Elijah Michonski gets 40 years to life for killing uncle, wounding aunt in 2020 knife attack

  • Elijah Michonski, with defense attorney Jennifer Cox, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Elijah Michonski pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon to charges stemming from the 2020 fatal stabbing death of his uncle and assault of his aunt in Turners Falls. Defense attorney Jennifer Cox is at his right. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2022 7:40:50 PM
Modified: 3/29/2022 7:39:54 PM

GREENFIELD – A 20-year-old man could spend the rest of his life behind bars after changing his plea in Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday to charges stemming from a 2020 attack in which he stabbed his uncle to death and seriously wounded his aunt in Turners Falls before trying to escape in their vehicle.

Elijah Michonski pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed assault to murder, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony and putting a person in fear, and larceny of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years for the murder charge and not less than 15 years for the armed assault to murder charge. These sentences will be served consecutively. 

Michonski was sentenced to 14 to 15 years for the aggravated assault and battery charge, nine to 10 years for the breaking and entering charge, and nine to 10 years for the motor vehicle larceny charge. These sentences will be served concurrently with the armed assault to murder charge, meaning at the same time.

Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne, who  prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Sandra Staub, told Judge Francis Flannery the proposed plea agreement was the result of a joint recommendation between the state and defense attorney Jennifer Cox. He said the state agreed to the recommendation to help the victim’s family avoid the pain a trial would bring and because Michonski has taken responsibility and confessed to his crimes. Gagne said the initial first-degree murder charge was amended to second-degree murder.

Michonski appeared in court in handcuffs and a disposable mask covering most of his face. He initially answered Flannery’s question’s with head nods until being told by the judge to vocalize his responses. He then answered and responded to statements mostly in sentence fragments, most commonly by saying “Understood.”

In reading Flannery the case’s essential facts, Staub explained Michonski lived with aunt and uncle Teresa and Nicholas Weir on Randall Road in Turners Falls from April 2020 to roughly June 10, 2020, when Michonski moved out at the Weirs’ request and started living with his maternal grandmother in Greenfield. Staub said the defendant, 18 years old at the time, was essentially homeless when that new living arrangement ended.

Staub explained Michonski called the Greenfield Police Department from underneath the railroad bridge on Russell Street in Greenfield on July 3, 2020, and was given a courtesy transport to the vicinity of a cemetery on Turners Falls Road, where he told the responding officer he was staying at a campsite. Staub said the defendant then walked a quarter- to a half-mile to the Weirs’ residence, approaching it from the rear and through the woods.

Staub said Michonski forced his way through the locked back door and took a knife (with an approximately 8-inch blade) from a butcher block and approached Teresa Weir, who was seated in a recliner and had not heard her nephew approaching. Weir then reportedly began to scream to tell Michonski to stop, and she noticed he was smiling as he raised the knife and made several stab motions toward her. Staub said Michonski stabbed Teresa several times and the victim kicked to defend herself.

“Nick heard the commotion, emerged from the spare bedroom, came down the hall to see what was happening,” Staub read. “When Nick entered the living room, the defendant turned his focus toward Nick. The two began to struggle.”

According to Staub, the defendant wound up on top of his uncle and the medical examiner determined during autopsy he had been stabbed in the head above his ear.

Staub said Teresa then fled down the hall to her bedroom and put her back against the door and her feet against the bed to try to prevent Michonski from getting in. The defendant then reportedly broke his way in, reached around the door and repeatedly stabbed his aunt.

“The defendant only stopped stabbing Teresa when she played dead,” Staub said. “He then left the house. Teresa was able to call 911.”

Staub said Michonski then stole the Weirs’ vehicle and sped away, striking some bushes and side-swiping a utility pole. He reportedly later told police he had planned to go to Boston but realized he was bleeding heavily from a finger laceration and soon called police to tell them where he was.

Authorities then responded and arrested Michonski. Nicholas Weir was transported to UMass Medical Center in Worcester, where he died the following day when he was removed from life support. He was 41.

Michonski was arraigned in Greenfield District Court in July 2020 and pleaded not guilty to nine charges. The case was transferred to Franklin County Superior Court due to its severity and Michonski again pleaded not guilty.

Staub said Teresa sustained 13 distinct stab wounds to the head, a fractured skull and a concussion as a result of the the attack. She also required surgery to her hand, which still has nerve damage.

Janice Asten, Nicholas Weir’s half-sister who had been adopted as a baby and had connected with him some years ago, read three victim impact statements written by her, Teresa, and Nicholas’ younger brother, Patrick. All three statements detailed the anguish Michonski’s actions have caused and the void Nick Weir’s death created.

Teresa’s statement mentioned the emotional and psychological trauma this attack generated, as the sight of a knife or sound of a door slamming is triggering now. She said she is in constant pain and is afraid to leave her house. Patrick Weir said he misses his brother terribly and told Flannery he believes Michonski will kill again.

Gagne told Flannery he believes the plea agreement brings about a just outcome.

Larry Weir, Nicholas’ father and a retired Greenfield firefighter, told the Greenfield Recorder his family is glad Michonski will be put away without the agony of a trial. He also said he wanted to thank his brother for his support throughout this ordeal, as well as Gagne, Staub and the entire Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the family’s victim advocates, the State Police, the Montague Police Department, the Greenfield and Turners Falls fire departments, AMR Ambulance, South County EMS, and Baystate Franklin and UMass medical centers.

Larry Weir said his son was an organ donor, and his death saved four lives.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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