The disappearance of an Ossineke woman in June 2012 is now being treated as a possible homicide, law enforcement officials said.
“We are operating under the premise that foul play was involved,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Det. Steve Harshberger said. “However, we are not focusing on any one individual at this point.”
Harshberger said the reason for the change in the case’s status is because no one has seen or heard from 31-year-old Lisa Marie Knight since June 8, and the case is still active.
“We want to find out what happened to Lisa and be able to tell the family and the general public what happened,” Harshberger said. “If there’s an individual still walking free, we want to bring that individual to justice.”
According to her ex-husband, 53-year-old Lloyd Frey, Lisa was partying with him at his home in Ossineke. The next morning, the front door of the home was open and she was gone. At the time, friends and family thought Lisa had just split for a while, as was her habit. But days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and now it’s been almost 18 months.
Her mother, Jean Knight, is still waiting for an answer.
“It’s the not knowing that’s the hard part,” she said, and wonders what happened “because she’s my daughter and I love her. She has four children and they have the right to know either way.”
Jean said her daughter was always an outgoing person, “except when she was strung out on drugs. And I don’t know how she got that way.”
Being around the young woman was often challenging, she said.
“She was always fighting with her significant other – there was always a lot of drama,” Jean said.
Her husband, long-distance truck driver Marc Knight, was vocal when Lisa went missing, appearing before TV cameras to spread the word.
However, during an interview while driving an out-of-state route, the 51-year-old said he knew what happened to her. But he refused “out of loyalty” to name the witness who gave him an account of the young woman’s last hours.
Meanwhile, Frey said he feels “on the hook” for her disappearance and was alone with her at the home when they partied together.
“She just liked to party drugs and alcohol, heavy duty,” Frey said. “She used to split out for two to three weeks at a time, burn herself out and come home.”
On July 18, 2012, more than 50 law enforcement officers showed up with dogs to search for the missing woman on his property and Frey was cooperative, authorities said.
“I just wanted to let them do what they wanted to do so they could go find her,” Frey said. “I should have heard something by now. I had nothing to do with it. My only downfall was loving her and it was a downfall.”
“Someone saw her after me – the person who helped her leave the house,” he said.
People who knew Lisa painted a picture of a bubbly young woman, who was an avid participant in 4-H activities, loved her horse and competed in a Junior Miss pageant in Alpena. But by the age of 16, she was pregnant and drinking, and as she got older, her life spiraled around abusive relationships, drugs and alcohol.
Lisa was born Sept. 12, 1982, in Muskegon to Jean Knight, who at 25 was trying to get away from an abusive relationship with a man she described as violent and “two-faced.”
When Lisa was six weeks old, Jean met Marc Knight. He helped to move her into his home outside Alpena and they soon became a couple, eventually marrying and starting their own family.
Although she had two older children from a previous marriage, Jean said she let Marc’s parents, Phyllis and John Knight, take care of the baby.
“I thought it was for the best and I had my hands full,” she said.
Marc Knight was in agreement.
“The more my parents took care of her, the more attached she got to them,” he said.
Eventually his parents adopted Lisa and by 1985, three generations of the Knight family were living in a ranch house and several mobile homes on a 10-acre parcel of land on N. Spruce Road.
However, Jean’s relationship with Phyllis was strained, and Jean and Marc said they believed Lisa was not being raised properly.
“She never had consequences. There was always an excuse for Lisa,” Jean Knight said.
Lisa attended Alpena High School and was involved in a 4-H program with the help of friend, 53-year-old Laurel Schultz. Later in her life, she’d stay at Schultz’s mobile home on Indian Reserve Road, where her horse, a bay gelding, is still stabled.
“She was bubbly, a lot like me, cute,” Schultz said, adding Knight dated her son. Eventually Lisa moved in with Schultz off and on.
By the age of 18, Lisa was on her own, moving frequently from place to place, calling Marc Knight to rescue her and “kick butt” if necessary.
“If she was at a party and got drunk, I would go throw a couple guys around, pick her up and drive her home,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time if I went after her she came home with me.”
At the age of 23, Lisa married Lloyd Frey while the two were in Tennessee.
Marc Knight and Frey knew each other well and are close in age.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Marc Knight said of the wedding announcement. “That was back when she was doing drugs and she got hooked on meth when she was going with Lloyd.”
