter, she said.

“His love for his family is such a beautiful thing to witness,” Williams said. Miguel also looked up to his father – “every firefighter he sees, he says he’s going to be a firefighter like his dad.”

As Williams spoke, Lewis’ children reached for their mother’s hand. Lewis put his head down on the table in front of him and sobbed.

“I can say he’s changed his life for the better,” Williams said.

Lewis addressed the court before his sentence. He told Price that two families were “forever changed” because of his actions, and he takes full responsibility for what happened.

“I wish I could go back to that night and change how I reacted. I acted out of fear for the safety and well-being of my two children,” Lewis said as he cried. He said he has so much guilt burdening him and issued his apologies to Knoepfle’s family.

“Finding out David was a dad only made that burden heavier,” he said. “My heart hurts deeply for David’s kids … I pray for God to be with them.”

Price agreed to the sentencing recommendation that the prosecution and the defense reached together. Lewis received 18 years for the manslaughter charge and nearly four years for unlawful possession of a firearm. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Price acknowledged it was not easy to come to that agreement, because it is never good enough for either side – one family usually believes the sentence is too harsh, the other believes it isn’t harsh enough.

“This was a horrendous mistake,” Price said. “You’re owning up to it, you were sincere. Sadly, it doesn’t change anything in the end.”

Lewis’ children met him in the hallway after the sentencing to give him a hug. He was then led away to be in the custody of the Washington State Department of Corrections.