“I went outside and I just burst into tears in my car,” said Diana Benitez, recalling the moment she learned her younger sister, 23-year-old Bianca Knauf, had been shot and killed.
Police believe the shooter was her husband, 27-year-old Daniel Knauf.
Emotions remain raw for the Benitez family since Bianca’s body was discovered in the couple’s Palm Springs apartment Sunday night.
“I thought it was a joke or something but you really don’t joke about that,” Diana said.
Bianca’s last contact with her family was on New Year’s Eve.
Four days later, she hadn’t returned any phone calls or text messages, so Bianca’s parents went to check on the couple and their 2-year-old son, Jacob, at their apartment.
No one answered at the door, but they spotted the boy through a window sleeping, and managed to wake him up to open the door.
“His hands were shaking, he had blisters around him because his diaper wasn’t changed for a couple days,” Diana said. “And he had the smell of the bodies.”
The bodies of Bianca, Daniel, and Daniel’s mother, Sally Knauf, which were all found in the apartment. Police believe Daniel shot both women, then turned the gun on himself.
Bianca’s mother, Lourdes Benitez, says she lost a part of herself that day.
“My daughter was my mind, my everything,” Lourdes said. “I don’t know how to start over.”
Lourdes said Daniel was a discharged U.S. Marine who served at Twentynine Palms. She revealed that the couple had recently been fighting over Daniel purchasing guns to shoot at Big Bear Lake.
“I would tell my daughter, I don’t like that, I don’t like that,” Lourdes said. “And that’s how we ended up.”
But despite the brutal circumstances surrounding Bianca’s death, the extremely religious Benitez family says they hold no bitterness toward daniel.
“They don’t blame him or anything. They have nothing against him,” Diana said of her family.
The focus they say is only on Jacob, who is too young to understand how much his life has changed.
“He thinks his mom’s asleep,” Diana said. “His mom’s sleeping that’s how we keep it.”
Bianca Knauf’s funeral service will take place Monday, January 12th from 7-10 p.m. at the Spanish Assembly of God Church in Cathedral City.
An account has been opened to help raise money for Jacob Knauf:
Chase Bank: Acct # 966735136
Name: Lourdes Benitez
(Can only donate via transfer, check or money order, no cash.)
The family has also started a Go Fund Me page to collect donations for Jacob.
The Arco AM/PM at 68500 Ramon Road in Cathedral City is also helping raise money for Jacob. From January 9 to January 23, with every purchase of two jumbo hot dogs, $1 will be donated to the family.