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Columbia police say prosecutor’s death a suicide

(The following story discusses suicide and depression. If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ) -

Police believe former Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight died by suicide, according to the department's death investigation.

ABC 17 News obtained the Columbia Police Department's investigation into Knight's June death through an open records request. The case, which the department closed on Nov. 17, determined the 55-year-old prosecutor died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Knight was found dead in his south Columbia home the morning of June 4. Police said at the time it was called to the home for a gunshot wound victim. Chief Geoff Jones told reporters he did not suspect foul play in Knight's death.

The department's work reveals Knight was struggling with depression and was in a "dark place," according to friends and family that spoke with him before his death. Ed Clausen, Knight's brother-in-law, told officers at the scene that Knight was "in a 'dark place' the last few months." The report does not clarify why Knight would have been struggling.

The report said a friend of Knight's, Robert Bechtold Jr., was the first to discover him in the prosecutor's home on Memorial Court. Police said Bechtold heard from a mutual friend of theirs that Knight was going to visit in California. After finding the front door locked, Bechtold told police he went to the back side of the house and found the sliding door open. The friend said he went downstairs to Knight's room, where he found him dead in his bed.

Investigators said Knight was holding a shotgun when they found him there. Detective Steven McCormack wrote that the door to the room had a Post-It note reading "Keep out."

Another friend, Brad Twaddle, said that Knight had dinner with him on June 1. Twaddle told police that Knight had bought a one-way plane ticket to San Francisco to visit another friend.

"Twaddle stated Knight told him he was meeting an old friend and planning on spending the weekend with him and possible longer is he was feeling well," Nicolaescu wrote. "Twaddle reported that during his dinner...Knight told him he bought a one way ticket to San Francisco. Twaddle explained he did not think anything of it at the moment but 'second guessed' himself after finding out about Knight's death."

Knight worked in the Boone County Prosecutor's Office for more than 20 years. He became the elected prosecutor in 2007. He announced in February 2022 that he would not run for another term following his former assistant, Roger Johnson, announcing a bid to replace him. Knight said then he eyed a circuit judge spot in 2024. Colleagues of Knight remembered him as a hard worker that prepared voraciously for trials he worked.

Detective McCormack told ABC 17 News that he worked with Knight closely on some cases for a decade. When writing the report for Knight's death, he said he had a difficult time finding a way to finish it. McCormack added a final sentence.

"Dan K. Knight will be missed."

Article Topic Follows: ABC 17 News Investigates

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.

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