A defense expert said Joseph McEnroe was too submissive and abused by girlfriend Michele Anderson to stop the plot to kill her family.
Joseph McEnroe was too dependent, submissive, weak and abused by his girlfriend to leave her or to stop her from plotting to kill her family, according to a Canadian psychologist who testified for the defense during McEnroe’s murder trial on Wednesday.
In his second day on the stand, Dr. Donald Dutton said McEnroe’s girlfriend, Michele Anderson, wielded such psychological control over McEnroe he was essentially powerless to defy her.
“By dint of his personality,” said Dutton, McEnroe was incapable of weighing options or leaving “because he was so afraid of being abandoned or broken up with.”
McEnroe, 36, is on trial in King County Superior Court on six counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
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He and Anderson are accused of killing Anderson’s parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; their son, Scott, and his wife, Erica Anderson; and the younger couple’s children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan, during a Christmas Eve 2007 gathering at the elder Andersons’ rural Carnation home.
McEnroe’s defense attorneys are not arguing that he did not participate in the slayings. In fact, Dutton testified on Wednesday that McEnroe described firing the fatal shots after Anderson’s gun jammed.
But they say he acted while under the control of Anderson, 36.
Dutton said McEnroe had been a neglected child of a promiscuous mother with mental-health issues.
He had few friends, and most of his adult relationships occurred online, said Dutton, who interviewed McEnroe more than a dozen times before concluding he had both schizotypal and borderline personality disorders.
Dutton said McEnroe was so desperate for a relationship with a woman that on four different occasions he flew or took a bus to meet women he’d never met in person, even sending his possessions on ahead before his arrival.
The fourth woman was Anderson, Dutton said.
Very quickly, he said, Anderson took control of the relationship, limiting McEnroe’s Internet access, refusing to let him get a driver’s license, isolating him and shaming him.
The dynamic between the two had “all the hallmarks of abusive relationships,” Dutton said. It was so unbalanced, he testified, that McEnroe once offered to castrate himself after Anderson raged about his being a “sexist” male.
“I really wish she would just hit me for an hour instead of tearing me down,” said Dutton, reading from McEnroe’s journal. “It’s like walking on broken glass.”
Dutton said that Anderson — whom he described as “paranoid with a mean streak” — kept a hit list of people who had wronged her, and that list included family members, her father in particular.
Living in isolation, with Anderson talking around the clock like a talk-show radio, McEnroe became convinced that Anderson was telling the truth when she said she had been abused by her parents and that her father was sadistic and vicious, Dutton said.
He also believed Anderson when she said she would not be able to evolve to a new spiritual level as long as her parents lived, Dutton said.
He explained that McEnroe, who Dutton said has several other personalities and has long believed he has spirit guides, was bonded to Anderson over their shared conceptions of the supernatural.
Dutton said that McEnroe said Anderson had begun plotting to kill her family about a year before the slayings occurred.
Anderson believed she had to kill her family by herself, McEnroe reportedly told Dutton, but McEnroe was to go along to provide support and protection.
When Anderson failed to kill her father and he charged at her, McEnroe believed it was “life or death” and he stepped in to pull the trigger himself, Dutton testified.
Dutton said McEnroe told him he said, “I’m sorry” to Judy Anderson before shooting her in the head.
The couple then dragged Anderson’s parents to another building on the property and attempted to clean up the blood before Anderson’s brother and his family arrived, Dutton said.
Dutton said McEnroe told him the same scenario played out with the younger Anderson’s family: Michele Anderson pulled the trigger on a gun pointed at her brother, but the gun failed or she missed, and Scott Anderson charged at her before McEnroe killed him.
McEnroe said he then shot Erica Anderson and the two children.
He said Michele Anderson had told him that killing the children was a mercy as they would be free of their “evil” family, Dutton said.
Earlier in the trial, which is expected to continue into the spring, McEnroe’s attorneys played the taped confession Michele Anderson gave sheriff’s investigators after her arrest.
In the confession she blamed herself for planning the slayings and said that McEnroe was only doing what she had instructed him to do.
Anderson’s trial is expected to begin when McEnroe’s is over. If convicted, both McEnroe and Anderson face the death penalty.