Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Michelle L. KNOTEK





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Abuse - Torture
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: 1994 / 2003
Date of arrest: August 8, 2003
Date of birth: 1954
Victims profile: Kathy Loreno, 36, and Ronald Woodworth, 57 (boarders in Knotek's home)
Method of murder: Prolonged abuse
Location: Raymond, Pacific County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 22 years in prison on August 18, 2004
photo gallery

Michelle Knotek is a former Raymond, Washington, woman who was convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the torture and deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth, who were both boarders in Knotek's home. Her husband, David Knotek, was also convicted of the murder of his 19-year-old nephew Shane Watson, who lived with the Knoteks.

Michelle Knotek was sentenced to 22 years in prison, which she is serving at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor; her husband David Knotek is serving a 15-year prison sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex. The Knoteks' crimes made national headlines due to allegations of abuse and torture.


Kathy Loreno

Kathy Loreno was a hairdresser working in South Bend, Washington, when she met Michelle Knotek, and the two became friends. In 1991 after an argument between Loreno and her family, Loreno moved out of their home and into the home of Michelle and David Knotek. During her stay at the Knoteks' home, it was alleged that Loreno suffered physical abuse.

In 1994, Loreno was reported missing by family members. When interviewed by authorities, the Knoteks stated that Loreno had run away with a truck driver and moved to Hawaii. Michelle Knotek maintained that she and Loreno were in regular contact.

However, a private investigator hired by Loreno's brother concluded that she had probably been murdered by Michelle Knotek. David Knotek claimed that Loreno died by asphyxiating on her own vomit, but he did not take her to a hospital or report her death to police because of the physical injuries to Loreno's body.

Shane Watson

Shane Watson, born in 1975 in Tacoma, was Michelle Knotek's nephew. Watson moved in with the Knoteks around 1993. Shortly after Loreno's disappearance in 1994, Watson seemingly vanished too. The Knoteks initially claimed that Watson had run away to Alaska to work on a fishing vessel. David Knotek later claimed that he had shot Watson with a .22 caliber rifle.

Investigators alleged that David Knotek killed Watson because Michelle was enraged that Watson took pictures documenting the abuse of Loreno. David Knotek also stated that he burned the bodies of Shane Watson and Kathy Loreno and scattered their ashes at the beach.

Ronald Woodworth

Ronald Woodworth was a local man who went to live with the Knoteks around 2001. Like Kathy Loreno, Woodworth was also subject to severe physical abuse. Witnesses described seeing Woodworth being forced to do chores outside wearing only his underwear, and to jump from the second story roof onto gravel, wearing nothing on his feet causing broken bones and severe lacerations.

They also claimed that Michelle Knotek would burn Woodworth's injured feet with boiling water and pure bleach. Woodworth went missing in 2003. David Knotek later admitted to burying Woodworth's body on their property after Michelle told him that Woodworth had committed suicide. An autopsy performed by the King County medical examiner proved that Woodworth's death was murder.


The Pacific County Deputy Prosecutor stated that Michelle Knotek showed "extreme indifference to human life"; Michelle was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth. David Knotek was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Shane Watson; he was also charged with rendering criminal assistance and unlawful disposal of human remains.

Through plea negotiations, both Knoteks pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 2004. Michelle Knotek entered an Alford plea, in which she did not admit responsibility but acknowledged the prosecutor's case against her. She pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter. While an initial agreement with prosecutors would have sent her to prison for 17 years, Judge Mark McCauley sentenced her to 22 years in prison.

David Knotek was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Shane Watson. He is eligible for parole in 2019. The daughters communicate with him, but not with their mother, because they believe any contact with her would endanger them and their families.

Michelle Knotek later tried to have her convictions overturned, but her appeal was denied by the Washington Court of Appeals.

In the Media

The Knoteks' case has been featured on several television programs, including Wicked Attraction, Sins and Secrets, and Snapped.


Woman gets 22 years in deaths of boarders

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

August 19, 2004

SOUTH BEND -- Michelle Knotek was sentenced yesterday to more than 22 years in prison for her role in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth, who were boarders in her Raymond home when they died.

Knotek and her husband, David, were arrested last summer when human remains were found on their property. After Pacific County prosecutors decided they could not make first-degree murder charges stick, they charged Michelle Knotek, 50, with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

In June, she entered a so-called Alford plea of guilty to the charges, and reached an agreement with prosecutors that would have sent her to prison for 17 years. In her plea, she did not admit her guilt but acknowledged that a jury likely would find her guilty.

