final refuge for those down on their luck The
Raymond, Washington torture-slaying investigation
Knotek was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for
the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth, who were boarders
in her home when they murdered.
Guests of the Knotecs
Ronald "Woody" Woodworth,
57; Shane Watson, 19; and Kathy Loreno Thomas, 36 disappeared
after moving into the cheerful, country home where they were
invited to stay by the Knoteks. And another elderly gentleman
under Knotek's care died questionably in his own home after leaving
his estate to the Knoteks.
is located in southwest Washington State's North Pacific County.
Raymond has about 2,900 residents and South Bend, the Pacific
County Seat, a few miles down the road has 1,700. The region
is dependent on timber, fishing, and tourism. Weyerhaeuser mill
has been the major employer and for generations. And missing
people are not easily forgotten. When people
enter Pacific County they know they are in paradise. The
sparsely populated Willapa Valley is a coastal region nestled
between the Pacific Ocean, and the horse shoe shaped Willapa
River, surrounded by rolling hills, pastures, orchards and large
farms with big old barns. The abundance
of fish and wildlife and old growth forests attracts hunters,
fishers and environmentalists. Deer meander through plentiful
gardens and orchards in the abundant blackberry bushes, wild
flowers and the wide varieties of inland birds and water fowl.
breezes blow in with the tides. North Pacific County seems a
little sunnier than the surrounding beach communities. There is
always something going on. The community seems to find things
to celebrate all year long. Surrounding beaches throw festivals
and celebrations, surfing competitions to sand castle contents,
log sculpting and flying kites. South Bend has an annual Oyster
Stampede. Many people
don't lock their doors or take many safety precautions. People
know each other. It's not an easy place to keep a secret. Housing
and property is cheap, the pristine Pacific Ocean beaches, mild
climate and a low crime rate makes the area an attractive place
to retire or vacation in, but the depressed
local economy makes it a tough place to find work or make enough
to support a family.
the Green River Task Force are in Raymond digging for evidence
in what appears to be a couple of serial killers preying on vulnerable
and Michelle "Shelley" Knotek
Michelle "Shelley" Knotek (NOH'-tek) lived in an adorable, bright
red, 2 story farmhouse, surrounded by a white picket fence, on
a quiet country road, facing the Willapa River. Their cheery
mailbox is painted with smiley-face suns and pink hearts. Their
cute mini farm looks like it could be featured in "Country Living"
was a divorce with two young daughters. She married David about
15 years ago in Long Beach, WA and they had one daughter together. They
lived in nearby Old Willapa for several years, prior to moving
to their home in Raymond in 1990.
bird feeders and chimes, the Knoteks welcomed "the down
and out" into their house
of horrors sitting on a graveyard.
and David Knotek, their youngest daughter, 14, 6 dogs, cats,
rabbits and a bird often shared their cozy looking home on 4
acres with people down on their luck, according to David Knotek.
gate, with a big patriotic yellow ribbon, was always kept closed,
possibly because the property concealed abuse, torture and death.
51, a Vietnam veteran, and construction worker graduated from
Raymond High School in 1971. Even though he passed a test to
become a priest, he decided to join the Navy for 5 years where
he learned the heavy construction trade. He had also worked for
the local Weyerhaeuser mill for awhile. Friends described him
as a good guy, pleasant, and with a great sense of humor.
say David became withdrawn and distant over the past decade and
had become a heavy drinker.
well liked, didn't seem to have any enemies and was never known
to be a problem.
David forever," said former Raymond Mayor Leon Lead. "He applied
for a garbage truck driving job (with the City of Raymond) when
I was mayor. He blended right in, in fact, I'm surprised they're
still around the area. I haven't seen him in years. "He was the
last guy I would think of for something like this, kind of a
remembers David from high school, as a handsome, cool, popular
guy who was nice to everyone.
him transform into a nervous wreck after he married.
looked like he was always looking over his shoulder. He looked
paranoid. thought he was just stressed." McVey said.
as easy to find locals with anything good to say about David's
wife, Michelle, 49, a home caregiver.
Shelley," is described by relatives and acquaintances as "flighty,
schizophrenic, evil, volatile, temperamental and oddball."
a talent for manipulating vulnerable people.
was sometimes charming but with a scary temper. One minute she
was nice, the next she would turn on you.
stepmother, and Shane Watson's grandmother said Michelle told
wild lies and had angry outbursts.
everyone in the family that she had cancer, and David went right
along with it. It didn't matter what Shelly would lie about.
