Wednesday, January 16, 2013

3-year-old's alleged killer was his godfather

Father of No. Bruns. child works to start foundation in his honor

BY JENNIFER AMATO Staff Writer

BY JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Nick Chavez II, pictured here with his late son, Nikolas Chavez III, said the two of them were the best of friends.Nick Chavez II, pictured here with his late son, Nikolas Chavez III, said the two of them were the best of friends. NORTH BRUNSWICK - Robert Knutsen, the 30-year-old township man accused of brutally beating 3-year-old Nikolas Chavez III to death in November, was the child's godfather.

According to Nick Chavez II, the baby's biological father, he and Knutsen were close friends for six years before the boy's death.

"He used to be my best friend, and as a last gift to him, he was the godfather of my son," he said.

Knutsen was charged on Jan. 6 with one count of aggravated manslaughter stemming from an incident at Adams Lane on Nov. 30. According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, the baby died of blunt trauma to the lower abdomen and back while Knutsen was baby-sitting him.

"A child cannot sustain injuries like that by himself," the father said.

Chavez said that he and Knutsen met in 1999 while Chavez was with his girlfriend, Nicole. After she and Chavez separated in January 2004, she and Knutsen began to date, Chavez said. Although Chavez expressed deep concern because he was trying to keep his family intact, he alleges that Knutsen showed complete disregard for his feelings.

"It was like a light switch," he said. "I said to him, 'There's a family at hand I'm trying to save.' "

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Chavez also said the three were Eatontown/Middletown area residents, but that Knutsen and his girlfriend moved to North Brunswick to take care of her grandmother.

Chavez said he feels neglected by the judicial process, that he has not been acknowledged as being involved in the baby's life and claims he has not been notified of all court proceedings.

Chavez said that he and Nikolas were best friends, and that the boy loved Andy Caps "hot fwies" and his Ford Focus "caw." He said the boy also had a special relationship with Grandma Chavez, "Meema," and Grandpa Chavez, "Meepa."

Chavez works at the Harbor School in Eatontown during the day and does band promotions at night. He held a benefit concert in his son's honor to begin a foundation and is currently organizing another fundraising event to be held at High Velocity in Beachwood.

"I have to do it for my son," Chavez said. "I will not let his death go in vain."

Knutsen originally pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released after posting bail, according to the Middlesex County Office of Adult Corrections. His lawyer, Mitchell Ansell, said that his client has no criminal record and that he loved Nikolas Chavez as if he were his own son.

Ansell could not be reached for comment for this story.