Knigge silent as attorney pleads not guilty in her behalf

No date yet for trial on first-degree murder charge

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Mackenzie Knigge, left, is led out of the courtroom at the Webster County Courthouse by Sgt. Shawna Dencklau, of the Webster County Jail, Monday afternoon. Knigge pleaded not guilty to killing Jessica Gomez.

The Webster County woman accused of killing her best friend has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Mackenzie L. Knigge, 26, of Clare, made the plea during an arraignment hearing held in Webster County District Court early Monday afternoon.

Knigge is being held in the Webster County Jail on $1 million cash bond.

She, along with Phillip A. Williams, 25, of Lafayette, Indiana, is accused of killing Jessica Gomez, 26, of Fort Dodge, in early August.

Williams, who has also been arrested, is in the Tippecanoe County Jail in Indiana, where he will face criminal charges in that state before being extradited back to Iowa.

At the hearing Monday, Knigge stayed silent while one of her attorneys, Christopher Kragnes, of Des Moines, spoke on her behalf.

In addition to pleading not guilty, Kragnes also informed Judge Kurt Stoebe, of the 2nd Judicial District, that Knigge wanted to waive her right to a speedy trial.

Kragnes also requested a trial-scheduling conference, where all parties involved will come together and decide on a trial date.

Stoebe said he would let 2nd Judicial District Chief Judge Kurt Wilke schedule the conference, as Wilke has been specially appointed to preside over the case.

In all, the hearing lasted just a few minutes.

On Aug. 7, Webster County sheriff’s deputies were called to Knigge’s apartment, 524 E. Front St. in Clare, where they found large amounts of blood in the bathroom and evidence of an attempt to clean the apartment, including the presence of cleaning supplies, according to the criminal complaint, filed with the Webster County attorney’s office.

Investigators also found evidence that led them to conclude that a body had been removed from the residence.

Knigge and Gomez were both reported missing Aug. 9. The two had been described as being friends.

Gomez was last seen Aug. 4. Her vehicle was later found in the area of Easter Avenue and 150th Street near Clare.

Knigge was taken into custody on Aug. 10 in Lafayette, Indiana. She was a passenger in a stolen Pontiac Montana minivan that was stopped by Lafayette police.

On Aug. 12, a body later identified as Gomez was found in a ditch along Indiana Avenue near Clare.

The murder is alleged to have occurred “on or about” Aug. 5 at Knigge’s apartment.

Knigge was extradited back from Indiana earlier this month and made her initial appearance on Sept. 6.