He'd stick up for her."
she loves her stepdaughter, Michelle, but she hopes they both
get the death penalty. "In my opinion, they both bought a one-way
ticket to hell," she said.
of Raymond said Michelle was "extremely persistent" when she "stalked" her
after a minor fender-bender. Michelle wanted Flynn to pay for
car repairs, even though police couldn't determine fault. She
followed her, called constantly, showed up at Flynn's work, and
her mother's home.
friend of the Knoteks' youngest daughter stayed at their house
frequently, once for a month. She never witnessed the mood swings
or fits of rage that earned Michelle the nickname "crazy Shelley." She
said Michelle was always friendly around her. But that her friend
would become fearful when it was time for her to leave and go
who lived near Michelle said she was "a little restless and high-strung," but
the family seemed friendly and normal. His biggest complaint
about the area was the elk knocking down his fences.
stayed because of the girls. He's a loyal man."
Knotek, Dave's mother, said before he met Michelle, he was dumped
by another woman.
on the rebound, he was sad, and (Michelle) was friendly - you
know how it goes."
says her son was so unhappy that he stayed away as much as possible,
often all week on jobs for a construction company in Oak Harbor.
three daughters were allegedly abused by their mother. After
talking to witnesses and the Knotek children authorities confronted
an intoxicated and belligerent David when he realized his 14
year old daughter was removed from their custody.
about the crimes he told deputies
he and his wife befriended those down on their luck, subjected
them to painful, humiliating abuse and disposed of the bodies.
fatally shooting and then burning his wife's nephew, burying
a handy man and a woman staying with them. He dumped ashes of
2 victims along a nearby beach.
destroying evidence and inventing cover-up stories with his wife. He
was cooperative and provided law enforcement with reliable details
before he "lawyered up."
the deaths were accidental.
Loreno Thomas: a fun, cheerful and kindhearted person
helpful, cheerful, a free spirit, private, nonconfrontational
and always smiling.
Thomas grew up in Simi Valley, Calif. but when Kathy, was 19,
she and her mother, Kaye Thomas, moved to Pacific County, Washington
after her stepfather was killed in a car crash. Her own father,
who worked in the movie business, had died in an accident on
the set of filming a show.
lived with her mother, grandmother and siblings in South
Bend, WA as a hairdresser. Jeff
Loreno said his sister felt like an outsider in Willapa Harbor,
where everyone knew each other.
dating a man her mother didn't like. and when her mother told
her to stay away from Michelle, Kathy left home. At first she
stayed with her friend, Carolyn Barnum, but soon began living
with the Knoteks, at Michelle's insistence. Carolyn Barnum played
on a softball team with Kathy and Kathy baby-sat Barnum's children.
closer she became friends with Michelle, the further she drifted
away from her other friends," said Carolyn Barnum.
Carolyn and Kathy were job hunting at the mall when they ran
into Michelle. Michelle followed Kathy into the mall bathroom,
they were arguing. A
half-hour later, Kathy told Carolyn, 'I'm going to go home with
Michelle." She mentioned something about not wanting to
bring any trouble on Carolyn. She was visibly shaken. That was
the last time Carolyn Barnum saw her.
he attempted CPR unsuccessfully while Kathy died choking on her
own vomit. David did not want to take her to the hospital because
of injuries on her.
and friends asked about Kathy, the Knoteks claimed she had moved
to California with her truck driver boyfriend.
was reported missing by her mother, Kaye Thomas. She placed
ads in the Willapa Harbor Herald, with a picture of her
daughter, asking the public for help. Kathy's brothers
hired a private investigator, who concluded she probably
was dead and considered Michelle the only real suspect. Kathy's
younger brother Eric Thomas, 40, a former Marine, said 9 years
ago he felt his sister had been killed.
had closure since '95. We've all known she was dead."
2 years ago, Michelle's step-cousin, Richard Huffman, gave Pacific
County sheriff's detective statements which said someone saw
Knotek torture and kill a woman. July 11, 2001, Huffman said,
his aunt, Lennette Watson, Michelle's stepmother -- faxed statements
of at least two witnesses detailing Kathy's murder, to Pacific
County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Bergstrom.
witness clearly saw the incident and clearly saw details surrounding
the incident," Huffman said. "And that's what my aunt offered
the police -- very, very specific, telling detail."
she followed up with authorities for 9 months, with no arrest,
she repeatedly called Bergstrom to follow up. But "got no response."
