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Husband of missing Fort Lauderdale woman indicted; blood was found in Madrid apartment, FBI agent says

Months after a Fort Lauderdale woman went missing in Spain, a grand jury indicted her husband on kidnapping charges, prosecutors announced Friday. Meanwhile, his defense attorney has filed a motion arguing for his release from a Miami prison.

The motion and a recent cross examination bring new details to light about what might — or might not — have happened the day that Ana Knezevich disappeared in Madrid. Blood was found in her apartment, and yet detectives have not concluded whose it is. Knezevich had been feeling suicidal, but because of her husband, investigators said. Meanwhile, defense attorneys argued that her husband, David Knezevich, flew to Serbia days before her disappearance, not as part of a kidnapping plot, but to take care of his disabled, elderly mother.

David Knezevich, 36, was arrested at Miami International Airport on May 4, months after Ana’s disappearance in early February. He is accused in a federal complaint of driving from Serbia to Madrid, where his 40-year-old wife was staying, spray-painting the cameras at her building, and leaving with a suitcase. He also had a woman translate a message for him into Spanish; the same message was later sent to Ana’s friends and family from her phone the last time anyone ever heard from her.

Last week, a grand jury indicted David Knezevich on one count of kidnapping, the U.S Attorney’s Office announced Friday. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, with a likely sentence of 10 to 12 years, Assistant U.S Attorney Lacee Monk said at the court hearing over his detention earlier this month. But if Ana Knezevich is found dead, he could face the death penalty.

Chief Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres ultimately ruled in favor of keeping David Knezevich jailed because he is a flight risk, though he said the decision was a “close call” and that the evidence is largely circumstantial. On Thursday, Knezevich’s defense attorney, Jayne Weintraub, filed a motion opposing the ruling, pointing to Torres’ own comment and arguing that her client has no reason to leave South Florida, where he has a brother and two businesses.

“There are significant legal issues presented in this case and, as Magistrate Judge Torres noted, it is a defensible case, which is a reason for Defendant to stay and fight the charges and not to flee,” the motion concludes.

Prior to Torres’ ruling, Weintraub cross examined Agent Alexandra Montilla, one of the lead Federal Bureau of Investigations agents on the case, pointing to the limitations of the evidence investigators currently have on David Knezevich.

Some of the details raised in the cross examination paint a more harrowing picture than previously known. Ana Knezevich had gone to Madrid not just for a vacation but to escape her husband, who she was afraid of, Montilla said, according to a transcript of the cross examination. Despite reports earlier on that there was no sign of struggle in the apartment, police had found blood “in various places of the apartment,” though Montilla said they did not include that in the complaint because they do not have the DNA results yet.

Ana Maria Knezevich, a 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale businesswoman, has disappeared on a vacation to Madrid, friends and family say. She has not been seen since the night of Feb. 2. Her friends and family believe the circumstances are very suspicious: the text she sent was written as if someone else had written it, and she was going through a "nasty divorce" from her husband who has since traveled to Serbia, her brother told Fort Lauderdale Police, according to an incident report.
Ana Maria Knezevich, a 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale businesswoman, disappeared in Madrid in February. A grand jury indicted her husband on kidnapping charges, prosecutors announced Friday.

Weintraub pointed out other details to complicate the story. The two were in an open relationship and Ana Knezevich was dating other men, Montilla confirmed. Ana Knezevich also had a history mental health issues and had described herself as suicidal in messages with other people, though Montilla said that was because of “the issues she was having with David.”

Investigators have interviewed all of the men Knezevich went on dates with, Montilla said.

Another issue raised in the defense motion was whether the case should be tried in the U.S in the first place. Prosecutors had argued during the hearing that it should because David Knezevich only flew to Serbia from the U.S to commit a crime. But the defense said that he went to Serbia to visit his mother, and investigators do not have enough evidence to suggest that he went to Spain for criminal purposes.

“The defendant’s mother lives in Serbia, she is an amputee, she’s elderly and sick and disabled. She’s in a wheelchair and he tries to see her as often as he can and take care of her properly. He goes there frequently through the years to see his mom and that’s why he flew into Serbia,” Weintraub said, according to the transcript. “He did not go to Serbia to go to Spain.”

Investigators had written in the complaint that David Knezevich was shown on surveillance video purchasing spray paint and duct tape in Madrid, evidence they used to connect him to his wife’s disappearance. Weintraub argued that still does not mean he traveled to Spain to commit a crime.

“But you wouldn’t drive 7,000 kilometers to buy paint and duct tape,” Torres said.

“Judge, maybe he was going to paint the apartment,” Weintraub said. ” … Maybe he was going to visit somebody. Maybe they were getting back together again. Maybe Ana said come see me. Maybe he never went to see Ana and he saw somebody else. We don’t know.”

Ultimately, Torres chose to keep David Knezevich imprisoned because of his history of travel and the nature of the charges against him, which could become murder charges depending on what investigators find.

Knezevich is being held in the Federal Detention Center in Miami. His arraignment has been set for June 3.

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