Michelle Knotek pleaded innocent to two counts of first-degree murder during a brief appearance in Pacific County Superior Court. Her husband waived his right to a speedy arraignment and declined to enter a plea to a single count of first-degree murder.
At his lawyer's request, arraignment for David Knotek was rescheduled for Aug. 28.
Affidavits filed in court earlier this week describe witness accounts of torture, abuse and death at the Knoteks' quaint red farmhouse on a quiet country road in southwest Washington.
Michelle Knotek, 49, is charged with killing Kathy Loreno, a 36-year-old hairdresser who was reported missing in 1994, and Ronald Woodworth, a 57-year-old man who disappeared last month. David Knotek, 51, is charged in the shooting death of Shane Watson, the couple's 19-year-old nephew, who disappeared some time after Loreno was last seen.
Judge Joel Penoyar tentatively scheduled trial for Oct. 13.
The Knoteks' bail originally was set at $2 million each after their arrests late last week. They are being held at the county jail at South Bend.
Charges filed Wednesday by Pacific County Deputy Prosecutor Lori Miller allege Michelle Knotek showed "extreme indifference to human life" and abused Loreno and Woodworth to death. Both Knoteks face a possible sentence of life in prison.
David Knotek also was charged with rendering criminal assistance and unlawful disposal of human remains in Woodworth's death. Remains recovered from the couple's backyard during a weekend search are likely Woodworth's, authorities said.
"It's going to be a long and difficult road," David Hatch, one of David Knotek's attorneys, said Thursday. "We have a lot of work to do."
Lawyers for Michelle Knotek declined to comment.
The affidavits said David Knotek confessed to deputies that he shot Watson and burned his body. Witnesses told deputies that Michelle Knotek was enraged when she discovered that Watson had photographed Loreno's injuries, and the young man disappeared soon after Loreno died.
David Knotek told deputies that he also burned Loreno's body after she died, and buried Woodworth's body after his wife told him that Woodworth had committed suicide.
Witnesses said Michelle Knotek abused and tortured Loreno and Woodworth. In court papers, they described seeing her force Woodworth to do chores outside, wearing only his underwear, and jump off things onto gravel in his bare feet. The witnesses also told deputies Michelle Knotek burned Woodworth's injured feet with boiling water.
David Knotek, a construction worker, told a sheriff's deputy last Friday where Woodworth's body was buried, the affidavits said.
This week, dozens of law enforcement officials sifted through buckets of dirt in the backyard of the Knotek home and poked through the weedy field next to the house. Sheriff John Didion said they were looking for any traces of evidence.
"We'll stay at the original scene until we're able to process the entire property," Didion told a news conference following Thursday's court hearing. "We'll investigate every lead and every property."
David Burke, the Pacific County prosecutor and coroner, said the small county expects to receive some legal assistance from the state attorney general's office.
"I'm not worried about the costs, I'm worried about doing the right thing," Burke said. "We'll worry about the costs later."
The search has already expanded to nearby South Bend, where police officers and sheriff's deputies began a second investigation at the former home of James McClintock, 81, who died at the home in February 2002. Michelle Knotek, who had been acting as his caregiver, told medics he had fallen. His death certificate said he died of a blunt impact to the head, but the cause of that impact was undetermined.
The old man fell frequently, South Bend Police Chief Dave Eastham said, so no one thought it was suspicious at the time.