Accident – Death – Obituary News : WEST CHESTER — A man from Berks County in Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to charges related to a tragic incident that occurred during a traffic stop. John Lewis Knecht Jr., 58, of Reading, ran over and killed a woman who was trying to leap from his pickup truck as he fled the scene. The incident also left the local police chief injured. Knecht entered a plea to several felony charges, including accidents involving death, aggravated assault against police, involuntary manslaughter, resisting arrest, and escape. He has been sentenced to 9½ to 20 years in state prison.
The plea agreement, presented by Senior Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei and Knecht’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephen P. Dodd, was accepted by Common Pleas Judge Alita Rovito in court.
The woman who lost her life in this tragic event was Brandie Marie Beiseigel, 36, of Honey Brook. She was a longtime employee of Jerry’s Pizza Pie, a popular restaurant in the heart of the borough, and a devoted Philadelphia Eagles fan. Members of her family attended the court proceeding and spoke on her behalf in victim impact statements.
The incident took place during a routine stop in Honey Brook, a borough in the northwest part of Chester County. The borough’s police chief, Calvin Wilson, was injured when he was run over by Knecht’s pickup truck as he fled the scene. State police reported that Wilson had sustained moderate injuries.
Knecht has a history of criminal charges in Chester and Berks counties, particularly related to drugs and weapons. At the time of the encounter, he had an active warrant for his arrest due to probation violations.
According to an arrest affidavit filed by state Trooper John Pisker, the incident started around 1 a.m. on April 9, 2023. Wilson, who has been the head of the small borough police force since 2020, was on routine patrol when he noticed a truck parked at the US Gas station on Horseshoe Pike. Suspecting criminal activity, Wilson pulled over and observed from across the street.
Upon checking the license plates, Wilson discovered that there were active warrants for the truck’s owner. Unbeknownst to him, the driver of the truck, identified as Knecht, had spotted the patrol vehicle and decided to flee due to his active warrant.
Knecht and Beiseigel, who was sitting in the front seat, left the gas station and drove east on Horseshoe Pike, also known as Route 322. Within minutes, Wilson pulled them over.
In his statement to investigators, Wilson mentioned that he first approached the passenger side of the truck and recognized Beiseigel as an employee of the local pizza parlor. He also recognized Knecht from previous encounters.
Wilson stated that Knecht provided him with an expired driver’s license. When Wilson checked the license, he discovered that Knecht was wanted on a warrant from 2021. Wilson then approached the driver’s side, opened the door, and attempted to handcuff Knecht. He managed to handcuff one wrist but, when Knecht requested a minute before surrendering, Knecht put the car in drive and sped away from the scene at a high speed. Wilson held onto the handcuffs and was dragged by the truck as it drove away. Eventually, he let go, and the rear wheels of the truck ran over his right side.
While calling for assistance on his police radio, Wilson noticed Beiseigel’s body lying in the roadway. She was unconscious and barely breathing. Sadly, she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead after being transported to Paoli Hospital by Honey Brook Elverson Ambulance.
State police responded to the scene and commenced a search for Knecht. They first went to the house on Birdell Road, where the Toyota was registered. There, they found Wilson’s handcuffs in the backyard near a hot tub. The owner of the truck, who allowed Knecht to use it frequently, informed the police that Knecht was not present.
State Trooper John Pisker managed to locate Knecht’s residence on Friedensburg Road in Lower Alsace, Berks County. Troopers spoke with the owner of the house and Knecht’s girlfriend, who revealed that Knecht must be in the house as his boots and cell phone were in a bedroom.
After initially refusing police orders to come out, Knecht was eventually taken into custody after a brief struggle. During an interview later that day, Knecht confirmed much of what Wilson had reported about the traffic stop. However, he claimed that he had informed Beiseigel about his plan to flee and had given her the option of getting out of the truck before he did. Knecht stated that he thought Beiseigel had already exited the truck when he drove away, dragging Wilson behind him. However, the mobile video recorder in Wilson’s patrol car showed Beiseigel starting to exit the passenger side door and then being run over by the Toyota as it sped away.
Knecht professed that he was unaware that the truck had run over either victim.
This tragic incident has left a lasting impact on the community. The court proceedings were attended by members of Beiseigel’s family, who shared their feelings in victim impact statements. The guilty plea and subsequent sentencing of John Lewis Knecht Jr. provide some closure for the affected parties.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, please call 610-696-1544..