James "Mac" McClintock,
81, died under Michelle's care, they called Bergstrom in again
. The detective told her he was working on the case, he was swamped,
they were tied up in a big trial.
statements of Kathy's alleged murder to Bergstrom meant
he had the information 7 months before McClintock died
and 2 years before Ronald "Woody" Woodworth,
a Pacific County sheriff's deputy told Eric Thomas they suspected
Kathy was killed by Michelle and her remains were in the Knoteks'
yard. They called Kathy's mother, Kaye Thomas, a former sheriff's
office employee, to report headway on the case.
County Sheriff John Didion acknowledged witnesses came forward
a year and a half ago, "We haven't had enough (information) to
take the action that we did at the end of last week."
Loreno said more than 8 months prior to the arrests, Bergstrom
confirmed by telephone that Kathy was killed. Bergstrom
told Jeff she was killed with an iron and her body burned
to say why they believe that theory.
admitted Kathy's case was omitted because it was mistakenly classified
as an "attempt to locate," which is less of a priority than a
missing person. So she was not included in a list of official
unsolved missing persons cases reported by the Pacific County
Sheriff's office to state and federal government or other missing
than 2 weeks before the Knoteks were arrested on August
8, 2003, witnesses (not identified in court papers) claimed
the Knoteks had abused and tortured Ron "Woody" Woodworth
and Kathy Loreno Thomas to death. Witnesses
correctly indicated remains would be found on the property. August
9, 2003 Police
discovered Woodworth's remains in the couple's back yard.
believe Kathy was tortured to death.
36 when she disappeared in 1994; she would have turned 45 the
day the Knoteks were arrested.
Watson a sweet guy missed by others
Michelle's nephew, 19, was born June 6, 1975. He was a sweet-natured
teen who enjoyed outdoor chores like chopping wood with David.
With his grandfather's blessing, he moved in with his aunt and
uncle, David and Michelle in the early 1990's.
finally found the friend he had always wanted," his grandmother
a troubled, unstable family life. Shane
grew up in Tacoma, but lived with his grandparents after his
parent's rough divorce. His grandfather was ill so Shane went
to live with the Knoteks.
documented the abuse suffered by Kathy. After Michelle found
the photograph she beat Shane.
after that Dave claims he caught Shane out in the pole building
with a .22-caliber rifle which upset Dave because Shane was not
allowed to handle firearms. There were angry words and physical
altercations as Dave attempted to take it away from Shane when
it accidentally discharged hitting Shane in the neck.
told another law enforcement officer he stood several feet
away from Shane and shot him. He cleaned up the blood with
bleach, then burned Shane's body for disposal as he had
with Kathy, dumping
ashes on the beach. He tried to burn the .22 but only the stock
would burn, so he left it in the laundry room.
David also said he killed Shane because he feared he would "go
into a bar and spill all of the information about Kathy Loreno."
he regrets killing Shane to this day.
disappeared, friends and relatives looking for him were told
he was fishing in Alaska or living with his girlfriend. When
the Watsons called or came over, Shane was always gone.
saw their grandson, last in 1992.
father is trying to be located for a memorial service.
records have been requested to link evidence found to Shane or
Kathy. Families were told DNA evidence would be important.
Ronald "Woody" Woodworth
- a vulnerable man befriended by the wrong people
Ronald "Woody" Woodworth,
57, was a small in stature about 5'6" feet tall with thin
white hair. Woody came up the Raymond area from California to
take care of his mother. After
he got up here, his life partner left and Woody was devastated.
Apparently he went through some major personality changes.
fondly remembered as a proofreader by the local weekly newspaper,
the Willapa Harbor Herald, from 1998-1999. Active in the Lions
Club, he enjoyed volunteer work. He also possessed the rare skill
of being able to read hieroglyphics. He liked flashy jewelry
and wore rings with huge gemstones.
several brushes with the law.
Woody was in trouble for check fraud and writing bad checks.
He was charged, but didn't appear.
applied for an anti-harassment protective order against him.
The order was granted on a temporary basis. A woman with the
same last name as his filed a domestic-violence protective order
against him 2002.
said Woody liked to hide in ditches and jump out at people to
claims Michelle physically abused Woody. His feet were plunged
into boiling water until the skin came off. He was made him jump
in bare feet from a height on to hard gravel. They forced him
to work in the yard barefoot, wearing only a bathrobe and hat.
David would beat Woody in the mouth.
with the Knoteks for 2 years, and was last seen July 20, 2003.
