Money may be motive in Christmas Eve killings
Seattle Times staff reporters
A financial dispute might have led to the Christmas Eve slayings of six members of the same family, including two children, whose bodies were found Wednesday inside a rural home near Carnation.
The possible motive emerged late Wednesday after the arrest of 29-year-old Michele Kristen Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, in connection with the fatal shootings of Anderson's parents, her brother and his wife and the couple's two children, a 6-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy.
Investigators believe Anderson and McEnroe both shot the victims, said one law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
The source said there was a dispute within the family over money and that Anderson believed she was mistreated and taken advantage of by family members.
Late Wednesday, investigators also revealed that someone inside the home called 911 during the shootings, but the caller hung up without saying a word, said King County Sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart.
Two King County sheriff's deputies went to check on the house, but they turned back without speaking to anyone at the home when they encountered a locked gate, Urquhart said.
"From everything I'm hearing, it wouldn't have made a difference," Urquhart said.
The call and the sheriff's response will be part of the investigation into the slayings. The bodies were discovered Wednesday morning by a co-worker of one victim.
Killed were Wayne Anderson, 60, and his wife, Judy Anderson, 61, who lived on the property, and their son, daughter-in-law and their two grandchildren, who were visiting from Black Diamond.
Michele Anderson and McEnroe, also 29, were arrested Wednesday afternoon on suspicion of homicide after they showed up at the crime scene, a wooded property on a rural road about three miles from downtown Carnation.
The couple were apparently living in a mobile home adjacent to Anderson's parents' house.
It was unclear why Anderson and McEnroe returned to the home Wednesday, as it swarmed with detectives and crime-scene investigators, or why police became suspicious of them. But they didn't come to turn themselves in, Urquhart said.
"I don't know what brought them here, [but] they arrived after we got here. They came to our attention and were arrested," he said.
Sheriff's officials said the 911 call was made from the house at 5:13 p.m. Monday and lasted about 10 seconds. The police dispatcher didn't hear anyone talking, but told investigators there was "a lot of yelling in the background"; however, it "sounded more like party noise than angry, heated arguing," Urquhart said.
After the call was disconnected, the dispatcher placed two calls to the home, but the calls immediately went to voice mail, Urquhart said.
Two deputies were sent out at 5:19 p.m. and arrived at 5:45 p.m., Urquhart said. They found a locked gate — which isn't in sight of the house — and didn't go farther onto the property. According to the dispatcher's log, the deputies reported: "Gate is locked, unable to gain access."
Detectives haven't established a firm sequence of the evening's events, but Urquhart said the 911 call appears to have come near the end of the slayings. Urquhart said department policy requires deputies to determine who made the 911 call. He could not say why that wasn't done in this case.
McEnroe was living in Glendale, Ariz., when he met Michele Anderson five years ago on an online dating site, said McEnroe's mother, Sean Johnson of Minneapolis. He moved to the Puget Sound region shortly after they met and planned to marry her, Johnson said.
Johnson said she was shocked that her eldest son — whom she described as a "good Christian" — was arrested in connection with the slayings of three generations of the Anderson family. Johnson said she hasn't had much contact with McEnroe since he cut ties with his family after a dispute over money. She said her most recent information was that he was working at an area Target store.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office has not released the victims' names or said how they died, but police said all were members of the same family. Family friends identified the two eldest victims as Wayne and Judy Anderson.
Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said Wayne Anderson was a Boeing engineer. Conte said the company was contacted by authorities Wednesday and told that Anderson "was the victim of a crime."
His wife, Judy, was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Carnation. She was known to many people along her route and well-liked, said several people who knew her.
Neighbors of the Andersons' son, Scott Anderson, said detectives had been to their Black Diamond neighborhood Wednesday to determine when Scott Anderson, 32, his wife, Erica, 32, and their two children, a 6-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, had last been seen.
Neighbor Mike Gould told a sheriff's deputy he'd last seen the family on Christmas Eve, just before they left their house to visit relatives in Carnation.
"Scott was a friendly guy," Gould said. "He worked insane hours, and when he wasn't working, he was devoted to his family."
Scott Anderson would often visit Gould in his home metal shop, where he refurbishes antique armor. Scott Anderson, who worked in construction and painted cars as a sideline, enjoyed "talking shop," Gould said.
Erica Anderson was a stay-at-home mom, he said. The couple's children often played in their backyard and waved at neighbors. "The boy would take great amusement by waving to me," Gould said. "They were great kids."
Near the front door of their modest yellow home Wednesday was a little girl's blue and pink bicycle. Numerous toys could be seen in the backyard, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence.
About 8 a.m. Wednesday, one of Judy Anderson's co-workers stopped by the house in the 1800 block of 346th Avenue Northeast after Anderson failed to show up for work. The co-worker discovered the bodies and called police.
People who knew the family said Judy and Wayne Anderson had lived in the home since the early 1980s and later purchased the adjacent property, where the mobile home is located. A family friend said the couple had three adult children, including the suspect Michele Anderson — who recently moved into the mobile home with McEnroe — and Scott Anderson. Another daughter, Mary, lives in North Bend.
Family friend Mark Bennett, 58, talked to the Andersons on Christmas Eve and made plans to get together the following day. But when Bennett called on Christmas Day, his call went to voice mail. He told reporters he went to the property Wednesday morning after seeing the home on television news.
"I didn't want to believe what I heard and saw," he said, "so I drove over."
Bennett said he used to run a coffee shop with Mary Anderson. He said Mary Anderson was particularly close with her mother and was with other family members late Wednesday.
"I don't think it's fully set in yet," Bennett said.
A former neighbor, Susan Malin of Renton, said Judy Anderson was "very nice, very sweet." But the family mostly kept to themselves and weren't overly friendly with neighbors, she said.
Another neighbor, Deborah Van Westrienen, said most people in the quiet neighborhood of secluded homes "mostly keep to themselves," choosing to live a country lifestyle where "you never hear anything but coyotes."
In Carnation, a town of just under 2,000 people about 25 miles east of Seattle, residents expressed shock that a mass slaying could happen in their sleepy community, where ponies and baby goats often graze along main thoroughfares.
The Ixtapa Mexican restaurant on Carnation's main drag was one stop on Judy Anderson's mail route, said bar manager Cherrie Provo.
"I pass her every day when I'm going to work. She always seems pleasant ... but I wouldn't say I know her well," Provo said. "It's a horrible, sad thing."
At Pete's Grill & Pub, manager Nikki Larson said the slayings and the influx of police and news crews through the day were nearly the sole topics of conversation.
"We usually see news people out here during the floods. We would never expect anything like this," Larson said. "Everybody's in a state of shock. There's been a lot of speculation and worry.
"In a small community like this, someone here is going to know them."
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Seattle Times staff reporters Sonia Krishnan, Amy Roe, Christina Siderius, Jack Broom and Rachel Tuinstra and news researcher David Turim contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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