EVERETT — John Reed told a jury Friday that he covered up the killings of his neighbors, Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn.
“It happened,” he said. “I take full responsibility for that. I’m not trying to blame that on anybody else. It’s my own stupidity.”
But he denied that their deaths were cold-blooded executions, as prosecutors argued. Reed said he acted in self-defense.
About 60 people crammed into the gallery in Snohomish County Superior Court to hear the defendant testify all day Friday.
Shunn and Patenaude, a married couple, owned an easement road that led to Reed’s former home on the outskirts of the Oso mudslide. Reed took a disaster buyout shortly before the shootings.
On the stand, Reed, 55, said his relationship with the couple actually improved after the slide — contradicting testimony from others who said he would call them devil worshippers and explicit names. The couple reported him for trespassing and squatting. He was convicted of illegally gathering firewood in one instance, he said Friday. He wasn’t mad at them, and instead found it “funny,” he said.
“They tried so hard to get me in trouble and it didn’t work,” he said.
Reed claimed the couple confronted him on the afternoon of April 11, 2016, when he arrived to pick up belongings from his old house. He acknowledged Friday that he wasn’t supposed to be there. They argued about a years-old property dispute, he said. He testified that Patenaude told him he should kill himself, but that if he left right away, they would not call the cops.
“I said, ‘You guys don’t know about the right of passage, do you?’” he recounted. “And she said, ‘The right of what?’”
He alleged Patenaude had been drinking. He called her a derogatory name. That set her off, he said.
“In two seconds, she went from being really mean to just irate,” he said.
He testified that she took a swing at him, spat at him and fell to the ground, while Shunn watched from a distance. Reed claimed Patenaude went to her Land Rover and grabbed a revolver. Shunn had a gun, too, Reed said. He said both he and Shunn went to the ground in a struggle over that gun, as Patenaude ran up to them. Reed got hold of Shunn’s weapon and opened fire, he testified. He checked for pulses. Both of them were dead, he said.
He claimed he looked at Patenaude’s revolver, and it wasn’t loaded. Reed wanted to call 911 but he panicked, he said.
“I’m walking around in circles, trying to get a bar on my phone,” Reed said. “I finally get a signal, and I go to dial, and I’m thinking, ‘What am I going to say?’ Everything I could think of sounded so stupid. … I don’t know what I was thinking.”
An autopsy later determined Patenaude was shot multiple times, including in the arm as she likely tried to shield herself. Prosecutors believe the resulting broken bones in her arm would have made her defenseless before she was shot again, in the head. Shunn was shot in the back of the head. And Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives believe Patenaude was killed in the morning as she returned from running errands. Shunn arrived home from work in the afternoon.
Reed was defiant as Craig Matheson, Snohomish County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor, cross-examined him for hours. The defendant said the fight happened in the grass in front of his old home, not by the driveway gate, as detectives said.
“There would’ve been blood all over that gate, and all around it if that had happened,” Reed said. “You guys must’ve searched all around. Did you find any blood? I’m asking about there at the gate, where you say it happened? Not a drop. Well, that kind of rules that out, I guess.”
Matheson asked Reed why he didn’t bring the firearms to police, if they were evidence he was attacked, and why he and his brother tried to destroy other items — the couple’s computer and their phones — that could have assisted in his defense.
“How are any of those things going to prove that I did do it or didn’t do it?” Reed countered.
John’s brother, Tony Reed, 51, testified against the defendant. Tony Reed said he was summoned to Oso after the killings. He said they buried the bodies by a fallen tree, off a logging road.
Weeks after fleeing to Mexico, Tony Reed surrendered at the border. He led deputies to the bodies. Later, he spent time in prison for his role in the case. The brothers’ parents, Clyde Reed, 83, and Faye Reed, 79, are accused of assisting with the getaway from their Ellensburg home. Both are charged with felonies.
Investigators testified this week about how they tracked the couple’s movements through cellphone records and a health app that logs a person’s steps. According to that testimony, Patenaude’s steps stopped around 11 a.m. on April 11, 2016. She was 46. Shunn’s steps stopped about four hours later. He was 45.
Both phones registered more movements in the early hours of the next morning, around the time the bodies were taken into the woods.
The defense attorney, Phil Sayles, asked Reed why he didn’t simply go to police.
“I don’t know why,” Reed said. “I just — I screwed up. I was panicking and I just — I still can’t figure it out. I, ah — if I had to do it over, I definitely would’ve went to the cops. I mean, I covered up a righteous event. I can’t believe it myself.”
Reed stepped down from the witness stand around 4 p.m. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.