According to David, 2 days later, Michelle called him at work,
out of town, to say Woody killed himself. July 25, 2003, David
came home and buried him.
prompted witnesses to cooperate, resulting in enough information
for Sheriff's to obtain a search warrant for the Knoteks'
the arrests a witness told officials that Woody's clothes were
still in the pole building. David showed police where he buried
Woody. And a body believed to be Ron "Woody" Woodworth
was arrested she claimed her husband had driven to Woody to Olympia,
WA, where he caught a bus to San Diego. David said that was one
of the of the stories he and Michelle had rehearsed ahead of
aerial photograph of the Knoteks' property shows freshly turned
dirt behind the home in an area now overgrown. It is not known
if that area has been searched.
it weren't for the public's help, these cases might have
remained a mystery. Neither
Woody nor Shane were ever reported missing, they had no ties
with their families. An autopsy was conducted in King County.
owned other properties in the area
next plan to search the backyard of the Knoteks' old Wilson Creek
Road house located at the end of a long isolated driveway, about
a mile away from where they were currently living. A current
resident of that house noticed doors marked with holes where
heavy-duty locks were installed on the outside of doors.
James "Mac" McClintock
-- loved and missed by his friends and neighbors
James "Mac" McClintock,
81, was a Pearl Harbor veteran, retired merchant crewman and
widower. He was adored by his neighbors and popular in the community.
8 years ago, Mac put his wife, Mary, into a nursing home,
and lived alone since. Mac went everywhere with his black
Labrador "Sissy." Mac
loved the dog so much that he wanted Sissy buried next to him.
2001, Mac hired Michelle to care for him. Neighbors heard Michelle
screaming at him abusively several times.
wrote a will, leaving his estate, his dog, Sissy and over
$5,000.00 to care for his dog, to Michelle, whom he listed
as a "friend." Mac
willed Michelle ownership of his estate to take place at Sissy's
had several strokes and heart problems, but got around
in a motorized cart. He often fell out of his motorized
wheelchair, requiring medical aid. Between
a 3-4 year period, McClintock called for aid 70 times. But was
never seriously injured.
9, 2002, James "Mac" McClintock died after "falling" in
was in the home when he fell. Michelle called 911 to report he
had fallen. Police Chief Dave Eastham said Mac did live long
enough to talk to deputies and did not mention foul play.
took the lead in handling arrangements after his death. Michelle
took Sissy and received at least $5,000 from the estate to care
for the dog until it's "death." Six
months later, Michelle reported Sissy died, which meant Mac's
house valued at $140,000, was now Michelle's.
death certificate lists the cause of death as ``acute subdural
hematoma, blunt impact to head." The doctor who examined his body
ruled the manner of death "undetermined." After
examining Mac, the doctor referred the death to the Pacific County
coroner, David Burke, who is also the county's prosecuting attorney.
unclear if the office ever looked into the death but the case
will be reopened.
lied about Sissy's death to take ownership of the home.
Sissy, an older female black lab, came up for adoption when David
released their pets for adoption after his arrest. Sissy was
identified by the local vet who had treated her when Mac was
death, David began using his Social Security number. In fact,
several Social Security numbers were used by David or Michelle.
temporarily moved Woody into Mac's home after inheriting it.
Woody was fixing the house up for sale before Woody died.
died, Kaye Thomas, a former Pacific County Sheriff's Office employee,
Kathy's mother and a friend of Mac's requested the Pacific County
Sheriff's Office to investigate McClintock's death.
was taken into custody at the home she inherited from Mac. She
was taken without incident.
said he was not aware of any attempts by to get authorities to
look into McClintock's death.
property in Battle Ground, WA
detectives investigated a former home of the Knoteks' in Battle
Ground, WA. Michelle's parents gave it to her in 1981. The Knotek's
had instructed renters to stay out of certain areas of the property.
The Knoteks rented it out before it was sold in 2002.
state Department of Social and Health Services initiates an
Department of Social and Health Services is investigating Michelle's
association with the state's long-term care system.
indicate Michelle started working April 17, 2000, as a case aide
employed by the Olympic Area Agency on Aging, based in Aberdeen,
WA. They provide case management for vulnerable adults receiving
publicly funded services.
were was to provide information and referrals for clients seeking
help. She occasionally visited clients at home. The
agency terminated Michelle's employment "by mutual agreement" in
June 15, 2001 -- 14 months after she was first hired.
same time Michelle was terminated from the agency, Woody moved
into the Knoteks' home. Woody
began harassing Olympic Area Agency on Aging employees and threatening
staffers. He said 'heads will roll' and 'Mount Vesuvius will
blow. He made references to the devil, hell and retribution."
the other victims -- Shane, Woody or Kathy -- were clients of
the Olympic Area Agency. It is not know if any of the alleged
victims were DSHS clients, due to confidentiality laws.
has determined the Knoteks were not licensed by the state
and they have no record of working as state employees but
declined to say whether any other clients or former clients of
the agency had contact with the Knoteks.
