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Originally published Friday, December 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Carnation slaying suspects: a history of arguments, paranoia

Joseph McEnroe and Michele Anderson, both 29, met five years ago on an online dating site, said McEnroe's mother, Sean Johnson, of Minneapolis.

Seattle Times staff reporters

The couple in Trailer 39 often fought so loudly that Ryan Westberg could hear them a few doors down at the Spring Glen Mobile Home Park in Fall City.

Once, Westberg said Thursday, he listened more intently, curious about what Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe were arguing about.

All he heard was Anderson yelling at McEnroe: "You have no job, you have no money, you have no life!"

Westberg's assessment of McEnroe: "total loser."

The couple moved to the property belonging to Michele Anderson's parents near Carnation about a year ago. On Christmas Eve, after years of reportedly feuding over money and other issues, Anderson and McEnroe methodically killed Anderson's father and mother, her brother and sister-in-law and their two young children, according to the King County Sheriff's Department.

As the couple were ordered jailed without bail Thursday, interviews with former neighbors, classmates and family members provided a portrait of a paranoid, unstable pair who acted odd and struggled financially but apparently planned a future together. They blacked out their windows and spoke of people out to get them, but also found jobs and came off as quiet and unassuming to their landlady.

"They said numerous times that they feared for their lives," said Corissa McGehe, another former neighbor. "They felt that they only had each other, that they could only trust each other. There was this paranoia about them."

They met online

McEnroe and Anderson, both 29, met five years ago on an online dating site, said McEnroe's mother, Sean Johnson, of Minneapolis. McEnroe was living in Glendale, Ariz., at the time, but soon moved to Washington, intent on marrying Anderson, Johnson said.

The couple lived in South King County, then moved to Fall City in 2004 and rented a mobile home there until late last year, said Spring Glen's owner, who asked not to be named.

They came up clean on criminal-background checks, the owner said. On their rental application, Anderson said she worked as a night security guard at Nintendo. McEnroe said he worked at a Target store.

Anderson and her brother, Scott Anderson, also apparently were trying to start an auto-painting company called Pure Evil Customs, founded in 2002, according to public business records.

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Anderson also filled in as a postal carrier on her mother's Carnation route, the Postal Service said.

They paid their $390-a-month rent on time.

"He was so quiet," the trailer-park owner said. "They were so quiet."

Not always. In addition to arguments, McEnroe drew the attention of neighbor Westberg. "He would come and go all night long," Westberg said. "He'd leave ... and be back in 15 minutes."

Other neighbors described the couple as misfits.

They avoided eye contact, rarely emerged from their house and were indifferent to friendly overtures, said Stephanie Ammons, a 15-year resident of Spring Glen. And the smallest trespasses — a car parked in their spot, or a neighbor's cat or young kids in the yard — would enrage them.

"They were just so bizarre," Ammons said.

Next-door neighbor McGehe, 28, said Anderson would "yell and scream" but then calm down and apologize.

Ammons said Anderson often referred to herself as the "black sheep" of her family, but McGehe said Anderson's mother came about once a month bearing food and other items.

Anderson often said her parents "had quite a lot of money," McGehe said.

"Money was always brought up. It was always 'We're really struggling. We're really poor.' " As to their relationship, McGehe said, Anderson was in charge. "He [McEnroe] looked up to her, and she answered questions for him."

Artistic, sweet student

Anderson graduated from Duvall's Cedarcrest High School in 1997. The yearbook showed her on the cross-country team and in the art club.

She was an artistic, sweet girl who hung out with "unpopular kids," said Jennifer Chandler of Mukilteo, a former classmate.

Back then, she spoke of a volatile relationship with her parents — she claimed her father hit her and her mother was mean and didn't understand her, Chandler said. But Anderson spoke lovingly of her older brother, Scott, who is now among the slain, Chandler said.

"Scott was the only person she really trusted because they went through their abusive childhood together," Chandler said.

Chandler said she tracked down Anderson online about two years ago, and Chandler and her husband went to visit at the sparsely furnished Fall City mobile home. Chandler said the couple had black material over the windows, saying they were sure neighbors spied on them, had tried to break in and were "basically just out to get them."

McEnroe was "a little weird," Chandler said. He had a speech impediment.

"He was always talking about his spirit guide telling him how to live his life," Chandler said. He said he planned to marry Anderson and change his last name because of a disagreement with his family.

Chandler said she understood that Anderson had been diagnosed with severe anxiety and was supposed to take medication and see a counselor but couldn't afford it.

During that one-night reunion, Michele Anderson also said she didn't want to move back onto her parents' property.

Looking back, Chandler guessed that their troubled finances forced the move.

"I have no idea why she'd do that," Chandler said, "because she knew it was a volatile situation."

Broken family ties

In Minneapolis, McEnroe's mother said she and her two other children had been searching for her oldest son for nearly five years.

The last time McEnroe spoke to her, she said Thursday, he was angry that she had damaged his credit by being evicted from an apartment that he had helped her lease.

He also told her that Michele Anderson was angry, too: His bad credit was preventing them from renting a new apartment near Seattle.

He never called again.

But Johnson and her 18-year-old son, Ian Jones, said McEnroe never showed a violent side, though sometimes he had fights in school.

"Joe helped me out when other kids picked on me," Jones recalled. "I talked funny when I was little, and he defended me. He told kids to back off."

McEnroe was born in San Jose, Calif., and was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder, his mother said.

She said she was protective of her son because of his health problems, which included chronic nosebleeds.

Instead of sports, she said, McEnroe read a lot and played imaginative games. She said after his grades slipped in high school, he dropped out and worked at Burger King.

When he was 18, the family moved to Burien for a time, where he worked at Safeway. They then moved to Arizona.

In his early 20s, Johnson said, McEnroe spent a lot of time online and playing Dungeons & Dragons. For a time, she said, he went to South Carolina to visit a different young woman he met online.

He then met Anderson and moved to Washington.

"He said he was planning on settling down with Michele and having a baby within two years," his mother said.

Seattle Times reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this story.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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