Couple Charged in Murder of Boarders
SOUTH BEND, Wash. (AP) _ A husband and wife were charged Wednesday with killing three people who lived at their farmhouse and disappeared amid reports of sadistic abuse.
Remains from one person have been found in the couple’s yard, and authorities believe two others died at the rural home of David and Michelle Knotek near the small town of Raymond in southwest Washington.
Michelle Knotek, 49, was charged with murder in the deaths of Kathy Loreno, who went missing in 1994, and Ronald Woodworth, who vanished last month and whose remains are believed to have been found Saturday.
David Knotek, 51, was charged with murder in the shooting death of Shane Watson, the couple’s 19-year-old nephew. Watson disappeared some time after Loreno was last seen.
The Knoteks were being held at the Pacific County Jail in South Bend. Bail was set at $2 million for each. An arraignment was scheduled Thursday. Each faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
According to court papers, David Knotek told authorities he shot Watson as they struggled over a .22-caliber rifle. He allegedly said Loreno died from choking on her own vomit and that his wife told him Woodworth had killed himself.
However, the charges filed Wednesday by Pacific County Deputy Prosecutor Lori Miller allege that Michelle Knotek showed ``extreme indifference to human life″ and abused Loreno and Woodworth to death.
The court papers say witnesses recently described seeing her force Woodworth to do chores outside wearing only his underwear, and jump on gravel in his bare feet. They told deputies that she burned Woodworth’s injured feet with boiling water.
Investigators allege Watson was killed because he took pictures documenting the abuse of Loreno.
David Knotek allegedly told authorities he buried Woodworth, and burned the other bodies and dumped their ashes at the beach. He told a sheriff’s deputy last Friday where Woodworth’s body was buried, according to the affidavits. Authorities declined comment Wednesday on the results of an autopsy.
The search for evidence continued Wednesday at the couple’s house. Dozens of law enforcement officials sifted buckets of dirt in the backyard and searched a nearby field.
On a fence near the house, someone left a yellow flower with a note: ``In loving memory of Shane, from your friends and family.″
Meanwhile, police officers and sheriff’s deputies in South Bend began investigating whether the death of an elderly man who was in the care of Michelle Knotek was an accident.
Knotek told medics James McClintock, 81, had fallen at his home in 2002. His death certificate said he died of a blow to the head, but the cause of the impact was undetermined.
Police Chief Dave Eastham told The Seattle Times that McClintock lived long enough to talk to deputies and did not mention being victimized.
McClintock, a retired merchant crewman, left his estate, including a home valued at $140,000, to his black lab ``Sissy,″ with instructions that the estate go to Michelle Knotek when the dog died.
Michelle Knotek took Sissy and five months later reported the dog had died.
But an older female black lab was among six dogs taken from the Knotek home by sheriff’s officers.
``We have a dog here that may be Sissy,″ said Dr. Gina Lewis of Vetters Animal Hospital in Raymond. Lewis treated Sissy for years.