ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Julia Knight says her son, William “Steven” Knight Jr., loved his family, his country and his friends -- especially his childhood friend Mason Toney, who is accused of murdering him with a trowel.
“He [Knight] loved Mason,” Julia Knight said. “Mason and him grew up together, they had Halloween parties together, they hung out together, our families knew each other. This wasn’t about politics. There was something wrong with Mason. He had gotten into a fight and somebody beat him up. I don’t know, I can’t explain what happened to my son. I never thought Mason would do this to my son. But it wasn’t about politics, I can tell you that right now.”
Orange County sheriff’s deputies wrote in an arrest affidavit that Mason stood over Knight and stabbed him to death Monday morning at a construction site at the Florida Turnpike/Beachline interchange.
Deputies said Mason used a trowel, a construction tool used for smoothing out concrete, to kill Knight.
They said Mason brought a backpack to work on Monday and usually doesn't bring any bags to the construction site.
Sky 6 helicopter video showed a crumpled up American flag and the packaging it came in on the ground next to Knight’s body.
Witnesses told deputies that Mason is “anti-government and very outspoken about his beliefs that the government is bad and out to get him.”
Witnesses also said Knight is “a proud and outspoken American and is pro-Donald Trump.”
“Mason would rant and rave and talk about anti-government things and stuff like that but I never, ever thought -- my son never thought -- that his childhood friend would kill him,” Julia Knight said. “He loved America. And loved this country. That part, he did love.”
Knight's sister Heather said her brother was non-confrontational.
“It was always safe to disagree with Steven because he loved you no matter what,” Heather Knight said. “I mean, him and I disagree on so many things and we can share anything and it’s a source of love to be able to talk about things. Steven is a guy you miss when he goes to work, and when he’s gone you miss him even more in a way that I can’t really describe. Our family is grieving really hard right now.”
Knight's family said Steven, as they called him, had just hired Toney two weeks ago and picked him up for work regularly.
“He [Steven] hired him because he knew what it was like to be down on your luck with (a) criminal record and his friend had a criminal record, and he wanted to help him get out of the mess that he was in,” Julia Knight said. “I said, ‘Don’t hire him. He’s acting strange.’ And he said, ‘No, Mom. I’m going to help Mason. I’m going to help him. Somebody helped me. Somebody gave me a chance.’”
The victim’s father said his son picked up Toney for work Monday morning.
“He picked him up every day, brought him home every day, and there was no spats going on -- nothing,” William Steven Knight Sr. said. “He [Steven] had a CWP [Concealed Weapons Permit]. He usually carries his .45 [caliber] but he couldn’t carry it on the job site. If he would have had had his firearm, it could have been a different outcome.”
The Knight family said the Toney family lives down the road from their Orlando home. No one came to the door when News 6 knocked at the Toneys door.
“To Mason’s mom, I feel really bad for her because I know that you struggled with your son for years. I don’t know all the details but I don’t blame her. I’m angry with her son, obviously, but I don’t hate him. I pray for him,” Julia Knight says. “I lost my son but she lost hers, too.”
The Knight family said Steven was the bread winner, helping support the family. They started a fundraising page to pay for funeral expenses.
On Tuesday,, a judge denied bond for Toney, who is being held in the Orange County Jail on a first-degree murder charge.