Murder, assault charges filed in knife attack on elderly women

EVERETT — An Everett man apparently purchased a utility knife two days before he allegedly used it to launch a Feb. 19 surprise attack on two women in their Maltby-area home, according to court papers filed Friday.

John Dimitri Kuljis Jr., 31, is now charged in Snohomish County Superior Court with one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Kuljis was working at the home where Janine Shaffer, 62, lived with her mother, Barbara Decker, 78.

He cut both women’s throats, ending Decker’s life, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell alleged.

“Unexpectedly, without provocation and with homicidal intent, defendant shattered the calm of Ms. Decker’s and Ms. Shaffer’s Sunday afternoon,” Cornell wrote in the charging papers.

Kuljis’ uncle had been hired to do some work on a bathroom floor. He brought along the defendant to help, Cornell said.

Shaffer later told police that Kuljis had the hood of his black jacket pulled up around his head, and “he just felt like a tweaker to me … like he’s high or something,” court papers said.

Her mother was at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. Shaffer was making lunch. She briefly left the room.

Prosecutors believe that’s when Kuljis attacked Decker, slashing her throat so deeply that the medical examiner “noted a cut to the victim’s vertebra,” documents said.

Shaffer was then attacked from behind. She told investigators she initially thought she was being choked, but then saw the blood.

She fought and yelled for help.

Kuljis’ uncle later told detectives he helped pulled the man off Shaffer, and then got him out of the home, explaining that he took that step in part because of the defendant’s “rage, you know, he’s got a knife in his hand.”

Shaffer used a towel to put pressure on her neck wound and called 911. She tried to help her mother but realized she was gone.

Kuljis’ uncle later told detectives that on the drive back to Everett his nephew “was trying to come up with a plan,” including a fictitious story about the violence being the work of somebody they’d picked up outside a home improvement store.

The defendant reportedly attempted to use solvent to clean the knife and tossed it along Highway 522.

A weapon matching that description later was recovered. So was a receipt documenting the defendant’s purchase of an identical knife two days before the attack, Cornell wrote.

The uncle also told investigators that Kuljis at one point attempted to cut his own pants, so he “could claim he acted in self-defense from an attack” by the women, the prosecutor said.

Kuljis was arrested not long after his uncle dropped him off at the Everett home he shares with his parents. The uncle privately warned his sister, Kuljis’ mom, that Kuljis had cut the throats of two women, according to the statement Kuljis’ mother gave to detectives.

Kuljis has no serious criminal history, though he has drug arrests, including one three days before the attack. He told investigators that he has been living with an opioid addiction and that he takes anti-psychotic medication as well as a prescription meant to treat chemical dependence.

He’s been jailed since his arrest, his bail set at $1.5 million.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snorthnews.

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