A woman and her boyfriend charged with killing six family members in a Christmas Eve massacre apologised to their victims before gunning them down, prosecutors said.
After slaughtering Michele Anderson’s parents, Joseph McEnroe apologised to his girlfriend’s young niece and nephew before shooting both point-blank in the head, prosecutors alleged as they filed aggravated first-degree murder charges.
Although he outlined in detail the attack that left six members of Anderson’s family dead in the rural city of Carnation, Washington, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg was at a loss to explain the motive behind the crimes to which the McEnroe and Anderson confessed.
“In the end, what motive could you find that would make sense of the senseless slaying of the Anderson family?” Mr Satterberg said.
The couple are being charged with the only crime punishable by death in Washington. He has 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
“I pledge to give this case serious consideration for the state’s ultimate punishment,” he said.
The two will appear in court on January 9.
While long-standing bitterness and a perceived family debt might have been factors, the motive for the shootings may never be known.
Court documents said McEnroe, a store clerk, and Anderson, who is unemployed, told detectives they armed themselves on Christmas Eve and went to her parent’s home near Carnation, about 25 miles east of Seattle. There, they confronted Anderson’s parents, Wayne Anderson, 60, and Judy Anderson, 61, in their living room.
Anderson told detectives her brother, a carpenter, had failed to pay her back money he borrowed years earlier and she was upset with her parents for failing to side with her.
Additionally, she said her parents were pressuring her to start paying rent for staying in the trailer on their property.
“Michele stated that she was tired of everybody stepping on her,” the court papers say. “She stated that she was upset with her parents and her brother and that if the problems did not get resolved on December 24, then her intent was definitely to kill everybody.”
Mr Satterberg said Anderson fired once at her father’s head but missed. McEnroe stepped in, levelled his gun and fatally shot Mr Anderson in the head.
Mrs Anderson heard the shots and ran from the back room where she had been wrapping gifts. She was shot by McEnroe, who apologised to her before shooting her again, this time in the head, the court documents said.
Mr Satterberg said that during the next 30 to 45 minutes, the two dragged the bodies to a shed behind the house, used towels and carpets to sop up blood stains. Then they awaited the arrival of the couple’s son, Scott, his wife, Erica – both 32 – and their three-year-old son, Nathan, and six-year-old daughter, Olivia, for a Christmas Eve visit.
Her brother and sister-in-law put up a brave struggle, according to the documents.
“Michele told detectives that Scott charged her when she pulled out the gun and that she shot him at least twice and maybe as many as four times.”
Anderson then shot Erica twice, but she was able to crawl over the back of a couch to call authorities.
McEnroe told detectives he tore the phone from Erica’s hands and destroyed it.
Huddling with her children, Erica pleaded with McEnroe not to shoot her, saying: “You don’t have to do this.”
But McEnroe told her: “Yes, we do,”’ and shot her in the head, according to the affidavit.
He then shot Olivia before turning to Nathan, who had picked up the batteries from the cordless phone his mother had used in her futile attempt to call for help.
Mr Satterberg said McEnroe told detectives he apologised to both children before killing them.
“McEnroe told detectives that Nathan held the batteries up in one hand and gave ’..the look of complete comprehension ... as if he understood.”
McEnroe than fired one last bullet through Nathan’s head, according to the affidavit.
When asked why he shot Erica, Olivia and Nathan, McEnroe told detectives three times: “I didn’t want them to turn us in.”
Anderson told investigators “it was a combination of not wanting them to have to live with the memories and not wanting there to be any witnesses”.
After the killings, McEnroe and Anderson first drove north toward Canada, then south toward the neighbouring state of Oregon arriving at neither destination.
They then decided to go back and pretend to discover the bodies, Mr Satterberg said.
When they arrived on Wednesday, investigators were already there.
Detectives, curious that neither McEnroe nor Anderson asked what had happened at the crime scene, began questioning them and they eventually confessed, according to the documents.