Patrick Shunn (left) and Monique Patenaude.

Patrick Shunn (left) and Monique Patenaude.

Trial could be delayed in case of murdered Oso couple

John Blaine Reed’s attorney says a series of circumstances has left him unsure if he’ll be ready.

EVERETT — It looks is if there are questions whether the February trial of a man charged with the 2016 killings of an Oso couple will stick to that schedule.

A Snohomish County judge on Friday turned aside a defense request to delay the aggravated murder trial of John Blaine Reed.

Everett attorney Phil Sayles said that a collision of circumstances, including recent health challenges for his investigator, have him doubting that he can be ready to take the case in front of a jury in roughly 10 weeks.

“I just don’t think that it is possible,” Sayles told Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss. He filed paperwork late this week asking for the trial to be reset for May or July.

Deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf days earlier had submitted a motion, prospectively urging the judge not to grant a continuance. After listening to Sayles on Friday, he said the court hadn’t been provided sufficient grounds for a delay.

The judge decided to stick to the schedule for now, but told lawyers to prepare for the possibility of a May trial if it becomes clear that is necessary.

“My objective is always to try a case one time, and one time only,” Weiss said.

Reed, 55, is charged with aggravated murder in the gunshot killings of Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude. The husband and wife disappeared in April 2016 and were later found buried in a makeshift grave several miles from their Oso-area home.

Reed faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged. He’s pleaded not guilty.

The defendant has been locked up in the county jail in Everett since his arrest in Mexico during summer 2016. Sayles is his second attorney, after being hired seven months ago.

The lawyer in early October filed formal notice that Reed maintains he acted in self defense, although so far no details have been made public.

Patenaude and Shunn were Reed’s former neighbors. According to detectives, evidence shows the killings were the violent end to a long-running property dispute. The bad feelings reportedly intensified after the deadly 2014 Oso mudslide made Reed’s land unsafe for habitation.

Reed took a disaster buyout, but had been squatting at the site. Patenaude reported him shortly before the killings, according to court papers.

Alsdorf on Friday asked Weiss’ help in getting more information about the witnesses Sayles plans to call, including reports that will detail the expected testimony of any experts. The court earlier had set Friday as the deadline for that information. Reed’s lawyer said the work is still in progress. Weiss ordered the defense experts’ reports to be provided to prosecutors by no later than Jan. 5.

Sayles told the judge that much other work remains and that his defense investigator is recovering from two recent surgeries. Prosecutors have listed more than 80 potential witnesses. So far, interviews have been scheduled with only a handful.

Alsdorf told the court that prosecutors stand ready to assist making witnesses available for interviews.

He told Weiss that the working relationship between the defense and prosecutors remains amicable.

In pleadings, Alsdorf said that the families of the slain couple are opposed to delays.

“The victims’ families have patiently waited for the opportunity to see the defendant tried for the deaths he has now admitted through his attorney that he caused,” Alsdorf wrote. “Any continuance of the trial date would likely force the victims’ families to wait past the two-year anniversary of their loved ones’ deaths.”

The judge set a Jan. 10 hearing to review the status of the case and to revisit the trial schedule.

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

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