RAYMOND - A Raymond couple were arrested and booked Friday at Pacific County Jail on a variety of charges relating to the disappearance of at least three people, a case that has generated intense statewide interest.
Pacific County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested David Knotek, 50, and Michelle Knotek, 49, at their residence at Monohon Landing Road near Raymond, where they have lived since the late 1980s.
"I've known David forever," former Raymond Mayor Leon Lead told the Associated Press. "He applied for a garbage truck driving job when I was mayor. He blended right in, in fact, I'm surprised they're still around the area. I haven't seen him in years.
"He was the last guy I would think of for something like this, kind of a 'regular Joe.'"
During a preliminary hearing Monday at Pacific County Superior Court, Judge Joel Penoyar set a bail amount of $2 million for each suspect. An arraignment for the Knoteks is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in superior court.
A bizarre chain of events that resulted in the media spotlight focused on Pacific County for the past five days, led to the arrest and imprisonment of the Knoteks, who are suspected of physically and mentally abusing at least two men and possibly a woman who was reported missing in 1994.
According to a 12-pageaffidavit of probable cause issued Monday by the superior court, the case began in 1994 when Kay Thomas reported the disappearance of her daughter, Kathy Loreno, and filed a missing person report. At that time, Loreno was living with the Knoteks at the Monohon Landing Road home.
The affidavit states that Michelle Knotek had been contacted numerous times by Pacific County Sheriff's Deputies about Loreno's disappearance. Knotek told the deputies Loreno had moved to California with a boyfriend.
About two years ago, a man named Ronald Woodworth, who was in his 50s, began living with the couple. During the past two weeks, unidentified witnesses began coming to deputies, giving oral and written statements of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the Knoteks.
The witnesses said "Michelle Knotek had abused Kathy Loreno until she died," according to the affidavit, which also stated that "David Knotek was present when Loreno died and that Michelle and David Knotek burned the body of Loreno to dispose of it." The witnesses also provided deputies with information about other possibly missing persons, including Woodworth and Shane Watson, who was born June 6, 1975. They said Watson also had been living with the Knoteks and had been "missing" since around the time of Loreno's death.
According to the affidavit, one of the witnesses told Pacific County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Bergstrom that Michelle Knotek had killed Woodworth and that she had been abusing Woodworth for several years while he had been living with the couple. The witness also told Bergstrom that "Michelle Knotek had killed Loreno in 1991 and that David Knotek had burned her body to cover up the crime."
Another witness had told Bergstrom in July of 2001 that Loreno had suffered long-term abuse by the Knoteks before her death, according to the affidavit.
Last week, during separate interview with the witnesses, one of them told Bergstrom that Michelle Knotek "had been making Woodworth do chores outside in just his underwear and had made Woodworth jump off things onto the gravel causing serious injuries to his feet," according to the affidavit.
The statement from the witness provided "first-hand knowledge of Woodworth's behavior and activities around the Knotek home" and that Woodworth "was not allowed to wear shoes around the property while doing his chores," and that Michelle Knotek had "treated" injuries to Woodworth's feet "by sticking his feet in boiling hot water, causing the skin on his feet to slough off."
The witness added that David Knotek "did not like Woodworth and that he (David) would hit Woodworth in the mouth ... more than once." Later two of the witnesses said that "such behavior was similar to the way they had seen Michelle Knotek mistreat Kathy Loreno." They provided more details about "torturous acts" by the Knoteks.
Last Thursday, "critical information" was provided to Bergstrom by another witness about the location of various items relating to Woodworth. The witness, according to the affidavit, told Bergstrom "You need to get a search warrant because Ron's clothes are in the pole building - they'll get rid of them soon." The witness also indicated being "fearful of Michelle and David Knotek."
The witness on Thursday described the abuse of Woodworth over the past two years at the Knoteks' home and said Woodworth had "suddenly disappeared."
David Knotek spoke with Bergstrom last Friday, saying he "wanted to talk about events that had recently transpired at his home in regards to the removal of one of his children from the home," according to the affidavit. After Bergstrom advised David Knotek of his Miranda rights, he was interviewed by Bergstrom, saying he "did dig a grave and bury Ron Woodworth ... on the property on Monohon Landing Road," according to the affidavit, and that his wife "had told him that Ron Roodworth had committed suicide and that she became scared due to the fact that a deputy had previously inquired about the disappearance of Kathy Loreno."
Knotek then went with deputies to his property and showed them where he had buried Woodworth. He also told deputies that "he had burned the body of Kathy Loreno" and that she "had become ill and died." The day Loreno died, David Knotek said he checked on her and found her dead. He said he "tried CPR but she was dead." Later that day, he showed deputies where he had burned her body.
Knotek said he didn't call for an ambulance or seek medical aid for Loreno, even though he "recognized that Loreno was very ill," according to the affidavit, which added that David Knotek said he was "scared to call the police and report the death because of injuries on Loreno's body."
