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Pa. judge charged with shooting ex-boyfriend in the head; tried convincing victim he shot himself, police say

The victim, Michael McCoy, had attempted to end his relationship with Magisterial District Judge Sonya McKnight, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Judge Sonya McKnight
Suspended District Judge Sonya McKnight leaves the Susquehanna Township Police Department on Thursday. The suspended magistrate judge 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.Sean Simmers / The Patriot-News via AP

A Pennsylvania judge who allegedly shot her ex-boyfriend in the head and then tried to convince him that he shot himself was charged with first-degree attempted murder and aggravated assault.

The shooting happened Feb. 10 at a home in Harrisburg after the victim, Michael McCoy, attempted to end his one-year relationship with Magisterial District Judge Sonya McKnight, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Susquehanna Township Police said McKnight called 911 to report that her boyfriend could not see and requested an ambulance come to the home. McKnight told the dispatcher that she did not know what happened because she was sleeping and woke up to him screaming, the affidavit states.

During an investigation, police say they learned that McCoy had tried numerous times to break up with McKnight. The affidavit states that at one point he took his key from McKnight but she used a spare to enter his home while he was at work.

On the evening of Feb. 9, McCoy told detectives that he came home from work and found McKnight sitting on his couch in pajamas. McCoy left the home to go to a local bar, the affidavit states.

Things were tense when McCoy returned home, according to the affidavit, and McKnight asked if they could talk but McCoy did not want to. McCoy told McKnight that he would enlist the help of her mother to get her out of his home.

“At this point Sonya McKnight responds, ‘Oh, You’re serious?’ Michael McCoy stated that it was like she finally understood that it was over,” the affidavit says.

McCoy then went to bed.

He told detectives that he was asleep for about an hour or two when he woke “up with massive head pain” and could not see.

“He begins screaming and he hears Sonya McKnight say, ‘Mike what did you do to yourself,’” the affidavit says.

Authorities said that McKnight allegedly tried to convince her ex-boyfriend that he had shot himself. McCoy repeatedly stated to police that he did not shoot himself, according to the document.

Detectives determined that McKnight’s interview with them “was found to be deceptive” and the gun used was registered to her, the affidavit alleges. A test conducted within an hour after the shooting also found gun residue on her hands, according to the affidavit.

McCoy, 54, suffered a single gunshot wound that entered near his right temple and exited near the left temple. Authorities said McCoy is now blind in his right eye, The Associated Press reported.

McKnight, 57, an elected judge in Dauphin County since 2016, was suspended without pay in mid-November by the Court of Judicial Discipline after she allegedly violated judicial probation from a previous misconduct case stemming from her alleged interference with the 2020 arrest of her son following a traffic stop, the AP reported. She was acquitted of criminal charges in that incident.

McKnight was also previously charged with shooting her estranged husband in 2019 after she allegedly invited him over to her home to help her move furniture, according to She was not charged in the case after it was ruled to be self-defense.