Celebrating a life nearly cut short

Three months ago, Peter Knecht lay near death on the concrete floor of his garage. With every exhalation, more warm, red blood poured from his windpipe. His throat had been slashed from ear to ear. His attackers had fled.

Last week, he was at a party celebrating life with friends and loved ones at Sycamore Park Tennis Club, sharing a story that is nothing short of miraculous.

Knecht, who divides his time between Malibu and Hollywood, had just pulled up to his Hollywood home when he was surrounded by gunmen. They put a .44-caliber automatic to his head and demanded money. He turned over his wallet and his watch, but the next command he refused. “They wanted to handcuff me and take me into the house,” Knecht recalls. “I knew it would be torture time. If I let them in, everyone would be killed.”

Shaken but steadfast, he looked his assailants in the eye and said, “That’s not going to happen. It ends here, gentlemen.”

His years as deputy district attorney and later as a defense attorney gave him the ability to separate the killers from the ordinary criminals, and the men standing before him fell into the first category — the cold-blooded kind.

Knecht was prepared to die rather than subject his wife and their housekeeper to a similar fate. He braced himself — as it flashed through his mind that never again would he see his 87-year-old mother, his wife, his two children. He would not have a chance to say goodbye. He was prepared to take a bullet, but got a blade instead. One of the attackers pushed him down and sliced through his throat. Seconds later, they took off, leaving him for dead. Clutching his neck with both hands, Knecht staggered to the house, hit 9-1-1 and collapsed. His wife administered first aid and helped keep him alive until paramedics arrived 10 minutes later.

After a two-hour surgery that included a tracheotomy, Knecht woke to the comforting sight of his wife and a few close friends. Although he had survived, the outcome was uncertain. Would he ever speak again? Had he suffered permanent brain damage? Nothing was certain. Incredibly, the knife missed every vital artery. Knecht made a full recovery. Three weeks later, he was back at work. Six gang members have been arrested in connection with the case. All have confessed. The wallet and jewelry were recovered. Even the scars have begun to fade.

Unlikely to fade is Knecht’s profound respect for life. “You never appreciate it enough, until you are in the position of losing it.” Knecht’s beachside celebration was a way to express that appreciation and to thank all of those who helped pull him through. Included in the group of family and friends were the hospital doctors who help stitch him up as well as the beat cops and detectives who helped crack the case. Knecht says his good fortune is something he will always remember. “We are just so lucky to be alive and well,” and that, he says, is something no one should forget.

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