Judge Mark McCauley yesterday sentenced her to a term longer than that agreement -- 13 years and eight months on the murder charge and eight years and five months on the manslaughter charge.

David Knotek had earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his nephew, Shane Watson, and is scheduled to be sentenced next Thursday.


Woman enters Alford plea in murder case

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

June 20, 2004

SOUTH BEND -- A woman accused of torturing and killing two people who once boarded at her home in rural Pacific County has entered modified guilty pleas.

Although she maintained her innocence, Michelle Knotek acknowledged that a jury would most likely have found her guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of Kathy Loreno, 36, and Ronald Woodworth, 57.

Looking pale and much thinner than she did at her last court appearance several months ago, Knotek, 50, entered her Alford pleas in Pacific County Superior Court on Friday.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors reached an agreement that would send Knotek to prison for nearly 17 years, but Judge Mark McCauley said he needed more time to consider it. He delayed sentencing for 40 days, noting that he could send Knotek to prison for 22 years without giving her the opportunity to appeal.

Knotek and her husband, David, were arrested in August after their daughters told police their parents had tortured and killed three people at their farmhouse in Raymond in the past 15 years.

About five months later, David Knotek pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his wife's teenage nephew, Shane Watson, in the early 1990s. He told prosecutors he shot and killed Watson and also buried Woodworth's body after Woodworth died.


Blood, hair samples are sought from Raymond couple

The Associated Press

August 20, 2003

Pacific County prosecutors are seeking blood, hair and fingernail samples from Michelle and David Knotek to help determine whether they poisoned two people who died at their home.

The Raymond husband and wife are accused of killing three people over the past decade, torturing and abusing two of them to death. The third was shot, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors also want handwriting samples from the Knoteks.

Pacific County Deputy Prosecutor Lori Miller said in court papers that investigators found correspondence attributed to the victims that they believe may have been forged.

Michelle Knotek, 49, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of 36- year-old hairdresser Kathy Loreno, who disappeared in 1994, and 57-year-old Ronald Woodworth, who vanished last month. She has pleaded not guilty.

David Knotek, 51, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his nephew, 19-year-old Shane Watson. According to court affidavits, Watson was killed because he had documented the abuse of Loreno with photographs. David Knotek has not yet entered a plea.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys have asked that Superior Court Judge Joel Penoyar be replaced, alleging he is prejudiced, The (Aberdeen) Daily World reported. Penoyar noted at one of the couple's early court hearings that he was a lawyer for Michelle Knotek in a 1988 guardianship case involving Watson.

Defense attorney Scott Harmer, who is representing Michelle Knotek, filed for the judge's removal last Friday. A similar request was filed Monday by David Knotek.

The Knoteks are jailed on $5 million bail each.

Loreno, Woodworth and Watson all lived at the Knoteks' home. Human remains, believed to be those of Woodworth's, were discovered in the yard of the little red farm house.

According to affidavits, David Knotek said he burned the bodies of Loreno and Watson and scattered the ashes.

Prosecutors have released few details of their case, but Miller's motions offer some insight.

She told the court she believes that the blood, hair and fingernail samples may show that one or both of the Knoteks were poisoning their alleged victims.

"The facts of this investigation so far indicate that some or all of the victims in this case were chronically abused," Miller said, "and furthermore, investigators have reasonable cause to suspect that the victims herein may have been administered some type of poisonous compounds or medications that caused the victims to be in a seriously compromised, weakened state of health."

Miller also said David Knotek's employer told investigators the man was having health problems before his arrest Aug. 8. The employer told investigators that Knotek's performance drastically deteriorated during the six months before he was arrested.

Miller has refused to elaborate on what she hopes to learn from the samples.

Investigators have searched the Knoteks' residence on Monohon Landing Road and the former home of the late James "Mac" McClintock, who died in February 2002 of a "blunt force" injury while under the care of Michelle Knotek.

She told medics the elderly man had fallen. The cause of that injury remains "undetermined," according to his death certificate.

During the searches, investigators found items belonging to victims, Miller said. At McClintock's former home, several items that appear to be stained with blood, a pair of bloody slippers and "possible decomposition evidence" were found, she said.

In the motion for handwriting samples, Miller discussed correspondence purportedly written by one or more of the victims and said, "The state believes that one or both of the Knoteks may have authored some of this correspondence which, if proven, will be an important issue for the state's case."

