NEW BRAUNFELS — A Comal County jury Wednesday convicted a New Braunfels woman of tampering with a witness and endangering a child.
During testimony earlier in the day, Nancy Knowles broke down into tears on the stand and yelled at a Comal County prosecutor.
Knowles’ testimony lasted the majority of the morning and was interrupted once when she sobbed uncontrollably. Judge Gary L. Steel called for a 15-minute break to allow her to compose herself.
“I’m sorry,” Knowles said through tears as she continued sobbing and at one point whimpered, “I can’t breathe.”
The jury took a little more than two hours to deliver verdicts on both counts. Steel said Knowles will return for a punishment hearing at a later date, but he didn’t set a date. Both crimes are state jail felonies punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
Knowles’ husband and the girl’s foster father, Kenneth Knowles, 59, pleaded guilty in February to aggravated sexual assault of the girl, then 8, and was sentenced to more than 45 years in a Texas prison.
During the two-day trial, prosecutors played an audio tape Nancy Knowles and her husband recorded a day after the girl told her foster mother that Kenneth Knowles molested her. The tape, which Nancy Knowles gave investigators, lasted longer than an hour as Kenneth Knowles accused the girl of lying.
Kenneth Knowles is also heard on the tape threatening to send the girl away and not adopt her if she refused to recant her allegations against him. Sammy McCrary, Comal County chief felony prosecutor, said Nancy Knowles didn’t lift a finger to help the girl.
“She sat there while he tore the soul out of that young child,” McCrary told the jury during his final argument. “For that, she is guilty.”
Nancy Knowles’ defense attorney, Ted Wood, said his client never asked the girl to change her statement. He said Nancy Knowles allowed her husband to berate the girl on tape because he manipulated and controlled his wife.
“It is my desire to prevent a huge injustice by the state,” Wood told the jury. “That injustice is on the last victim of Kenneth Knowles: Nancy Knowles. That injustice would be a guilty verdict.”
Comal County criminal district attorney Jennifer Tharp, who helped McCrary prosecute, said Nancy Knowles participated in the torture of the little girl. She said the harassment by both adults and two other girls on the tape made the victim suicidal.
“Have you ever wondered what it takes to make an eight-year-old want to kill herself,” Tharp asked the jury. “For this little girl it wasn’t the abuse of Kenneth Knowles, no matter how bad that was. It was when this woman and her husband and everyone she considered family ganged up on her and interrogated her.
“All she wanted was to be adopted,” Tharp continued. “She even wanted to be adopted by Kenneth Knowles. That woman sat by while Kenneth said, ‘My idea is we should just get rid of her.’ I can’t imagine what went through that little girl’s head.”
In her own defense, Nancy Knowles testified Wednesday that she had been sexually abused as a child and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. She said she blacked out at times during the taped questioning of the little girl.
Nancy Knowles said she initially didn’t know if she should believe her husband of 11 years or the foster child she had known for six months. McCrary, on cross examination, got Nancy Knowles to say she did nothing to stop the interrogation because she wanted to learn the truth.
Nancy Knowles, who provided police with the taped recording, said McCrary and Tharp have made her “life hell.”
“I’ve been enduring this for more than two years,” Knowles yelled. “When are y’all going to stop?”