‘Beyond imagination’: Edmonds man charged with wife’s killing

John Shipley claimed he was possessed by demons when he allegedly strangled his wife, 66, in July.


EDMONDS — An Edmonds man who claimed he was possessed by demons has been charged with second-degree murder in his wife’s death.

When John Shipley got out of bed July 29, he told his wife Susan it was judgment day. At that point, he didn’t know what that meant, the 73-year-old later told police. According to his report, he sat on the sofa, wondering how his premonition would play out.

“When I got up today and told her it was judgment day, I had no idea that would be my judgment, that I had to murder my wife,” he reportedly told police later. “I mean how, that is just horrific and beyond imagination.”

John Shipley had been dealing with mental health issues for months. In February, he was found standing naked on an Edmonds street in a catatonic state, according to court documents.

A few hours before her death, Susan Shipley, 66, reportedly texted her daughter that her husband “just keeps beating himself up.”

“I asked him to go take the cooler with me in the car and he said he couldn’t go with me because it is my judgment day and he can’t leave the house,” she wrote.

John Shipley later told his wife it was judgment day, again. She told him to stop listening to voices, according to the charges filed Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court. She was going to call 911.

That’s when the struggle began. John Shipley tried to wrestle Susan Shipley to the ground with a knife in his hand. They ended up on the living room floor, the suspect reportedly told police. He estimated he pressed the knife to her throat for 30 to 45 minutes.

When he knew she was dead, he called 911, just before 5 p.m.

John Shipley told a dispatcher he’d just killed his wife. He said he was waiting for police to come kill him and send him to hell, the charges say. Through the rest of the call, he said “please kill me” several times in a soft voice.

The defendant added that he was “sub-human” and the killing was his judgment for a lifetime of “crapping on his wife.” He reported he was possessed by demons.

When Edmonds police arrived, they found John Shipley sitting next to his wife. She died of asphyxiation due to strangulation, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined.

An officer read the suspect his Miranda rights. When asked if he understood, he said he wasn’t certain. He was offered water, but said it was poisoned, according to court papers.

In a later interview with police, John Shipley reported he called 911 “because I murdered my wife,” prosecutors allege. He said he never thought a human could do that. He said it was wrong.

“I mistreated her immensely,” he reportedly told investigators. “She did everything she could to make my life a good one.”

He called his actions “the most horrific thing a man — not a man, huh? — can do,” court documents say. At the Snohomish County Jail, John Shipley later told a deputy he wanted to contact his kids, but “what child of mine would want to talk to me, I took their mother away.”

After his arrest, the suspect underwent a competency evaluation to see if he could potentially stand trial. A psychologist found he lacked the capacity to assist in his own defense, according to court papers. The psychologist recommended inpatient psychiatric treatment.

But at an arraignment Monday, John Shipley’s public defender Laura Martin said there was no continuing concern for his ability to assist in his defense. Superior Court Judge Millie Judge did not order another competency evaluation, despite the request of prosecutors.

On Tuesday, John Shipley remained at the Snohomish County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

An obituary described Susan Shipley as devoted to her family and community. She was class president at Ballard High School and worked at the federal bankruptcy court for decades.

“To know Susan was to love her,” the obituary reads. “She passionately pursued Jesus, saw the best in people, loved with her whole heart, and led a beautiful life.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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