Driving while in Clallam County only previous charges found
and 1998, Michelle was charged in Clallam County District Court
for driving under the influence; her address was listed in Sequim.
She pleaded guilty in the first case and completed the conditions
of a deferred prosecution in the other. Other than that she has
no other criminal history known at this time.
Murder Charges against the Knotek's
first appearance in court was on August 11, 2003. David
Knotek is being held on suspicion of assisting his wife in
covering up the murders and abuse of Kathy Loreno Thomas and
and cuffed Dave appeared to be in a fog. David said little.
appeared angry, upset and confused. She shook her head and exhaled
loudly when Judge Joel Penoyar said witnesses would fear for
their safety if she were released.
13, 2003, charges were filed in Pacific County Superior Court.
Michelle Knotek with two counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths
of Kathy Loreno and Ron Woodworth. Prosecutors
allege Michelle showed "extreme indifference" in the
deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth.
looking weak and worried, didn't speak.
his right to a speedy arraignment and declined to enter a plea
to a single count of 1st-degree murder. He was charged with rendering
criminal assistance and unlawful disposal of human remains in
lawyer's request, arraignment for David was rescheduled for for
August 25, 2003, with Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Mark
comment on David's request for a delay but said there's no plea
agreement. There is speculation that David would give more information
about his wife in exchange for a lesser punishment. Others who
know David say he just wants to come clean and get this off his
Knotek, David's mother cried
at the end of his arraignment.
could face additional charges, and there may be more victims.
14, 2003 bail for David and Michelle was raised from $4 million
to $5 million each. Pacific County Prosecutor David Burke said
he had information indicating they would be strong flight risks.
didn't speak during her brief appearance and showed little emotion.
A not guilty plea was entered by her appointed attorney, Scott
pleaded innocent to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder. Charges previously
filed by Deputy Prosecutor Lori Miller allege Michelle showed "extreme
indifference to human life."
David Burke officially downgraded those charges August 22, 2003
to 2nd-degree murder or 1st-degree manslaughter. In exchange
Michelle agreed to give hair, blood, fingernail and handwriting
samples to the prosecution, but said prosecutors would have to
obtain a search warrant to analyze the clothing she was wearing
when booked jail. Judge Joel Penoyar also decided August 22,
to make the sealed search warrant available to defense attorneys,
but not the public.
ruling on other motions until Sept. 2, 2003. The motions include
Michelle's request for a new judge. Penoyar, the only Superior
Court judge in the county, had presided over a previous case
in which she was involved.
attorneys, Scott Harmer, told the judge he was at the Knotek
home during the previous week, the doors were locked, he had
to peek through windows and dodge FBI agents using radar equipment
to searching soil.
were items strewn about the house," he said. "Obviously it was
in disarray. We were unable to do anything because we have no
(evidence list) from the state. We don't know what was taken
out. The FBI showed up and started doing things behind the house
we weren't privy to." Harmer wants the prosecution to hand over
an "evidence log."
eventually offered to make available the search warrants
used by authorities to arrest the Knoteks and search their
property. Burke said the warrants remain sealed "because,
my feeling is, if we had Seattle and Portland media descending
on this, things could get messy."
being held at the county jail at South Bend. Both face a possible
sentence of life in prison.
Penoyar tentatively scheduled trial for Oct. 13, 2003.
raise larger questions for the community about how missing people
can slip through the cracks, the lack of available responsible,
caregivers for vulnerable disenfranchised citizens facing homelessness,
mental illness, poor health or old age, as well as the obvious
question ... how well do you know your neighbors?
County sheriff's office has fewer than 15 deputies. Pacific County
Prosecutor and coroner, David Burke, is consulting with King
County prosecutors for assistance with this investigation.
force was quickly formed by area representatives from the King,
Lewis, Grays Harbor and Clark county sheriffs' offices, South
Bend and Raymond police and the King County medical examiner's
office, which has special expertise in the examination of decomposed
remains because of the county's Green River serial killer case.
Attorney General's Office has offered assistance and Didion has
appealed for federal help.
Tips & Other
Missing Person Case
pouring into his office since the reports of the findings.
with information about these crimes are encouraged to contact
Pacific County Sheriff John Didion at 360-875-9395.
does have another unsolved missing-child case of an 11-year-old
Laotian boy who disappeared 8 years ago.
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