Trial over Oso murders begins with a self-defense claim

His attorney says John Reed, charged with killing Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, will testify.

EVERETT — An Oso couple was killed and their bodies were hidden in the woods in 2016 because they had the misfortune of making their home next to a neighbor capable of cold-blooded murder, a Snohomish County jury was told Thursday.

Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude had a beautiful house on about 20 acres bordering the North Fork Stillaguamish River. From the outside, it looked perfect, but it was a “fool’s paradise,” said Craig Matheson, the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

That’s because their neighbor was John Blaine Reed, 55, a man with whom they had a longstanding feud, Matheson said.

“Monique and Patrick had messed with the wrong guy too many times over too many years,” and that ended in death for the husband and wife April 11, 2016, Matheson said.

The prosecutor spoke with jurors as the trial began for Reed on two counts of aggravated murder.

Defense attorney Phil Sayles said he expects Reed to testify that he was forced to act in self-defense.

“We’ll explain what happened,” Sayles said. “John will tell you what happened.”

Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude (Family photo)

Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude (Family photo)

Prosecutors want to paint Reed as a “diabolical madman,” he said. The portrayal doesn’t square with a man who had property buyout checks in hand from the county. Reed’s former land was damaged by the deadly Oso mudslide and related flooding in 2014.

“All he wanted to do was move on,” Sayles said.

Detectives maintain the killings were the culmination of a long-running dispute between Reed and the couple. The pair told people they lived in fear of the man. It was so bad that in 2013, Shunn took the step of making a police report, the prosecutor said.

The animus reportedly got worse after the mudslide made Reed’s land unsafe for habitation. Reed took a disaster buyout, but he had been squatting at the site. Patenaude reported him, according to court papers.

On the morning of the killings, Reed called a former neighbor and others, sharing his plans to go back to the house to retrieve his property.

Mike Shunn reacts as Snohomish County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson makes opening statements in the trial of John Blaine Reed, accused of murdering Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Mike Shunn reacts as Snohomish County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson makes opening statements in the trial of John Blaine Reed, accused of murdering Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Evidence will show Reed first killed Patenaude, 46, most likely as she returned from a mid-morning trip into Arlington to buy chicken feed and cat food, jurors were told. She never made it back into her house.

She was shot three times. The first bullet shattered the bones in her right forearm. The fatal shots were in her neck and head. The likely location of the killing was a gate that led to the couple’s home and an access path to Reed’s former property.

Shunn was shot about four hours later when he arrived after work. The bullet was fired into the back of his head, so close that burnt gunpowder left soot marks on his skin, Matheson said.

Reed killed the man as part of an attempt to buy some time and hide evidence of Patenaude’s slaying, the prosecutor said. He said jurors would hear from Reed’s brother, Tony, about efforts the pair made to hide the dead couple and their cars in the hills above the neighborhood. John Reed knew the logging roads, ravines and creeks seldom seen by anyone but locals and hunters.

Snohomish County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson points his fingers like a gun as he makes opening statements at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett in the trial of John Blaine Reed, accused of murdering Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Snohomish County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson points his fingers like a gun as he makes opening statements at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett in the trial of John Blaine Reed, accused of murdering Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The men also destroyed a camera used to photograph wild game. The camera might have been linked to Shunn’s laptop. The brothers feared the device might have captured one or both killings, Matheson said. He contends that neighbors’ surveillance footage shows the brothers repeatedly heading to and from the woods during the time frame they reportedly were disposing of evidence.

The brothers fled to Mexico as the couple’s disappearance drew the attention of law enforcement. John Reed was arrested in July 2016. Tony Reed had turned himself in weeks earlier. He led police to the grave site.

Matheson showed the jury pictures of the disturbed earth, obscured by a fallen rootball.

“This is what that man did,” he said of John Reed.

If convicted, the defendant faces life in prison.

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

This story was first published in the Everett Herald.

More in Northwest

King County, Seattle, transit agencies and others join in lawsuit against I-976

A lawsuit filed by plaintiffs across Washington claims I-976 is a “poorly… Continue reading

Political activist Tim Eyman campaigns for Initiative 976 on Nov. 5 in downtown Bellevue. The initiative promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. Photo by Aaron Kunkler
Election analysis: I-976 vote casts South King County against Seattle, Eastside

Preliminary precinct counts show support for the initiative split by region.

State AG Ferguson issues statement on DACA argument before U.S. Supreme Court

Trump administration wants to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

A King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity. Photo courtesy of the state Attorney General’s office
Judge rules Value Village deceived customers

The King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity.

Constantine outlines I-976 impacts to King County, Metro

Asks King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to prepare lawsuit to challenge measure

Vehicles passing through flooded street. File photo
King County Flood Control District to vote on 2020 budget

The budget will fund a variety of programs across the county.

Flying Fish: Lake Sammamish kokanee move to Orcas Island

It’s part of a program to preserve the unique freshwater salmon species.

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.