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Pennsylvania magistrate judge is charged with shooting her ex-boyfriend in the head as he slept

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A suspended magistrate judge in Pennsylvania shot her estranged boyfriend in the head as he slept last weekend, police said Thursday in filing attempted murder and aggravated assault charges against her.

Tests showed Magisterial District Judge Sonya M. McKnight, 57, had gunshot residue on her hands an hour after Michael McCoy was shot in the bed of his home in the Harrisburg area early Saturday, Susquehanna Township Police wrote in an arrest affidavit.

McKnight was in the Dauphin County Prison on Friday with bail set at $300,000. No lawyer was listed for her in court records. A lawyer who had represented her previously said he did not currently represent her and declined comment. A message was left on McKnight’s cellphone.

Authorities say McCoy is now blind in his right eye.

Police wrote that McCoy, 54, had tried “numerous times” to get McKnight to move out after he ended their one-year relationship. On Friday, Feb. 9, McCoy came home to find McKnight in pajamas on the couch. When he returned from a restaurant he told her he planned to get McKnight’s mother’s help to get her out of the home.

“Michael McCoy stated that it was like she finally understood that it was over,” police said. He went to bed at about 11 p.m.

McCoy awoke to “massive head pain” and was unable to see, police said, and when he began to scream McKnight told him, “Mike what did you do to yourself?” He had suffered a gunshot wound to the right temple that exited his left temple, police said. McCoy told police at the scene and later at the hospital that he did not shoot himself.

When McKnight called 911 shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday, she “could not explain what happened and stated that she was sleeping and heard him screaming,” police said in the affidavit.

Investigators found doorbell videos from neighboring homes that contradicted McKnight’s claim that she did not leave the home the night of the shooting. McCoy suspected she had checked on him at the tavern. Detectives wrote in the affidavit that the gun was registered to McKnight and both of them said no one else was in the home at the time of the shooting.

The attempted murder case was transferred from the Dauphin County district attorney’s office, which cited a conflict of interest, to a neighboring prosecutor, Cumberland County District Attorney Sean McCormack. A message was left seeking comment from McCormack.

McKnight, an elected judge in Dauphin County since 2016, was suspended without pay in mid-November by the Court of Judicial Discipline, which handles misconduct allegations against judges. The Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates and charges misconduct cases against Pennsylvania judges, claimed in a September filing that McKnight had violated judicial probation from a previous misconduct case centered on her actions regarding a 2020 traffic stop involving her son. She was acquitted of criminal charges in that matter.

Among the pending misconduct allegations, the Judicial Conduct Board alleges that she gave excess vacation time to members of her court staff; directed an aide to ignore a woman’s civil complaint that claimed McKnight owed her for a $2,100 loan; and used a Facebook profile with her photo in judicial robes to promote sales of a consumer product.

Pennlive.com reported McKnight was not charged for shooting her estranged husband in 2019 — after inviting him to her home to help her move furniture. State prosecutors did not charge her, citing self-defense, Pennlive said.

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