King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has announced that he will seek the death penalty for two people charged with killing six members of a Carnation family on Christmas Eve.

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King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced this morning that he will seek the death penalty for two people charged with killing six members of a Carnation family on Christmas Eve.

Michele Anderson and her former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe are each charged with six counts of aggravated murder for the slayings of Anderson’s parents, Wayne, 60, and Judith Anderson, 61; her brother, Scott, and his wife, Erica, both 32; and the couple’s two children, Olivia, 5, and Nathan, 3, inside the elder Andersons’ Carnation home.

“Given the magnitude of these alleged crimes, the slaying of three generations of a family, and particularly the slaying of two young children, I find that there are not sufficient reasons to keep the death penalty from being considered by the juries that will ultimately hear these matters,” Satterberg wrote in a statement announcing his intention to seek the death penalty.

During a brief court hearing this afternoon, the prosecutor’s office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Neither Anderson nor McEnroe attended the hearing.

Stephan R. Illa, Anderson’s lawyer, called the decision to seek the death penalty against his client, “a mistake.”

“This case involves substantial mitigating evidence, evidence that will be presented to a jury. This mitigating evidence makes Ms. Anderson an inappropriate candidate for the death penalty,” Illa said. “We are confident that a jury will agree.”

Illa would not say what the mitigating evidence is.

Some legal experts say prosecutors could have a difficult time persuading a King County jury to impose the death penalty in the case because of Michele Anderson’s confession and the fact that she is a woman.

Washington state has executed 77 inmates — all men — since 1904. In more than a quarter-century Washington prosecutors have only sought to execute two women.

The most recent was in 2003 in Snohomish County, where jurors decided against execution and instead sentenced Barbara Opel to life in prison without parole for persuading five teens, including her 13-year-old daughter, to fatally beat Jerry Heimann of Everett.

Local legal experts wonder whether Anderson and McEnroe will get a fair trial because of her confession and insistence that she deserves to be put to death.

Anderson told The Times during a jailhouse interview on June 27 that she and McEnroe killed her family in a fit of rage and claimed that she had suffered years of physical and emotional abuse. In the interview, Anderson, 30, said she wanted to be executed. McEnroe, 29, during an interview with The Times, expressed sadness that Anderson’s family was gone and hoped they were “at peace.”

The only possible punishments for aggravated murder are execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Anderson has been found mentally competent to stand trial, though her attorneys have argued that she’s not currently competent.

Anderson’s confession and insistence that she wanted to plead guilty had been moot until Satterberg’s decision. State law prevents a defendant from entering a plea other than not guilty in a death-penalty case before a decision on execution is made.

Illa said today that Anderson is aware of Satterberg’s decision and that the case will go forward to a trial.

“Now that the prosector has decided to seek the death sentence, Ms. Anderson and her defense team will fight to save her life,” Illa said.

If the case against Anderson goes to trial, her widely publicized confession could make it difficult to find an impartial jury and might complicate her future now that the death penalty is being sought, said two Seattle lawyers.

Jurors often feel a moral dilemma when imposing a death sentence on a defendant, but knowing Anderson’s wish to die could ease that burden, said one Seattle lawyer who asked not to have his name published because of his connection with the case.

Seattle defense attorney Tim Ford said it is common for defendants facing the possibility of capital punishment to seek execution only to later change their minds.

“It is very depressing to realize that you are in that type of situation. It can lead people to do desperate things or foolish things, things that they later rue the day they did,” said Ford, who is not connected to the Carnation case. “It’s not uncommon for people who are charged with these kind of crimes to have emotional problems or to feel terrible remorse.”

Ford said Anderson’s comments will be admissible for prosecutors in presenting their case.

“I have never had a circumstance quite as unfortunate as this one in that respect,” he added.

This was the first time that Satterberg has weighed the death penalty since taking over as prosecutor following the death of Norm Maleng in May 2007. Satterberg was named interim prosecutor after Maleng’s death and was elected to the position last November.

It’s also only the second time King County has pursued the death penalty since Maleng sought it for Green River killer Gary L. Ridgway, whose case has become a litmus test of sorts with regard to the death penalty in Washington state. Prosecutors eventually gave up on capital punishment in exchange for Ridgway’s cooperation, during which he provided detectives details that helped solve dozens of open murder cases. Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison.

King County’s other potential death-penalty case involves Conner Schierman, who is accused of killing his Kirkland neighbor Olga Milkin, 28; her sister Lyubov Botvina, 24; and Milkin’s two sons, Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3, on July 17, 2006.

King County sheriff’s investigators say that Anderson and McEnroe armed themselves with handguns just before 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, entered her parents’ home and fatally shot the couple.

When Scott and Erica Anderson and their children arrived a little while later, they were shot and killed as well.

Former neighbors of Wayne and Judith Anderson described the suspects as misfits who kept to themselves. One neighbor said Michele Anderson often referred to herself as the “black sheep” of her family, but that Anderson’s mother came about once a month bearing food and other items.

Anderson told police she was tired of her family failing to show her respect and insisting that she and McEnroe pay rent for the trailer she shared with McEnroe. She told The Times that she was abused physically and emotionally for a long time, including that she was told that she should never have been born.

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

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.