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Utah man apologizes for death of Setauket horseman

Brett Knight on his way to his 2013

Brett Knight on his way to his 2013 arraignment in Central Islip. He admitted planning and carrying out an attack at the home of his former friends, Ross Reisner and Kevin Murray, firing 11 shots into their house on Sept. 24, 2013. Credit: Pool

The Utah man who fired 11 bullets at his former friends' house, killing a Setauket horseman and wounding his partner, said he was sorry Tuesday and would use his 22 years to life in prison to meditate on what went wrong.

Brett Knight, 46, a former American Express executive, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and other charges. He admitted planning and carrying out an attack at the home of Ross Reisner, 50, and Kevin Murray on Sept. 24, 2013, with one of two .40-caliber pistols he bought in Utah specifically for the attack. Reisner was killed and Murray grazed in the arm.

Before state Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro imposed the sentence, Knight apologized for the first time in public.

"They were my friends of 20 years," Knight said of Reisner and Murray, as Murray listened in the courtroom. "I was severely emotionally driven."

Prosecutors have said that Knight was angry after Reisner and Murray alerted American Express that his wrongful-termination lawsuit was baseless. During his plea, Knight admitted riding his motorcycle with the pistols from Utah to Melville, where he stayed until riding to Setauket and firing through the men's kitchen window.

In the months before the shooting, Knight admitted harassing the men, at one point mailing them a dead pigeon and a letter quoting a lengthy passage from the movie "Pulp Fiction":

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

The letter concluded, "Prepare yourselves for a painful end."

On Tuesday, Knight said he would rely on the Buddhism he has practiced for the past 27 years to learn from his errors.

"I just want to accept responsibility," he said.

Ambro told Knight that seemed unlikely.

"Others come away feeling you have no remorse or regret for what you did," Ambro said. "You seem to feel that because you were slighted, you had the right to do this. It's frightening."

Friends and family said Reisner's killing and its aftermath have been awful.

"Without Ross, this world is a little less bright," said Maggie Fiore, a family friend. "It's a little less happy. It's a little less fun."

Reisner's brother, Ian, said he "did not have a mean bone in his body. His life was cut short maliciously and coldbloodedly."

Of Knight, he said, "His behavior is an embarrassment to humanity."

Murray did not speak in court or afterward.

Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl noted that Knight told a pre-sentence investigator that there were no winners or losers in the case. Pearl said that was wrong.

"The losers are Mr. Reisner and Mr. Murray," Pearl said. "One is dead, and the other is without the man he loved," Pearl said. Pearl recommended a sentence of 35 years to life.

Defense attorney Michael Brown said his client has accepted responsibility for what he did.

"He obviously made some horrible decisions," Brown said.

Afterward, Chris Post, a friend of Reisner and Murray, fought back tears. "Him sitting in a cell is not going to bring back our friend," he said.

Post said Knight was off-putting from the moment he met him, saying Knight had bragged about how he'd bitten another man's ear in a nightclub.

Before the killing, Post said, Knight made Reisner and Murray's lives hell, doing things such as ruining their washing machine by putting bricks in it or slashing their walls with a samurai sword.

"He was such a malicious person," he said.

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