By Caleb Hutton, Everett Herald
John Reed was sentenced to life in prison Friday for murdering former B.C. woman Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, over a bitter grudge with his neighbors in the aftermath of the Oso mudslide.
A life sentence was the only option before the judge, under state law.
Reed, 55, testified weeks ago that he shot his next-door neighbors to death in April 2016. He claimed it was self-defense. A Snohomish County jury rejected his story.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss told a packed courtroom Friday that Reed acted as “a cold-blooded killer” when he carried out and covered up the murders. The judge recounted a chilling moment in the trial, when Reed smirked on the witness stand as he told a prosecutor that the state’s theory about the killings was wrong.
“Your demeanor was such that there was absolutely no remorse,” Weiss told the defendant Friday. “At certain points, it almost appeared to be a game — like a game of chess to you.”
To the families of Patenaude and Shunn, the pain is tangible. Patrick Shunn’s uncle shares a first and last name with his nephew, a namesake he’s quite proud of, he said. He held up a small brown urn.
“Your honor, this is all I have left of them,” the elder Patrick Shunn said. “Patrick and Monique, together, and in love. That can’t be taken away from me. I see it on my mantel every day, and every day my anger and disgust overwhelm my normal good feelings.”
For two years, the uncle said, he has felt like a piece of himself has been missing. After the couple’s bodies were found, he went outside and had a long conversation with his deceased nephew, he said. He told him he’d grow his hair in a ponytail, like his nephew, until they found justice.
“It didn’t take me long to realize there is no justice,” he said. His ponytail has grown to his shoulder blades.
Reed was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder in Shunn’s death in May. Jurors found the killing was premeditated. They also found Reed guilty of second-degree murder in Patenaude’s death.
The murders were another loss in a community that had been grieving for years.
The Oso mudslide swept across their neighborhood in March 2014, killing 43 people. Shunn, 45, and Patenaude, 46, lived off Whitman Road, at the edge of the disaster zone. The couple saw the slide from their window, family members told the judge Friday. In the aftermath, the pair rushed to Reed’s home to ensure he was safe.
Yet for the next two years, the neighbors remained in a long-standing dispute over an easement road that passed through their property to Reed’s home. Shortly before the killings, Reed took a federal land buyout. He was supposed to move away. His neighbors reported him for coming back and trespassing on his former land.
In Reed’s version of events, he’d returned to pick up belongings when the couple confronted him, armed. Reed wrestled a pistol from Shunn and shot both of them in the struggle, according to his testimony.
Autopsies suggested the shootings were executions, prosecutors said.
“It’s hard to fathom those actions, with the fairy tale the defendant gave the jury when he testified,” said Craig Matheson, the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.
Matheson told the judge Reed deserved to spend his life in prison.
“Not one time, not (at) one hearing and certainly not when the defendant was on the witness stand … has he ever indicated an inkling of remorse or sorrow,” Matheson said.
Reed’s brother and his parents were entangled in the case, too.
Tony Reed, 51, spent time behind bars for helping to bury the bodies and fleeing to Mexico with his brother. He later turned himself in. Tony Reed served close to a year in the Snohomish County Jail. After that, he spent two nights in state prison, according to public records. He testified against his brother in the trial, with the blessing of John Reed, jurors were told.
The brothers’ parents, Clyde Reed, 83, and Faye Reed, 79, are accused of rendering criminal assistance, a felony. Their next court hearings are set for July 19.
John Reed was caught in Mexico. He wore a striped inmate’s uniform Friday as he was led to his seat at the defense table. His eyes searched the room. Tony Reed arrived in the gallery minutes later, when his brother had turned around to face the judge. Weiss denied a last-ditch effort by the defense seeking a new trial.
John Reed declined to speak at his sentencing.
“My client has maintained his innocence throughout this process,” defense attorney Phil Sayles said.
No one else spoke on Reed’s behalf.
At least a dozen letters were given to the court by family and friends of Patenaude and Shunn. They expressed thanks to the detectives, the attorneys, the search-and-rescue workers and others who fought for justice, and the victim advocates at the prosecutor’s office who have supported them for the past two years.
The families are still healing.
“One of these days,” Shunn’s uncle said, “when I become mentally capable to do this, my family and I will take them to the mountains around our place in Vancouver, Washington, and set them free.”
Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.