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

What’s next for Washington’s 2045 green energy goal?

The Legislature set the goal, but how does the state actually get there?

Tasting room proposal could redefine alcohol production in King County

Pilot program would benefit wineries, breweries and distilleries. Several farmers are concerned.

Climbers rescued after days on Rainier

Several rescue attempts went awry, thanks to bad weather and flying conditions.

Rick Steves to give $1 million yearly to stop climate change

“If we are in the travel business, we are contributing to the destruction of our environment,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to protesting nurses on April 24 at the State Capitol Building in Olympia. Inslee indicated he would sign the bill for meal and rest breaks into law if it passes both chambers. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Lawmakers approve ‘nursing bill’ for mandatory meal and rest breaks

Nurses show up in Olympia to support bill, protest Sen. Walsh’s remarks.

Colton Harris-Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” as seen on a GoFundMe page where he sought to raise $125,000 for flight training. (GoFundMe)
‘Barefoot Bandit’ asks judge to shorten his supervised release

Colton Harris-Moore says travel restrictions are holding back a lucrative public-speaking career.

USPS district manager Darrell Stoke, Janie Hendrix and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) unveil the plaque honorarily naming the Renton Highlands Post Office as the “James Marshall ‘Jimi’ Hendrix Post Office” on Friday, April 19. Photo by Haley Ausbun
Highlands Post Office honors Jimi Hendrix

Postal Service connected Hendrix to family during his Army service.

Walkers rest amid the trees at Island Center Forest on Vashon Island, which is part of King County. Many trees around Western Washington are struggling, including Western hemlock on Vashon, likely from drought stress. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh
King County forests are facing new challenges

Hot, dry summers are stressing native tree species in Western Washington.

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

Federal Way resident competes for top 20 spot on ‘American Idol’

Todd Beamer senior Myra Tran previously won “The X-Factor Vietnam” in 2016.

Photo by Kayse Angel
What’s next for the I-405 master plan?

New express toll lanes from Renton to Bellevue are coming soon.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources/Kari Greer
Western Washington faces elevated wildfire risk in 2019

Humans cause majority of fires in state