Oso murder suspect now faces charges of aggravated murder

EVERETT — Prosecutors suspect that John Blaine Reed shot his neighbors at close range the same day he went to his former Oso house to collect his belongings.

The muzzle of the gun used to kill Monique Patenaude was likely just six inches away from the woman’s neck when it was fired. That bullet penetrated her heart and right lung. She also was shot in the back of the head and in the arm.

Her husband, Patrick Shunn, likely was killed hours later when he returned home from work. The gun muzzle was no more than three inches away from the back of the former Army Ranger’s head, the medical examiner estimated.

“This was the only injury of significance located on Shunn’s body, leading to the inference that Patrick Shunn was shot before he had any ability to defend himself,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson wrote in a supplemental affidavit filed late Wednesday.

The affidavit accompanied new charges for Reed. The former Oso man, 53, now is accused of aggravated murder in connection with the couple’s April 11 deaths.

He remains wanted on a $5 million arrest warrant. Investigators suspect Reed is hiding out in Mexico.

Prosecutors could seek the death penalty. The only other punishment for an aggravated murder conviction in Washington is life in prison without the chance of release. Matheson alleges that premeditated murders were aggravated because there was more than one victim, and the killings were part of a common plan or committed in a single act.

Prosecutors don’t need to notify the court or Reed if they plan to seek the death penalty until after he’s been arraigned.

Investigators suspect that the motive behind the fatal shootings was a long-standing property dispute between Reed and his neighbors. According to court records, the only access to Reed’s former rural property on the Stillaguamish River was an easement road across his neighbor’s land.

“Over the course of the last several years prior to the murders, John Reed and Monique and Patrick had a number of disputes regarding the easement road, its maintenance and access,” Matheson wrote in court papers.

That feud seemed to worsen after the deadly Oso mudslide. Reed was convicted of a misdemeanor after Patenaude and Shunn reported that he was using heavy equipment in the river to move around fallen logs and stumps to prevent flooding on his property. Reed eventually sold his land to Snohomish County as part of a buyout program for property owners affected by the slide.

Patenaude told a friend that she feared her neighbor “as he had made threats to harm her and her husband, often acted ‘crazy’ and aggressive, was upset by the manner in which the aftermath of the Oso slide had been handled and was very angry about the condemnation of his property and being subsequently trespassed from it,” according to court papers.

Before her death, Patenaude had complained to the county that Reed was squatting on his former property. County officials ordered Reed to pack up the house and leave.

Reed allegedly told two people on April 11 that he was going to his former home on Whitman Road to collect his belongings. Investigators believe Reed showed up there just about 30 minutes before Patenaude, 46, arrived home after running errands in Arlington. Shunn, 45, was last seen alive when he left work that afternoon.

The suspect’s brother later told police that Reed showed up in Ellensburg during the evening of April 11. Reed asked his brother to accompany him back over the mountains. Tony Clyde Reed denied knowing anything about the killings until he reached his brother’s former property and saw the couple’s vehicles parked outside the house.

Patenaude’s body was inside the Jeep and Shunn was inside the Land Rover. The brothers allegedly waited until about 3 a.m. April 12 to bury the couple and drive their vehicles off an embankment, according to the court papers filed this week.

The Reed brothers reportedly drove back to Ellensburg, swapped cars and headed south. Their parents, Clyde and Faye Reed, are accused of helping the men elude capture.

Tony Clyde Reed surrendered May 16 on the U.S.-Mexican border. He provided information that led detectives to where Shunn and Patenaude had been buried.

The grave site was at the foot of a large upended root-ball in a clear-cut area, Matheson wrote. Their bodies were together. The site was covered with branches and tree limbs. It was several miles from where the Jeep and Land Rover were located two days after the couple was reported missing.

Without Tony Reed’s help, investigators likely wouldn’t have found the grave site, Matheson wrote.

Tony Reed pleaded guilty last month to two counts of rendering criminal assistance. Prosecutors dropped murder charges after confirming that he was hunting rocks at the time Patenaude and Shunn were killed. His parents recently were charged with rendering criminal assistance. They are accused of giving the men money and a vehicle to flee the state.

They are expected to be arraigned early next month.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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