Michelle Knotek is a former Raymond, Washington, woman who was convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth, who were both boarders in Knotek's home. Her husband, David Knotek, was also convicted of the murder of his 19-year-old nephew Shane Watson, who lived with the Knoteks. Michelle Knotek was sentenced to 22 years in prison, which she is serving at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor; her husband David Knotek is serving a 15-year prison sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex. The Knoteks' crimes made national headlines due to allegations of abuse and torture.
Kathy Loreno was a hairdresser working in South Bend, Washington, when she met Michelle Knotek, and the two became friends. After an argument between Loreno and her family, Loreno moved out of their home and into the home of Michelle and David Knotek. During her stay at the Knoteks' home, it was alleged that Loreno suffered physical abuse. In 1994, Loreno was reported missing by family members. When interviewed by authorities, the Knoteks stated that Loreno had run away with a truck driver and moved to Hawaii. Michelle Knotek maintained that she and Loreno were in regular contact. However, a private investigator hired by Loreno's brother concluded that she had probably been murdered by Michelle Knotek. David Knotek claimed that Loreno died by asphyxiating on her own vomit, but he did not take her to a hospital or report her death to police because of the physical injuries to Loreno's body.
Shane Watson, born in 1975 in Tacoma, was Michelle Knotek's nephew. Watson moved in with the Knoteks around 1993. Shortly after Loreno's disappearance in 1994, Watson seemingly vanished too. The Knoteks initially claimed that Watson had run away to Alaska to work on a fishing vessel. David Knotek later claimed that he had accidentally shot Watson during a struggle over a .22 caliber rifle. However, investigators alleged that David Knotek killed Watson because Michelle was enraged that Watson took pictures documenting the abuse of Loreno. David Knotek also stated that he burned the bodies of Shane Watson and Kathy Loreno and scattered their ashes at the beach.
Ronald Woodworth was a local man who went to live with the Knoteks around 2001. However, like Kathy Loreno, Woodworth was also subject to severe physical abuse. Witnesses described seeing Woodworth being forced to do chores outside wearing only his underwear, and to jump on gravel; they also claimed that Michelle Knotek would burn Woodworth's injured feet with boiling water. Woodworth went missing in 2003. David Knotek later admitted to burying Woodworth's body on their property after Michelle told him that Woodworth had committed suicide. An autopsy performed by the King County medical examiner proved that Woodworth's death was murder.
The Pacific County Deputy Prosecutor stated that Michelle Knotek showed "extreme indifference to human life"; Michelle was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth. David Knotek was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Shane Watson; he was also charged with rendering criminal assistance and unlawful disposal of human remains.
Through plea negotiations, both Knoteks pled guilty to lesser charges in 2004. Michelle Knotek entered an Alford plea, in which she did not admit responsibility but acknowledged the prosecutor's case against her. She pled guilty to one count of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter. While an initial agreement with prosecutors would have sent her to prison for 17 years, the judge sentenced her to 22 years in prison. David Knotek was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Shane Watson.
Michelle Knotek later tried to have her convictions overturned, but her appeal was denied by the Washington Court of Appeals.
In the Media
- "Woman gets 22 years in deaths of boarders".
- "Plea deal reduces charge in Raymond murder case".
- "Wife’s role scrutinized in deaths; vulnerable people drawn to her".
- "Suspect’s relatives contacted police in 2001".
- "Raymond couple befriended 3 strangers, who then disappeared".
- "Couple charged with murder in deaths of boarders".