[UPDATE] Mississippi Man Sentenced for 1988 Perry Murder

By: Garin Flowers Email
By: Garin Flowers Email

[UPDATE] March 20, 2012 -

Kenneth Knight was sentenced to 23 years for the 1988 murder of Sandra Espinoza.

Originally charged with first degree murder, the court accepted a plea bargain back on February 24, 2012 in which Knight agreed to plea guilty to a lesser charge of 2nd degree murder.

As part of the plea bargain, Knight will not be on probation when he is released from prison.

Captain Ron Rice was in law enforcement for four years when investigators found the body of Sandra Espinoza. She was a 22-year-old from Indiana.

The cause of her death was murder, but for decades no one knew who did it.

"It's cold, no feeling, no remorse, no anything," said Rice about the suspect.

Rice - now with the Sheriff's Office in Taylor County - decided to re-open the cold case in 2004. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement performed DNA tests with new technology . The tests linked a man named Kenneth Knight to the murder.

So in 2008, deputies finally had a solid case.

Knight was a truck driver. That's what brought him to Perry. Deputies say Knight tossed Espinoza's body in a ditch at a Perry rest stop off of U.S. 27. They found her body on February 18, 1988

Knight is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Captain Rice traveled there in 2009 and found him.

"FDLE Agent Annie White and I drove to Mississippi and worked with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations," Rice said.

"We secured arrests warrants locally and a search warrant in Mississippi and went to his [Knight's] house."

Rice and the FDLE agent visited Espinoza's family right before the arrest to tell them they found their guy.

"At the time of her death she had an infant daughter and we were actually able to speak with that daughter who is since married and has a child of her own," Rice said.

On Friday, Knight plead guilty to 2nd degree murder.

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  • by Jess on Mar 20, 2012 at 08:36 PM
    He got of light. He should have at least got on the gurney waiting list.
  • by you know the big fish Location: dixie on Mar 20, 2012 at 06:52 PM
    good job now you can put some time tracking down some of taylor's county drug smugglers on the 70 and 80's.
  • by Algenon on Feb 29, 2012 at 02:06 PM
    I would like to hear more about how Ron caught the guy, how did he put the peices together? Was it like one of those dateline shows where he combed over tons of evidence? Did he have any help?
    • reply
      by Jess on Mar 20, 2012 at 08:37 PM in reply to Algenon
      I would like to here that also. It would make a good 48 Hours type show.
  • by Surly Location: Grrr on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:17 AM
    More info on Knight at this address -- .
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM in reply to Surly
      Right, no links allowed. Sorry about that -- search on this: invisionfree, Missing, and Knight.
  • by Graham Location: Florida on Feb 29, 2012 at 09:33 AM
    Great Job Ron!! You are like super cop or something, seems like you arrest all the druggies, burgulars and now murderers, is there anything you cant do. You should teach a class or something, seems like the other deputies dont do that much. Again, great job RON!!
  • by Vic on Feb 29, 2012 at 07:48 AM
    Further info but no cause of death given:The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office announce the arrest of Kenneth Knight, 48, of Hattiesburg, Miss. for first-degree murder. Knight is charged in the Feb. 18, 1988 death of Sandra Espinoza in Perry, Fla. Espinoza’s body was located by a passing motorist on the roadside of U.S. Highway 19, near the Wayside Park in Perry, Fla. She was last seen by her husband at a truck stop in Marianna, Fla. the day before. Florida authorities re-opened the homicide as part of a cold case review. DNA evidence from the crime scene was re-submitted to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) by FDLE’s Tallahassee Crime Lab. The sample matched Knight who was arrested in Arkansas in December 1996 for the murder of Rose Marie Arnette. The circumstances surrounding Arnette’s murder were similar to the Espinoza homicide. On March 4, investigators joined with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to execute a search warrant at Knight’s Hattiesburg residence. Knight was subsequently arrested March 5 and transported back to Florida. He was booked into the Taylor County Jail late yesterday evening.
  • by Vic on Feb 29, 2012 at 07:39 AM
    The cause of death was murder????? What were the specifics that caused the death???? the dude confessed so what evidence did they have against him? Excellent job law enforcement.
  • by Vic on Feb 29, 2012 at 07:14 AM
    Excellent collective law enforcement work.
  • by LA on Feb 29, 2012 at 07:14 AM
    Good job!
  • by Anonymous on Feb 29, 2012 at 06:50 AM
    Great job. Glad to hear that family finally got closure.
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