EVERETT — An Oso couple was killed and their bodies were hidden in the woods in 2016 because they had the misfortune of making their home next to a neighbor capable of cold-blooded murder, a Snohomish County jury was told Thursday.
Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude had a beautiful house on about 20 acres bordering the North Fork Stillaguamish River. From the outside, it looked perfect, but it was a “fool’s paradise,” said Craig Matheson, the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.
That’s because their neighbor was John Blaine Reed, 55, a man with whom they had a longstanding feud, Matheson said.
“Monique and Patrick had messed with the wrong guy too many times over too many years,” and that ended in death for the husband and wife April 11, 2016, Matheson said.
The prosecutor spoke with jurors as the trial began for Reed on two counts of aggravated murder.
Defense attorney Phil Sayles said he expects Reed to testify that he was forced to act in self-defense.
“We’ll explain what happened,” Sayles said. “John will tell you what happened.”
Prosecutors want to paint Reed as a “diabolical madman,” he said. The portrayal doesn’t square with a man who had property buyout checks in hand from the county. Reed’s former land was damaged by the deadly Oso mudslide and related flooding in 2014.
“All he wanted to do was move on,” Sayles said.
Detectives maintain the killings were the culmination of a long-running dispute between Reed and the couple. The pair told people they lived in fear of the man. It was so bad that in 2013, Shunn took the step of making a police report, the prosecutor said.
The animus reportedly got worse after the mudslide made Reed’s land unsafe for habitation. Reed took a disaster buyout, but he had been squatting at the site. Patenaude reported him, according to court papers.
On the morning of the killings, Reed called a former neighbor and others, sharing his plans to go back to the house to retrieve his property.
Evidence will show Reed first killed Patenaude, 46, most likely as she returned from a mid-morning trip into Arlington to buy chicken feed and cat food, jurors were told. She never made it back into her house.
She was shot three times. The first bullet shattered the bones in her right forearm. The fatal shots were in her neck and head. The likely location of the killing was a gate that led to the couple’s home and an access path to Reed’s former property.
Shunn was shot about four hours later when he arrived after work. The bullet was fired into the back of his head, so close that burnt gunpowder left soot marks on his skin, Matheson said.
Reed killed the man as part of an attempt to buy some time and hide evidence of Patenaude’s slaying, the prosecutor said. He said jurors would hear from Reed’s brother, Tony, about efforts the pair made to hide the dead couple and their cars in the hills above the neighborhood. John Reed knew the logging roads, ravines and creeks seldom seen by anyone but locals and hunters.
The men also destroyed a camera used to photograph wild game. The camera might have been linked to Shunn’s laptop. The brothers feared the device might have captured one or both killings, Matheson said. He contends that neighbors’ surveillance footage shows the brothers repeatedly heading to and from the woods during the time frame they reportedly were disposing of evidence.
The brothers fled to Mexico as the couple’s disappearance drew the attention of law enforcement. John Reed was arrested in July 2016. Tony Reed had turned himself in weeks earlier. He led police to the grave site.
Matheson showed the jury pictures of the disturbed earth, obscured by a fallen rootball.
“This is what that man did,” he said of John Reed.
If convicted, the defendant faces life in prison.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.