EVERETT — When his brother John told him he needed help burying the bodies of his neighbors off a logging road near Oso, Tony Reed did not ask questions. He didn’t want to know how they died, he said on the witness stand Tuesday.
“If I don’t know, then I couldn’t testify,” he said.
“And you wouldn’t be in a position like you are today?” asked Craig Matheson, Snohomish County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.
“Yeah, right, well, at the time, I thought we were getting away with it,” Tony Reed said.
John Reed, 55, is on trial this week for two counts of aggravated murder. He, too, is expected to testify — to his claim the killings were in self-defense.
Tony Reed, 51, took the stand Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt, in front of a crowded gallery.
Two years ago, the Reeds were tight, he said. He thought of John as a “bad-ass dude” and a “tough mother (expletive).”
He was aware his brother was in a feud with his neighbors, Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn. They owned an easement road to John Reed’s former home in Oso and kept a close eye on it, according to the testimony. Reed accepted a federal disaster buyout not long before the shootings. He’d been accused of squatting after the sale closed. But the way Tony Reed figured it, he said, John Reed hadn’t cashed the check and therefore still owned the land.
One day in April 2016, Tony Reed had been looking for rocks — Ellensburg blue agate — until dark, east of the Cascades, when his brother asked him to drive across the mountain pass, he testified. Sometime during the three-hour drive, John Reed relayed to him that the neighbors were dead.
“What was your reaction, when you realized what your brother had just told you?” Matheson asked.
“I was just thinking about what we had to do,” Tony Reed said. “It gives you kind of an adrenaline rush, because it’s not what I was planning to do, obviously, but, you know. … They’re dead. There’s nothing you can do about them. My brother wasn’t dead. I was trying to save him.”
In court, John Reed shook his head slightly at his brother’s words. Tony Reed recounted the slain couple had been loaded into their own vehicles — a Land Rover and a Jeep — by the time he arrived in Snohomish County. The brothers drove slowly up a rough mountain road in the dark in the two vehicles until they reached a clearcut deep in the woods, about a half-hour later.
Tony Reed said he picked a spot where a tree had blown over. The roots had ripped up the ground, loosening the soil. The brothers brought one shovel, so they took turns digging, Tony Reed testified.
They returned to Oso for showers and a nap. Tony Reed wanted to burn the couple’s vehicles.
“The reason you’d do that?” Matheson asked.
“Get rid of all the evidence,” Tony Reed said.
“Fingerprints, blood, whatever.”
They worried about the smoke from a fire, Tony Reed said. The brothers worked for most of a day to hide the vehicles in the woods. Tony Reed recalled hearing a helicopter overhead. He figured the crew was searching for signs of Patenaude and Shunn. The brothers camouflaged the evidence with tarps and brush.
Later, the vehicles were spotted. Word was out: Detectives were looking for John.
“He wasn’t really sure what to do, you know?” Tony Reed said. “So I said, ‘Why don’t you take off?’ ”
The brothers drove to their mother’s place in Ellensburg, and then to Arizona, taking her car. From there, they traveled in a friend’s vehicle to Mexico. “In hindsight, I wouldn’t have gone,” Tony Reed said.
John Reed became worried they might get shot by police, according to the testimony. In May 2016, Tony Reed surrendered at the border, alone.
“It was my brother’s idea,” Tony Reed said. “I didn’t really want to.”
Tony Reed led police to the bodies. He later pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to 14 months in prison. As part of the plea agreement, Tony Reed had to testify during his brother’s trial. In opening statements, Matheson warned jurors that Tony Reed’s testimony needed to be verified through other sources. On Tuesday, Tony Reed admitted to telling a series of lies to detectives, saying he feels differently about telling the truth in court, under oath.
He had only seen Patenaude and Shunn once, before April, he testified. The couple had been removing a fallen tree from their driveway. He patted their dog and asked its name.
Back then, he knew his brother and the couple were in a dispute over property lines and access to the easement road, he said.
“I don’t think he said he threatened to kill them,” he said. “He might have.”
This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Reach Caleb Hutton at 425-339-3454 or chutton @heraldnet.com, or follow him on Twitter at @snocaleb.