But he had known Frey and Frey’s father, Merlin, a long time.
Frey acknowledged he has a questionable reputation and was involved with the Northmen Motorcycle Club. Parties often took place at his home in the 3000 block of State Street northeast of the town.
Frey also said his relationship with Lisa was rocky and they often argued over partying.
“We got married, she got pregnant and when it came time for her to stay clean, she didn’t want to do it,” Frey said. “So she took off with an old boyfriend, who is the father of her oldest boy. “
Lisa had four children, all of whom were placed in foster or adoptive homes before she disappeared, he said.
For a few months in early 2012, things seemed to improve when Lisa moved back into Laurel Schultz’s mobile home. But she also stayed at the home of a woman living in the Hubbard Lake area. Schultz and others remember Lisa was upbeat. She was trying to get a job at a Hubbard Lake security company, but injured her knee during a training session, her mother said.
The last time Marc Knight recalled seeing Lisa was about two weeks before she disappeared.
“She just stopped in with one or two of the kids to say hi,” he said.
She looked better, her skin looked better and he believed she was turning things around.
According to Frey, Lisa called her mother on June 3 and wanted to see her and Marc, because Lloyd had burned some of her things. Yet, Lisa also had plans to go to Frey’s home June 8, so the two could visit one of their daughters the next day.
On June 8, Schultz said Lisa called her from Frey’s phone at his home and was crying, asking for help. There was a party going on at the home.
“I told her if I go out there, are you going to be able to get out of the house?” Schultz said. When Lisa mumbled a reply, Schultz said she reasoned Frey was standing nearby, and the young woman couldn’t talk openly.
Schultz said she had been drinking and didn’t want to risk driving under the influence of alcohol. She could not remember the time of Lisa’s phone call, but said at 12:30 a.m. she called Lloyd.
“The first thing I asked him was did he kill her, because I’m like that,” Schultz said. “It’s in the police report. He said no, and that he’d have her home by 10 a.m.”
However, Frey said he doesn’t recall that comment. And instead of a party, as some reported, Frey said he was alone with Lisa. He was drinking beer, Lisa was drinking vodka.
They did not fight, he said, or they would have disturbed a woman living in an upstairs room. When he went to bed Lisa told him she would be coming to bed soon.
When Schultz saw no sign of the couple the morning of June 9, she said she called Lloyd at 10:30 a.m.
“He said (Lisa) was gone before he got up,” Schultz said.
Lloyd recalled that when he woke up, Lisa was gone and the front door was open.
Meanwhile, according to his schedule, Marc Knight would have been home Friday and Saturday. Jean said the two of them were outdoors June 9, working on their property. According to property assessment officials, their land at one time was owned by the Northmen Motorcycle Club, and is now in foreclosure.
Because Lisa often disappeared for days and weeks at a time, Laurel Schultz waited until around June 12, and then started making additional checks. She also called Marc on the road to ask if he has heard from Lisa. When he said he hadn’t, the Knights told Schultz to file the missing persons report, because Lisa had been living at her house.
Police officers visited Laurel and Jean at their homes to take reports and Lisa was listed as voluntarily missing.
Eventually they asked Jean to provide them with some clothing and a hair brush, which Jean retrieved from Schultz’s home.
At around the same time, Michigan State Police asked Frey to come to the post and gave Harshberger and his partner permission to search his home in Ossineke.
Harshberger asked if he could come back to look again several weeks later. When that search occurred July 18, Frey said 50 law enforcement officers and a cadaver search dog arrived with a search warrant. But Frey allowed them to search his property voluntarily.
No arrests were made after the search.
In the months after her disappearance, the Knights lost their 10-acre parcel in foreclosure proceedings, Jean said. Marc Knight’s brother, Wayne lives on the property, she said.
Meanwhile, she and Marc struggled to move on with their lives, but Marc lost his ability to concentrate.
“It was so bad I lost work for about four months,” he said. “My employer literally told me they wouldn’t put me in a truck.
“I’ve never been in that state of mind before. I was lost, confused, still feeling guilty … It was pretty overwhelming.”
And Jean still mourns.
“I don’t know if this family will survive if things get worse,” she said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.