Carnation, Washington is located about 25 miles east of Washington’s largest city, Seattle. Although it has status as a ‘city’, Carnation takes up all of 1.1 square miles and is home to just over 2100 people. The landscape is rural and most residents are employed in farming. According to the City of Carnation website, ‘Carnation is in one of the most productive agricultural regions in the Northwest.’ Surrounded by the Cascade foothills and right on the Snoqualmie River, Carnation is the perfect spot to experience the unspoiled landscape of the Northwest and spend time in nature.
Given its small size, Carnation is a close-knit and friendly community where everybody knows one another. The city hosts annual July 4 and fall harvest celebrations, during which residents get together and enjoy the company of their long-time friends and neighbours.
The area is safe and considered a good place to raise a family. There are the odd burglary and theft cases, but violent crime is rare, if not virtually unheard of. This was true up until December 24 2007; the day one of the worst murder cases in Washington State history hit Carnation. The festive season has never been quite the same since.
The Anderson Family
Judy Anderson (61) and Wayne Anderson (60) had been happily married for 31 years. Judy worked for the US Postal Service, while Wayne was an engineer for Boeing. Together they had three children, Mary, Scott (32) and Michele (29). Scott was married to Erica, also 32, and together they had two children, Olivia (5) and Nathan (3). Michele Anderson lived with her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, also 29, in a trailer on the 10-acre property owned by Judy and Wayne.
Christmas Eve, 2007
The family had planned a gathering at Wayne and Judy’s house for Christmas Eve. The Anderson home was festive and cosy that afternoon; the Christmas tree lights were blinking and the smell of roast dinner cooking was emanating from the kitchen. Judy sat wrapping gifts in preparation for her grandchildren’s arrival. Wayne sat on the couch relaxing and watching TV.
Then everything changed: the relaxed and joyous atmosphere at the Anderson home turned to complete chaos in just a matter of seconds. Michele Anderson and McEnroe entered, each armed with a handgun. McEnroe distracted Judy while Anderson shot at Wayne. Anderson’s gun jammed, so McEnroe shot Wayne and then Judy, killing them both.
McEnroe and Anderson cleaned the room and dragged the bodies of Judy and Wayne into a shed behind the house. They then sat, waiting for the arrival of Scott, Erica and their two children.
After about an hour, the family arrived. Nothing seemed amiss, so they began to get comfortable. That’s when Anderson and McEnroe appeared, and Anderson opened fire on Scott, shooting him a total of four times.
Erica called 911 around 5pm and screamed down the phone, ‘not the kids’, but before authorities are able to find out what was going on, the phone went dead. Anderson then shot Erica twice. When Anderson found she had run out of bullets, she told McEnroe he needs to shoot the kids, who are screaming and clinging to Erica. McEnroe does as Anderson says. With 14 bullets, Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe wiped out all six of Anderson’s family members.
In response to Erica’s 911 call, authorities are dispatched to the Anderson property. But Anderson, knowing the police were likely to come, had already locked the gate to the property. The police retreated, not realizing the extent of the carnage taking place behind the locked gate.
A Horrifying Discovery
Postal workers return to work on December 26, so when Linda Thiele reported to work that morning, she was surprised by the absence of her best friend, Judy Anderson. Thiele was convinced something was badly wrong. She left work and made her way to Judy’s house, arriving shortly after 8am.
The gate was still locked, so Thiele got out of her car and walked around it, approaching the front door. She knocked, but nobody answered, so she tried the door, which was unlocked. On pushing the door open wider, she saw it: the body of Scott Anderson lying motionless on the floor. At first, Thiele thought he had carbon monoxide poisoning, but a closer look revealed he had been shot in the head. Not far from Scott lay the bodies of Erica and Nathan, who had similar injuries.
Thiele did not have her cell phone, so she rushed into Judy and Wayne’s bedroom and called 911 from their landline.
“Hi, there’s been a murder. I just came up; she (Judy) works with me.”
The operator asked Linda who was there.
“There's a baby, a man and woman, and she's my best friend.”
Thiele was too frightened to look at Erica’s body and assumed it was Judy’s. The phone call between Thiele and the operator lasted around 30 minutes. Thiele told the operator that Judy and Wayne’s daughter, Michele, lived on the property in a mobile home, and Michele had been upset with Judy and Wayne over money. Thiele worried that Michele may have been involved in the killings: "The gate is locked, which makes me wonder if her daughter did it, which is scary, 'cause then I might be up here with a murderer."
Police arrived at 9:30am. First they found Scott, Erica and Nathan, and on closer inspection, Olivia, huddled behind her mother. All four had been shot in the head. They began combing the home for evidence. When an officer ventured outside to the shed, the bodies of Judy and Wayne were discovered.
Around 3 hours after the police arrived, Anderson and McEnroe pulled up to Wayne and Judy’s house. They did not seem phased by the police cars surrounding the property, nor did they ask if Wayne and Judy were okay, which raised officers’ suspicions right away.
The authorities then began questioning Anderson and McEnroe. Anderson told them that they had been on their way to Las Vegas to get married, but when they got lost, they turned around and came home. Anderson told the detectives that the last time she had seen her parents was Christmas Eve, before heading to Las Vegas.
When a detective asked Anderson why she thought the authorities were at her house, she broke down:
“It’s not Joe’s fault. It’s all my fault,” Anderson exclaimed. "As soon as I shot the gun, I felt so bad, like what the hell have I done? I'm a monster."
The detective asked Anderson why the children had been killed, and Anderson explained that they would be scarred for life after seeing what had happened to their parents.
