A Pekin man was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of a relative in December 2017.

John Knell Jr., who is in his 40s, received the maximum five year sentence for the involuntary manslaughter, a Class 3 felony, of his step-father-in-law, Henry Berenz, who was 62 at the time of his death.

The incident occurred in Sycamore, Ill. early Christmas morning when Berenz intervened in a fight between two family members, one of them being Knell. A blow from Knell resulted in Berenz falling down a set of stairs, according to court records. Knell and the other family member also fell down the stairs, but Berenz was the only one knocked unconscious, according to court records cited in a Jan. 31, 2018, story by the Dekalb Daily Chronicle. Berenz’s injuries resulted in a fractured sternum, fractured ribs and bleeding of the brain. In a coma, Berenz was taken off life support the next day.

During a January 2018 court appearance, First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein told a judge that alcohol was involved in the December 2017 incident, according to the Daily Chronicle story.

On April 18, 2019, Knell pleaded guilty to one of 10 counts. Nine of the counts were dropped.

Knell was convicted in Tazewell County for misdemeanor battery in 2011 and misdemeanor aggravated assault in 1991, according to court records.

Knell's five year sentence started Wednesday.

Michael Smothers, Times Correspondent, and The Dekalb Daily Chronicle contributed to this story.