A woman and her boyfriend have admitted to methodically gunning down her parents and four other family members in rural Washington on Christmas Eve, according to a police affidavit filed in court on Thursday.
Michele Kristen Anderson and Joseph McEnroe, both 29, were ordered held without bail after a Thursday court appearance. Formal charges are expected to be filed on Friday by the prosecutor, according to Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff's Office in Seattle.
The victims included Anderson's parents, Wayne Anderson, 60, and Judy Anderson, 61, as well as their daughter, son-in-law, and the younger couple's 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. The bodies were discovered by a postal worker and colleague of Judy Anderson.
McEnroe and Anderson shot her parents using large-caliber pistols and dragged the bodies to a shed, authorities wrote in the affidavits, which were based on statements the suspects gave to authorities.
A short time later, the Anderson's son, Scott, his wife Erica, and children Olivia, 6, and Nathan, 3, arrived for a Christmas Eve visit. "Knowing that Scott and his family where potential witnesses, Joe and Michele shot them," sheriff's Detective John Pavlovich wrote.
After the killings, they tried to flee to Canada, court documents said, but they returned the following day and were detained.
Anderson told authorities both of them shot her parents, brother and sister-in-law, but McEnroe killed the children, according to the affidavit.
McEnroe appeared briefly in the courtroom, but then left with his attorney, who came back and said he waived his right to appear.
Michele Anderson's attorney, public defender George Eppler, said he spoke with her briefly before the hearing. But when asked if she admitted guilt, Eppler said, "We limited our conversation solely to the issue of today's court appearance."
Sean Johnson, McEnroe's mother, told ABC News that she was not able to speak with her son, but was "really shocked" by the news, which she found "surreal."
Though she had not spoken to her son in several years, the single mother of four said McEnroe — her eldest son — helped her around the house, and was the type of person who would "bend over backwards to help others."
Johnson said that McEnroe and Michele were supposed to be married two years ago, but she did not know why they did not wed. "Joey is a person who, when he sees a troubled soul, he'll help that person. Maybe that's why [he and Michele Anderson] got together," Johnson speculated.
Johnson had spoken only once on the phone with Michele, but said she "seemed like a nice girl."
According to his mother, McEnroe worked for a Target store for about three or four years while he lived in Minnesota, and then moved to work for Target in Washington state. She described his role as a manager.
A law enforcement source told the Seattle Times that investigators believe Anderson and McEnroe both shot the victims in a dispute — possibly over money. Johnson said her son did not have any issues over money. "Joey [McEnroe] knew money was important, but not life or death — when it comes, it comes. Being in a single-mom family, he knew there was always the next paycheck."
Mark Bennett, a family friend and neighbor, also said he knew of no money troubles or arguments within the Anderson family, and he described Wayne and Judy Anderson as a hardworking couple.
Mike Gould, a friend and neighbor of Scott Anderson, described Scott and Erica Anderson as a typical family where Scott worked long hours so Erica could stay at home with their children. Gould said Scott Anderson was "fairly close with his family."
McEnroe's distraught mother speculated, "[Joseph] might have tried to stop [Michele] if she was uncontrollable. Maybe he was trying to help her cover up. That's the only thing I can think of, from what I see. Maybe he was trying to protect her at all costs."
Michele and McEnroe lived in a trailer about 200 yards from the home where the elder Andersons lived. Bennett described the older Anderson couple as private people who "enjoyed their privacy, living up in the hills — not surrounded by close neighbors."
He said the relationship between the Anderson parents and their daughter Michele, was, "if not estranged, then very strange," adding, "they just didn't talk."
Bennett added that Michele tended to stay by herself, and appeared somewhat jealous of her older siblings Scott and Mary. Michele did not have particularly strong self-esteem, Bennett said, and "did not feel she was loved equally."
Judy Anderson had invited Bennett to drop in on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but when Bennett called the Anderson home at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, no one picked up. He assumed the family was outside somewhere on their 11-acre property. Urquhart told the AP that the family was likely killed in the late afternoon or early evening on Christmas Eve.
Police will also investigate why two sheriff's deputies, who responded to the 911 call from the family's trailer home at 5:13 p.m. on Christmas Eve, left the scene without confirming there was nothing wrong inside. The 911 hang-up call lasted ten seconds, and the call receiver noted there was "a lot of yelling in the background ... sounded more like party noise than angry, heated arguing." The dispatcher's log reported the deputies who showed up at the scene, saying, "Gate is locked, unable to gain access."
According to Urquhart, "Right now, the total focus is on getting [Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe] charged tomorrow — then, we will look at the two deputies."
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.