Anderson was questioned as to why she felt the need to wipe out her family. She told detectives that she was “tired of everybody stepping on” her, claiming that her brother Scott owed her $40,000 and would not pay her back, and that her parents had begun pressing her about paying rent money for living in the mobile home on their property, after she and McEnroe had lived there for a year free of charge. It became clear to detectives that money was at the heart of the heinous crime.
When questioned about how long she had been planning the murders, Anderson replied that she had decided 2 weeks ago that she would kill her family, and asked that McEnroe help her.
After Anderson and McEnroe’s confession, which went on for nearly two hours and detailed who killed who, the two were arrested on the spot. Anderson led detectives to where she and McEnroe had discarded of the two guns in the Stillaguamish River.
On December 28, Anderson and McEnroe were each charged with 6 counts of aggravated murder.
In June 2008, during a jailhouse interview with The Seattle Times, Anderson confessed to the murders once again: “I want the most severe punishment, which would be the death penalty. I think if I kill a bunch of people, I’m not sure I deserve to live…I want to waive my trial.”
A Long Road To Justice
Despite the fact Anderson and McEnroe both confessed to the murders, the process was drawn out for a number of years, costing taxpayers millions.
In October 2008, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said he would seek the death penalty for McEnroe and Anderson. However, this received significant pushback from Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, who ruled against it. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee also said that no one would be executed while he was in office.
On September 5 2013, the Washington State Supreme Court overturned Judge Ramsdell’s ruling regarding the death penalty and ordered that the trials of Anderson and McEnroe go ahead. They were to be tried separately.
Joseph McEnroe’s Trial
On January 20 2015, McEnroe was escorted to King County Superior Court in Seattle for his trial. King Country prosecutor Scott O’Toole was pushing for McEnroe to be sentenced to death, while McEnroe’s defence attorney argued that McEnroe was mentally ill and had been coerced into killing the family by Anderson.
On March 25 2015, the jury found McEnroe guilty of 6 counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
McEnroe showed little emotion through most of the trial. This changed, however, when he took the stand on April 3 2015. He was barely able to string sentences together, due to being so heavily medicated with anti-anxiety and anti-depressants. At one point, he began laughing hysterically. When describing the look on Judy Anderson’s face when he shot her, he put is arms over his head and began rocking back and forth uncontrollably.
McEnroe claimed that Anderson had manipulated him and that he felt he had no choice but to participate in the killings. Prosecutors, however, wanted to convince the jury that McEnroe played an equal role.
On being questioned by Prosecutor O’Toole, McEnroe lashed out: “You know what, fuck it. If you want to kill me, go ahead. Kill me. I don’t care.”
In reference to the plans to murder the Anderson, O’Toole asked McEnroe: “You were excited about it, were you not?”
“Absolutely not”, McEnroe replied.
O’Toole pressed McEnroe, asking him if it was his idea to “bait the trap” for Scott, Erica and the children, by cleaning the house and hiding the bodies of Judy and Wayne in the shed.
McEnroe replied that he was not trying to excuse his actions, but rather only explain what happened.
O’Toole also told the jury that Michele Anderson could not load the guns, so McEnroe did it for her. McEnroe also brought extra bullets. “I think we’ve established … none of these murders would have happened without you,” said O’Toole.
“Unfortunately, that is completely true, yes,” McEnroe agreed with O’Toole.
In Washington State, for the jury to recommend the death penalty, all 12 jurors must be in favor. In the case of McEnroe, however, 8 jurors ruled in favor of sentencing Anderson to death, while 4 did not. This meant the death penalty was not an option.
On May 13 2015, McEnroe was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In response to reporters questions regarding the outcome of McEnroe’s trial, Pam Mantle, Erica’s mother, said: "He has no respect for anybody. He had no respect for the two people that were the kindest to him, which were Wayne and Judy, who took him in, and he shot them and threw them in the back yard. I have nothing to say about him."
Michele Anderson’s Trial
As a result of the outcome of McEnroe’s trial, King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced that Michele Anderson would not face the death penalty. He said: “To proceed with the death penalty against defendant Anderson, in light of the sentence imposed on defendant McEnroe, would not be in the interest of justice.”
On January 25 2016, Anderson’s trial began. In his opening statements, O’Toole stated that “the motive for these murders is pure, unadulterated greed,” referring to an interview Anderson had with a detective, in which she brought up money more than 35 times in her explanation as to why she killed her family.
The tape of Anderson’s confession sent mixed messages to the jury; she called herself a ‘monster’ and a ‘bad person’ for murdering her family, then said her mother, father and brother had abused her over the years.
“I wasted my life because of these assholes. It’s not fair,” she said.
It was also revealed during the trial that Anderson hated Erica, because she felt that Erica had pushed her out of her brother’s life. “Erica was the person that Michele Anderson truly, truly hated,” Mr O’Toole said.
Towards the end of her trial, Anderson had an outburst, in which she yelled at Judge Ramsdell, telling him she was going to file charges against her court appointed attorneys, whom she was convinced had been lying to her. She had wanted to temporarily leave jail and find her own private counsel, but she was not granted permission to do so. For this she blamed the judge, who she said was ‘violating her rights’.
Anderson’s attorneys did not call a single witness to the stand during her trial, citing how difficult she had been, refusing to cooperate or communicate with them for years.
On March 4 2016, Anderson, like McEnroe, was convicted of 6 counts of aggravated murder in the first degree, and on April 21, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During her sentencing hearing, Pam Mantle addressed Anderson: “I don’t think you’re big and tough, Michele. I think you’re a bully and a coward. I am broken-hearted. Every day, I miss those six people.”
Michele’s older sister, Mary, said to Michele: “It kills me. I loved you so much. Just know they loved you.”