Documents in North Adams slaying: 'She wouldn't die'

Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, is being held without the right to bail, charged with killing his wife, Christa, 42, at their home at 107 Veazie Street in North Adams.

Editor's note: We caution readers that this article contains detailed descriptions and information taken directly from court documents about the events leading up to and including Christa Steele-Knudslien's murder.

NORTH ADAMS — When Mark S. Steele-Knudslien struck the first blow against his wife's head with the head of a hammer, he heard her say softly, "Baby, what are you doing?"

Those would be her last words.

Steele-Knudslien told police that his heart sank when he heard his wife speak, but knew the crime had already been committed and continued striking her. He told police he believed he hit her 20 to 30 times with the blood-slick hammer before taking a knife and stabbing her "as hard as he could" in her back.

"She wouldn't die," he told police.

Those details were revealed in court documents obtained Tuesday by The Eagle in the Jan. 4 slaying of Christa Steele-Knudslien, 42.

Her husband, 47, is being held without the right to bail on a lone count of murder. He was arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court on Jan. 8.

Steele-Knudslien told police he "snapped" after an argument, which began after the couple decided to inflate an air mattress and sleep downstairs in their Veazie Street home because it was too hot upstairs.

He said they were sharing the mattress with some of their five dogs and Christa was "berating" him for not keeping still on the mattress.

He told police they argued all the time and that Christa would call him demeaning names.

The night of her killing, he told police he decided, "I'm just going to end this ... because I'm ... sick of it."

"I don't know what made me do it," Steele-Knudslien said. "Because, I love her to death."

After killing his wife, Steele-Knudslien said, he cleaned up, went to a liquor store to buy vodka and beer, and returned home, where he drank heavily for about an hour in his kitchen, while his wife's body was in the living room.

He took a tarp from the basement and wrapped it and a quilt around her body. He told police he kept his eyes closed while he did so, because he didn't want to see her face.

He wrapped up the knife and hammer within the tarp, secured it with rope or bungee cord and dragged her body through the house and downstairs into the basement.

Despite living in North Adams, Steele-Knudslien went to the Adams Police Department the next night to speak to Officer Michael Wandrei, because he felt he had a rapport with the officer and trusted him.

He told police he was originally going to wait until Jan. 8to turn himself in, because he didn't want to spend the weekend in a holding cell, but couldn't sleep, so he contacted police Jan. 5.

Steele-Knudslien told Wandrei he had done something "really bad," and said he should be in handcuffs, putting out his hands when he did so.

He told police he had killed his wife and let them know where they would find her body.

During the interview with police, he said he wished Massachusetts had the death penalty because he believed in "a life for a life."

After his police interview, Steele-Knudslien asked officers to retrieve his Bible from his car, which they did.

Steele-Knudslien and his wife were together for about a year before getting married April 15, 2017. The date is tattooed on his right arm.

According to police, Adams officers responded to the couple's Friend Street address several times throughout the day of Aug. 9, 2016, for complaints by Christa against her husband, including being threatened and physically assaulted.

Police said they had also responded to that address on "many occasions" before that day.

The Aug. 9 incidents led to the filing of charges against Steele-Knudslien, including assault on a family or household member, and assault and battery on a family or household member. Those charges were later dismissed.

Christa, a transgender woman, founded the Miss Trans New England Pageant in 2009 and is believed to be the first trans person in the U.S. to have died by violence in 2018.

Steele-Knudslien is due back in court Feb. 7 for a pretrial hearing. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

Reach Bob Dunn at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.