The affidavit states that "David Knotek was helpful in providing details, many of which matched the statements previously given by the other witnesses ... ." Knotek indicated to Bergstrom that "he did not believe that Michelle Knotek would have abused either Kathy Loreno or Ron Woodworth" but that "Woodworth had several bruises and cuts on his body the last time he saw him alive" on July 20 but that "he was in good health."
David Knotek told Bergstrom that his wife had called him on July 22, "indicating that Woodworth was dead" and that he had returned home and "buried Woodworth on July 25 in the backyard of their home."
According to David Knotek's statement, he and his wife "had worked together to destroy evidence of the deaths," according to the affidavit.
At that point, David Knotek was taken into custody and booked into Pacific County Jail.
On Friday, deputies arrested Michelle Knotek for investigation of manslaughter and advised her of her Miranda rights. At the time of her arrest, she told Bergstrom and PCSO Deputy Pat Lynn that "Woodworth was still alive" and that her husband had "driven him to Olympia so he could catch a bus to San Diego," a "rehearsed story" that the couple had agreed to tell law enforcement officers, according to the affidavit.
Michelle Knotek was subsequently booked into Pacific County Jail Friday.
After receiving a search warrant Saturday to search the Knotek residence, Pacific County law enforcement officers, assisted by officers from King and Lewis counties, began to search the property.
A human body was located and exhumed based on information provided by David Knotek. The remains "are believed to be those of Ron Woodworth," according to the affidavit, but have not been positively identified. An autopsy is expected to be performed sometime this week.
While questioning the witnesses last Wednesday, Bergstrom learned that Shane Watson "had been living at the Knotek home at the time Kathy Loreno died." He would have been a teen-ager at the time of Loreno's death. The witnesses said they were "concerned that something had happened to ... Watson as they had not seen or heard from him since ... Loreno's death" and that he had "been a witness to the abuse of Kathy Loreno by Michelle Knotek," according to the affidavit.
The witnesses told Bergstrom that "they knew that Shane Watson had taken a photograph of the injuries to Kathy Loreno and that Michelle Knotek found the photograph and had beaten" Watson for having it. They said that about two weeks later, Watson disappeared and they never saw him again.
On Sunday, deputies again spoke with David Knotek at the jail and he agreed to return to his home where he confirmed several sites he had previously told deputies about.
While at the scene Sunday, David Knotek told Pacific County Sheriff John Didion and PCSO Chief Criminal Deputy Ron Clark that Watson had been shot to death with a .22 rifle in a pole building on the property after Kathy Loreno had died. "David Knotek said he burned the body of Shane Watson and disposed of the ashes the same way that he had disposed of Kathy Loreno's ashes - by dumping them at the beach," according to the affidavit. Knotek said he had tried to burn the rifle but only the stock had burned and "the last time he saw the barrel of the gun was in the laundry room of his home."
David Knotek at first maintained that the shooting of Watson "was an accident that occurred in a struggle over the gun," according to the affidavit, after he caught Watson in the pole building holding the rifle and "became angry because the 'rules' of the house were that Watson was not to play with guns." He at first maintained, according to the affidavit, that the gun discharged during a struggle, "hitting Watson in the neck." Knotek also told Clark that he was "always worried that Shane would tell" about the death of Kathy Loreno.
On Monday, David Knotek told King County Sheriff's Department Deputy Jason Brunson that he had fought with Watson before he had shot him and that "he found Shane Watson in the pole building ... holding a rifle," according to the affidavit. "David Knotek said he got the gun away from ... Watson ... stood back several feet ... then shot Shane Watson, hitting hm in the neck or throat area" and that "he bled a lot." The affidavit states that David Knotek cleaned up the blood and "then burned Shane Watson's body like he had Kathy Loreno's ... then took the ashes to the beach.
Knotek told deputies "he has regretted these incidents to this day."
The affidavit outlines probable cause for trial against the couple for the following crimes:
Michelle Knotek - "Murder in the first degree by extreme indifference by engaging in conduct which created a grave risk of death to Kathy Loreno and thereby causing the death of Kathy Loreno or murder in the second degree or manslaughter in the first degree."
"Murder in the first degree by extreme indifference by engaging in conduct which created a grave risk of death to Ron Woodworth and thereby causing the death of Ron Woodworth or murder in the second degree or manslaughter in the first degree."
David Knotek - "Murder in the first degree or murder in the second degree or manslaughter in the first degree and unlawfully disposing of human remains."
"Rendering criminal assistance and unlawfully disposing of human remains in the matter of Kathy Loreno and Ron Woodworth."
Besides the Pacific, Lewis and King county sheriff's departments, law enforcement officers Grays Harbor and Clark counties, King County Medical Examiner's Office and South Bend and Raymond police departments have been searching the Knoteks' home and property since Saturday. The search and investigation will continue until all evidence is recovered, Didion said.
"We're glad we can provide closure to the families of the victims," Clark said Tuesday.