A Eugene man’s car was stolen twice in the same day, allegedly by a 34-year-old Bend man who already was facing several charges related to a car theft ring that was busted last year in Deschutes County.
Kori Lee Knisley is suspected of stealing a Mercedes-Benz from Michael Kjessler, a Eugene car dealer, last Wednesday morning. Knisley — who is expected to have a plea hearing Feb. 10 related to the car theft ring — apparently took the car to Washington state, got involved in a high speed chase with authorities, wrecked the vehicle, and stole it again from an impound lot in less than 24 hours.
The car has not been recovered after the second theft.
An arrest warrant in Clark County, Wash., has been requested for Knisley, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said.
Kjessler was on his way back to Eugene from California last week when he said he woke up in Redding on Wednesday morning to a voicemail message left on his phone at 4 a.m. from a Clark County deputy who informed Kjessler that his car — a 2004 Mercedes-Benz AMG — had been involved in a high-speed chase in Washington state. The deputy asked Kjessler to call him back right away.
Kjessler listened to the message at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday morning and called one of his employees from OCC Auto Sales on West Seventh Avenue and Chambers Street in Eugene to go down to the lot and look for the car that he had left parked there while he was out of town. The employee called back and told Kjessler the car was gone. So were two sets of keys taken during an apparent burglary — keys to Kjessler’s AMG and another Mercedes-Benz on the lot.
Kjessler called the deputy back and confirmed that his car had been stolen, and he also reported the car theft and burglary to Eugene police, spokesman John Hankemeier confirmed Friday.
The deputy in Clark County then told Kjessler what happened: A deputy spotted the Mercedes early Wednesday, speeding, and attempted to pull the car over. But the driver did not stop, instead accelerating and engaging in a brief car chase that, as the deputy involved told Kjessler, reached speeds of at least 160 mph. The top speed for that model of high-performance Mercedes is in excess of 180 mph.
However, Clark County deputy Eric Cramer’s police report only documented the speed as being “in excess of 100 mph,” Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Neiman said.
The car then hit a patch of ice, Kjessler said, spun out and crashed. Neiman did not have details related to ice, but he confirmed that the car crashed at 3:30 a.m. at Northeast Tenney Road and 139th Street in Salmon Creek, Wash., just moments after the pursuit began. The driver — later identified as Knisley — was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
The car was impounded to Speed’s Towing in Vancouver, Wash.
Knisley was cited for reckless operation of a motor vehicle and driving while suspended. But at that point, the car — full of Knisley’s belongings — had not been reported stolen yet because Kjessler didn’t yet know about the theft. Knisley allegedly told authorities that he had borrowed the vehicle from a friend, Kjessler said.
That evening, Kjessler was driving to Clark County with a trailer to pick up his car from the impound lot, when he received another phone call from the deputy with an update: Kjessler’s car had been stolen — again.
According to Neiman, Knisley allegedly broke into the lot through a roll-up door, jump-started a forklift and used the forklift to move another car out of the Mercedes’ way. Then, Knisley got into the car and drove away.
The theft was captured on surveillance video, Neiman said.
The deputy, who was on his way over to the impound lot to search the vehicle after Kjessler granted him permission, missed the theft by just a few minutes, Kjessler said. Several officers swarmed the area, and figured the Mercedes couldn’t have gone far with a flat tire and a bent rim. But the car has not yet been found, and Knisley had not been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon.
“He wanted that car bad,” Neiman said. “It’s kind of unusual. People have broken into the impound lot before to take cars that they believed were theirs. But this is kind of unique.”
An arrest warrant has been requested by the sheriff’s office for Knisley in relation to the auto theft, Neiman said. Vancouver police also have filed a report related to the burglary and car theft from the impound lot.
Kjessler said he is concerned that Knisley, who might still have the other set of keys stolen from the car lot, could come back. The keys are the only set to that second vehicle, so Kjessler moved that car Friday to a safer location, he said.
Kjessler estimates his Mercedes is worth $25,000. Brand new, the AMG sold for nearly $150,000, Kjessler said.
According to court records, Knisley has been charged in four separate felony cases in Deschutes County in 2016 alone. None of the cases have been adjudicated. He is expected in court Feb. 10 for a plea hearing related to 12 counts of unlawful use of a vehicle, racketeering, identity theft and theft. A hearing also is scheduled that day for charges related to manufacturing, delivering and possessing cocaine.
Deschutes County prosecutors alleged late last year that Knisley was involved in a “criminal enterprise” to steal vehicles with four other individuals from car lots in Bend, Salem, Woodburn, Cottage Grove and Madras between Oct. 1 and Nov. 8. The group is accused of then selling the cars for money and drugs, court records show.
Knisley was released from the Deschutes County Jail in November on $25,000 bail, despite a motion made by prosecutors to increase bail to $100,000.