Search warrant reveals details in fatal knife attack

SNOHOMISH — Janine Shaffer told 911 that a man had cut her throat with a knife.

It was 2:41 p.m. on Sunday. Despite her grave injuries, Shaffer was able to relay to the dispatcher the location of her Maltby-area home.

Her mother, who also had been attacked, was dying inside.

Around that same time, in a truck headed toward Everett, John Kuljis called his own mother, according to police records. He reportedly asked her for money and also rang up his drug dealer.

Kuljis, 31, is charged in Everett District Court with second-degree murder and first-degree assault. He is being held on $1.5 million bail.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives obtained a judge’s permission to search Kuljis’ home, along with the truck his uncle was driving that day. Copies of the search warrants were obtained Friday by The Daily Herald.

Shaffer, 62, lived in unincorporated Snohomish with her mother, Barbara Decker, who was 78. They had hired Kuljis’ uncle to do some work on a bathroom floor. The uncle said he brought along his nephew. They arrived around 2 p.m.

Kuljis, who spoke briefly with detectives, said he didn’t go with his uncle that day. He has denied any wrongdoing and invoked his right not to answer further questions.

Only the uncle and Shaffer have described in detail what happened in the home.

The uncle said the attack started “without any provocation,” sheriff’s detective Dave Fontenot wrote in the search warrant.

Kuljis reportedly had a carpet knife. Decker was cut first.

According to Shaffer, Kuljis called to her but then said nothing before “he started to stab and slash her and got on top of her as she screamed for help,” Fontenot wrote. While Shaffer tried to fight off Kuljis, she said she heard the uncle say, “stop it, stop it” but he didn’t physically intervene.

The uncle, 46, said that after the attack, he and his nephew got into the truck. While the uncle drove, Kuljis spent several minutes cleaning his knife with paint thinner, and also wiped down a door handle on the truck, according to the documents.

The uncle said that in the truck, Kuljis had talked about creating an alibi, or blaming the crimes on a third party, maybe a random worker they picked up at Home Depot. Kuljis also allegedly suggested he could hurt himself to support a claim of self-defense.

The uncle dropped off Kuljis in Everett, where the younger man lives 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.

When Kuljis got home, he kissed her and said, “I love you,” she said. She decided she needed to get her grandchildren out of the house and, as a ruse, told Kuljis that she had to run an errand for a relative. She called 911 and urged her brother, Kuljis’ uncle, to contact authorities as well. The uncle’s call was recorded around 3:43 p.m, an hour after Shaffer reported the attack.

Kuljis told investigators that he is getting clean from an opioid addiction and that he takes antipsychotic medication as well as a prescription meant to treat chemical dependence. He said he had not used illegal drugs for several days.

He has experienced money troubles in recent months, court records show. He has no criminal convictions, though he has drug arrests, including one Feb. 16.

The new search warrants included a provision to collect a blood sample to determine whether Kuljis was under the influence of any substances the day of the killing.

Kuljis reportedly tried to wash his clothes when he got home. When he was arrested, he had what appeared to be blood on his shoes.

At his parents’ house, detectives gathered bloody laundry and materials from the washer drain, along with assorted knives. A carpet knife believed to be the weapon used in the attacks was found Wednesday along Highway 522.

The uncle remains in jail on unrelated warrants from an old theft case. He has not been charged in connection with the killing.

Shaffer continues to recover. Her family hopes to find her a new home.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rikkiking.

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