A King County Superior Court judge has ruled that Joseph McEnroe, who is accused of killing a family of six in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007, will be tried before his co-defendant ex-girlfriend.

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A King County Superior Court judge has ruled that Joseph McEnroe, who is accused of killing a family of six in Carnation on Christmas Eve 2007, will be tried before his co-defendant ex-girlfriend.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell made the ruling last week during a pretrial hearing. While McEnroe’s trial is to start in January, a trial date has not been set for Michele Anderson.

McEnroe and Anderson could face the death penalty if convicted.

The two were arrested shortly after members of Anderson’s family were found slain in her parents’ Carnation-area home. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple’s children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

The crimes were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2008, Anderson told The Seattle Times in a jailhouse interview that she committed the killings and wanted to die.

McEnroe’s lawyers are expected to ask Ramsdell to reconsider his ruling that McEnroe will be tried first. The defendants, their legal teams and the prosecution are expected to return to court Nov. 1 for another pretrial hearing.

McEnroe’s defense team has argued for the two defendants to be tried together or for Anderson to be tried first, according to Ramsdell’s Oct. 17 ruling.

The defense team “postulates” that if Anderson is tried first and not sentenced to death, jurors in McEnroe’s trial would be aware of that and “think it unfair to sentence Mr. McEnroe to death,” the ruling said.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the amount of money spent preparing for the two trials is the most spent on a potential death-penalty case since the prosecution of Green River killer Gary L. Ridgway. As of last summer, trial costs for the two defendants had reached almost $5 million.

McEnroe’s defense team could not be reached Tuesday to comment, but earlier this year Kathryn Ross, team leader, justified the legal costs, saying there is “nothing that’s being done [by the defense] that’s unnecessary.”

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said, “We’re ready to proceed to trial.”

“The choice of which case went first was up to the judge, and we’ll proceed in the order the judge has decided,” Goodhew said.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

Information from Times archives is included in this report.