Prosecutor won’t seek death penalty in slaying of Oso couple

John Reed (left) and Tony Reed. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

John Reed (left) and Tony Reed. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

EVERETT — The man charged with murdering an Oso couple in April won’t risk the death penalty if convicted of the killings.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe on Tuesday said a careful review of evidence in the case led to his decision not to seek execution for John Reed.

Roe’s announcement came the day after Mukilteo mass shooter Allen Ivanov pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated murder. Roe had been considering seeking death for the 20-year-old former University of Washington student. Ivanov now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without release.

If convicted as charged, Reed, 53, would face the same punishment.

The prosecutor said he shared his decision earlier with the families of the slain couple.

“Some would like me to seek death, others prefer I not, and all expressed that they would understand and support whatever decision I made, and I am extremely grateful for that,” he wrote in a press release.

Reed is charged with aggravated murder, accused of killing his former neighbors, Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude. The husband and wife were found buried in a makeshift grave several miles from their home. The couple had been involved in a long-simmering property dispute with Reed, which got worse after the deadly 2014 mudslide made his land unsafe for habitation.

Reed had accepted a disaster buyout for his property, but he returned and was squatting. Patenaude reported him to the county, according to court papers.

The couple disappeared. On the day they were last seen, Reed reportedly had told others he was going back to his former home to retrieve belongings.

Reed and his younger brother, Tony Clyde Reed, soon became suspects in the disappearance. The brothers dropped from sight. Detectives followed their trail to Mexico.

A key break came weeks later when the younger Reed showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border and surrendered. He later led investigators to the grave where he said he helped his brother hide the bodies.

Investigators are convinced Tony Reed did not participate in the killings. They’ve confirmed he was hunting for agates near Ellensburg that day. His brother asked him to help move some furniture, and it wasn’t until they got to Arlington that the younger Reed said he learned of the killings, according to court papers.

Tony Reed has pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance and agreed to testify against his brother.

Patenaude, 46, had three gunshot wounds. Detectives believe she was killed after returning home from running errands in Arlington. Shunn, 45, was a former Army Ranger. He was shot once in the back of the head, apparently ambushed after he got home from work.

In his press release, Roe said he would not discuss details of the Reed case because of the pending trial. In general, he wrote, he typically considers all of the evidence in the case, the defendant’s criminal history and information that was provided by defense attorneys that they believed would mitigate against seeking death.

Roe said he also considers the likelihood, given all the available evidence, that a 12-person jury would be unanimous in seeking death.

Reed’s attorney, public defender Jon Scott, said he was pleased with the prosecutor’s decision.

“The death penalty is a barbaric institution whose existence is antithetical to true principles of justice,” he said in a written statement.”Mr. Roe’s decision against seeking it is admirable in this regard. The prosecutor’s choice also likely will prevent further delays to the currently scheduled trial date, which is a positive consequence as well. Mr. Reed very much looks forward to the start of his trial, where he will finally have the opportunity to present his case and earn an acquittal of the allegations against him.”

Trial is now scheduled for September.

Roe on Monday said that none of his decisions in aggravated murder cases have been influenced by Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision two years ago to order a moratorium on executions.

Reed’s case is the fifth since the moratorium in which Snohomish County prosecutors could have sought death but opted otherwise. Ivanov’s and another case were resolved with guilty pleas before trial. In the others, Roe said prosecutors were convinced there were mitigating factors that likely would have led jurors not to recommend death.

Byron Scherf is the lone person from Snohomish County now under a death sentence. A jury ruled he should die for the 2011 strangulation of corrections officer Jayme Biendl in the prison chapel at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe. Scherf, a repeat rapist, already was serving life.

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

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