Death penalty a possibility in slayings

Death penalty a possibility in slayings
Editor's note: The contents of this article are disturbing

SEATTLE -- Prosecutors say they may consider the death penalty in the case against Michele K. Anderson and Joseph Thomas McEnroe, the two accused of killing three generations of the Anderson family.

Anderson and McEnroe were charged Friday with aggravated first-degree murder in the methodical Christmas Eve shooting deaths of her parents, her brother, his wife and their two young children.

"Given the magnitude of this crime, I pledge to give this case serious consideration for application of our state's ultimate penalty," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Judy Anderson was wrapping presents for her family on Christmas Eve, when gunfire erupted in her living room and her own daughter began a bloodbath that left Anderson and five other members of her family dead, prosecutors said Friday.

She ran into the room and saw her daughter's boyfriend shoot her husband of 38 years, Wayne, prosecutors alleged as they filed aggravated first-degree murder charges. Judy started screaming and Joe McEnroe turned his gun on her. She fell to the floor, not yet dead. McEnroe apologized and shot her again, this time in the head, according to a police affidavit.

Satterberg said long-standing bitterness and a perceived family debt might have been factors, but said he was at a loss to assign a motive to the crime police say McEnroe and Michele Anderson, both 29, have admited committing.

"In the end, what motive could you find that would make sense of the senseless slaying of the Anderson family?" Satterberg said.

Satterberg's account of the crime and a police affidavit lay out a Christmas Eve that exploded in a rain of blood, leaving three generations of a family dead.

"In the span of one hour, the defendants had turned this family's Christmas Eve celebration into a scene of mass murder," Satterberg said as he charged Anderson and McEnroe with the only crime punishable by death in Washington. Satterberg has 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

After killing her parents, Anderson and McEnroe, dragged the bodies to a shed outside the rural Carnation home and mopped up the blood with towels and carpets, according to court documents. They burned some of the evidence in a backyard fire pit, reloaded their weapons and waited for Michele's brother and his family to arrive.

When Scott Anderson, 32, walked in the door, he spotted his sister with a gun and charged her. Michele Anderson and McEnroe shot him multiple times. Michele then shot her sister-in-law, Erica, 32, who still managed to climb over a couch and call 911.

An operator at the 911 calling center picked up the call but Erica did not speak before McEnroe tore the phone from her hands and destroyed it.

"In this small room, witnessing this horror, was 5-year-old Olivia Anderson and her 3-year-old brother, Nathan," Satterburg said.

Huddling with her children, Erica Anderson pleaded with McEnroe not to shoot her, saying: "You don't have to do this."

McEnroe told her: "Yes, we do,"' and shot her in the head, according to the affidavit.

He then shot 5-year-old Olivia before turning to 3-year-old Nathan, who had picked up the batteries from the cordless phone his mother had used in her futile attempt to call for help.

"McEnroe told detectives that Nathan held the batteries up in one hand and gave '..the look of complete comprehension ... as if he understood." McEnroe than fired on last bullet through Nathan's head, according to the affidavit.

"The evidence will show that McEnroe shot each child in the head from very close range," Satterberg said.

When asked why he shot Erica, Olivia and Nathan, McEnroe told detectives three times: "I didn't want them to turn us in," according to the affidavit.

Michele Anderson told investigators "it was a combination of not wanting them to have to live with the memories and not wanting there to be any witnesses."

Satterberg concluded his narrative:

"On Christmas Day, the Anderson property was silent."

Arraignment for the two was scheduled for Jan. 9.

Michele Anderson told detectives her brother, a carpenter, owed her money she had loaned to him years earlier, and that she was upset with her parents because they did not take her side. Additionally, she said her parents were pressuring her to start paying rent for staying on their property.

"Michele stated that she was tired of everybody stepping on her," the court papers say. "She stated that she was upset with her parents and her brother and that if the problems did not get resolved on Dec. 24, then her intent was definitely to kill everybody."

After the killings, McEnroe and Anderson first drove north toward Canada, then south toward Oregon arriving at neither destination, then decided to go back and pretend to discover the bodies, Satterberg said.

When they arrived Wednesday, investigators were already there. Detectives, curious that neither McEnroe nor Michele Anderson asked what had happened at the bustling crime scene, began questioning them and they eventually confessed, according to the documents.

Telephone calls to public defender George Eppler, Anderson's attorney, and Devon Gibbs, McEnroe's lawyer, were not immediately returned Friday.