The last thing Erica Anderson did was try to protect her children. The 32-year-old woman's husband was dead or dying, and she had been shot...
The last thing Erica Anderson did was try to protect her children.
The 32-year-old woman’s husband was dead or dying, and she had been shot twice during a Christmas Eve ambush at her in-laws’ rural Carnation home. Still, she managed to crawl over the back of a couch and dial 911 on a cordless phone.
But before she had a chance to speak, according to graphic court documents filed Friday, Joseph McEnroe — armed with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun — walked up and pulled the phone from her hand and popped out the batteries. McEnroe, according to the documents, “allowed [Erica] to huddle with her children before he shot [her] in the head.”
Most Read Local Stories
- Seattle shrinking? Seattleites moved out in droves in 2020, though most didn't go far
- Gov. Inslee: Law enforcement, firefighters, grocery workers to get COVID-19 vaccines in March
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 5: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 6: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- What federal approval of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine means for Washington state
“McEnroe made sure to mention that he apologized to [Erica] after she pleaded with him not to shoot her, saying ‘… You don’t have to do this,’ ” according to the court papers. “McEnroe recalled how he looked at her and said, ‘… Yes, we do.’ “
McEnroe shot 5-year-old Olivia Anderson in the head “at very close range,” said Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. Then he turned to 3-year-old Nathan Anderson, the last survivor in the home.
The boy had picked up the batteries McEnroe had torn from the phone and held them up in one hand. McEnroe told detectives the child gave him “… the look of complete comprehension … as if he understood.” McEnroe then shot him in the head as well, according to the documents.
“I didn’t want them to turn us in,” McEnroe explained, the documents say.
McEnroe and Michele Kristen Anderson, both 29, were charged Friday with six counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the slaughter at Michele Anderson’s parents’ home. Satterberg said his office will take a hard look at whether it will seek the death penalty, given the horrific details that have emerged from the investigation.
The pair are being held without bail and will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 9.
Satterberg will have 30 days from the arraignment to decide whether to seek the death penalty. The only other sentence allowed for an aggravated-murder conviction is life in prison without parole.
“Given the magnitude of this crime, I pledge to give this case serious consideration for the state’s ultimate penalty,” said Satterberg.
Also dead are Wayne Anderson, 60, and his wife, Judith, 61, who were killed before Scott and Erica Anderson arrived with their children for a Christmas Eve celebration.
The charges detail what police say was a planned ambush and execution of the Anderson family.
According to those court documents, Michele Anderson told police she was tired “of everybody stepping on her,” and she had decided if her family did not start showing her respect by Dec. 24, she would kill them all.
According to the 16-page charges, Anderson told police that she had lent her brother, Scott Anderson, money and hadn’t been repaid. The relationship between the once-close siblings had soured after Scott Anderson married Erica. And Michele Anderson was angry that her parents, Judy and Wayne Anderson, were pressuring her to pay rent for the trailer she shared with McEnroe on their wooded Carnation property, she told police.
As it grew dark on Dec. 24, the couple armed themselves with the handguns they had purchased from a pawnshop over the summer and drove 200 yards from their trailer to Wayne and Judy Anderson’s small white house, according to the reports.
McEnroe joined Judy Anderson in a back room, where she was wrapping Christmas gifts for her grandchildren. Michele Anderson encountered Wayne Anderson first, police said, and fired her 9 mm handgun at her father but apparently missed him. Hearing the shot, Judy Anderson and McEnroe ran into the room, where McEnroe shot Wayne Anderson in the head, they told police. As Judy Anderson began to scream, McEnroe shot her and she fell to the floor, police said. She continued to scream, “so he apologized to her and then shot her again, this time in the head,” according to the documents.
Michele Anderson’s parents dead, the couple allegedly then prepared for the arrival of Scott Anderson and his family, who were coming from their home in Black Diamond for a planned Christmas Eve dinner.
They dragged the bodies to an outdoor shed, used blankets and towels to clean up blood and burned evidence in a fire pit, according to documents and information from Satterberg.
Michele confronted her brother when he arrived, and he charged her when she pulled out the gun, she told detectives. She thought she shot him at least twice, and as many as four times, and told detectives she also shot Erica twice before the wounded woman scrambled over the couch and tried to call for help that never arrived.
The King County Sheriff’s Office has launched an internal investigation to determine why two deputies who were dispatched to check on the call from the Anderson home turned away at a locked gate and never checked on the residence. The bodies weren’t found until Dec. 26.
“We’re looking into that right now,” King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said. “I’m very concerned about that.”
But police believe all the victims were dead by the time the deputies arrived at the property, she said.
Former neighbors, classmates and family members have painted a picture of the suspects as a paranoid couple who blacked out their windows and spoke of people out to get them.
Family friend Mark Bennett said Friday that Michele had been somewhat estranged from some of her family members, including a surviving sister, Mary, for the past several months.
“Mary had fears about her sister, not just that she thought she was crazy, but based on her anti-social behavior,” Bennett said. “Michele wouldn’t return phone calls. Looking back, it seems something had been in the air for some time.”
He didn’t think the family had felt they were ever in danger from Michele, however. “If they had, they would have had her arrested a long time ago,” he said.
The bodies of the victims were discovered Wednesday by one of Judy Anderson’s co-workers.
The King County Medical Examiner had not released results from the autopsies Friday.
Satterberg said Michele Anderson and McEnroe intended to escape to Canada when they returned to the crime scene, a wooded property about 3 miles from downtown Carnation, with a plan to pretend they discovered the bodies. After being interviewed separately by deputies, they were booked.
The slayings have shocked the small towns of Carnation, where Judy Anderson was a well-known mail carrier, and Black Diamond, where Scott and Erica Anderson and their children lived. Wayne Anderson was a Boeing employee.
Satterberg said he would consider the wishes of the victims’ family when making a decision about the death penalty, as well as any mitigating factors that defense attorneys present, but ultimately would make the decision on his own.
Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times staff reporters Christine Clarridge and Rachel Tuinstra contributed to this report.