Miller has asked that the motions be discussed during hearings scheduled for tomorrow and Monday.


Hunt for evidence in deaths widens

By Jeffrey M. Barker and Lewis Kamb - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

August 14, 2003

SOUTH BEND -- Investigators searching the home of a Pacific County couple accused in the deaths of three people have turned up further evidence they hope to link to one of the suspected victims, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has learned.

The search effort at the rural Raymond home on Monohon Landing Road grew yesterday, while David and Michelle "Shelly" Knotek appeared in court and had their bail increased to $5 million each.

Michelle Knotek, 49, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathy Loreno, 36, and Ron Woodworth, 57, both of whom were allegedly abused while living with the Knoteks.

David Knotek, 50, did not enter a plea to the crimes of which he's been accused: first-degree murder in the shooting of Shane Watson, 19, who also lived with them, and rendering criminal assistance and unlawfully disposing of human remains in Woodworth's death. His attorney asked for his arraignment to be postponed until Aug. 28.

Investigators have asked victims' family members for dental records, hoping to link an unspecified piece of evidence they've found to either Watson or Loreno, the P-I learned. Family members were told DNA evidence samples would be important.

The P-I also has learned that investigators are looking at a 1996 aerial photograph of the Knoteks' property that shows freshly turned dirt behind their home in an area that is now overgrown.

Human remains believed to be Woodworth's were discovered buried at the couple's home last weekend. An autopsy was performed in King County on Wednesday, but Pacific County Prosecutor David Burke said yesterday he would not release its results.

Pacific County Sheriff John Didion declined to answer questions about the investigation, and would not elaborate about why deputies acted only last week when they have, for at least a year and a half, believed that Michelle Knotek killed Loreno by striking her in the head with an iron, then burning her body.

"Our investigation is progressing," Didion said. "We're not going to put any limits or perimeters on the investigation."

Later, thanking other law enforcement agencies for their assistance in the case, Didion said, "Our small office is overwhelmed with the magnitude of this case."

The case also includes an ongoing search at the South Bend home of Pearl Harbor veteran James "Mack" McClintock, 81, who was once in the care of Michelle Knotek and whose death in February 2002 had been ruled suspicious.

Didion and Burke said tips have been flooding in from local residents.

That angered Eric Thomas, Kathy Loreno's younger brother.

"Tips have been flooding in?" said Thomas, who drove from Spokane yesterday. "We've been giving them tips for years, and they haven't done anything."

Thomas, 40 and a former Marine, said his gut told him nine years ago that his sister had been killed.

"We've had closure since '95. We've all known she was dead."

But it was just last year that a Pacific County sheriff's deputy told Thomas of the department's belief: that Loreno had been killed by Michelle Knotek and that her remains were in the Knoteks' back yard. That deputy called Loreno's mother -- former sheriff's office employee Kaye Thomas -- and said the department had made some headway on the case, Eric Thomas said.

But witnesses were reluctant. Others simply wouldn't talk.

Then, Woodworth turned up missing. David Knotek has since told police he buried Woodworth's body July 25. Police believe the man was tortured and physically abused while living with the couple, leading toward his death.

His disappearance prompted witnesses to cooperate with sheriff's investigators, allowing them to obtain a search warrant for the Knoteks' property, authorities told the P-I yesterday.

Important witnesses in the case will be the Knoteks' three daughters, two of whom are adults. The third, who is 14, was living with the couple until about two weeks ago. They, as was outlined in court documents filed earlier this week, have "first-hand knowledge of the property, residence and lifestyle of David and Michelle Knotek."

David Knotek's mother, Shirley Knotek, attended the court hearing yesterday.

She has said that Michelle Knotek made her son commit crimes.

David Knotek, a beaten-down, worried expression on his face, said nothing in court. He agreed to relinquish ownership of the couple's animals, including Sissy, a black Labrador mix once belonging to McClintock.

According to authorities, Michelle Knotek lied about Sissy's death in an attempt to take ownership of McClintock's home. McClintock had willed that Knotek could take ownership of the home when Sissy died. Meanwhile, Clark County detectives investigated a former home of the Knoteks' in Battle Ground but said yesterday that they didn't believe any foul play occurred there.

Michelle Knotek's parents gave it to her in 1981. Authorities believe the Knoteks rented it out before it was sold in 2002.


Wife's role scrutinized in deaths; vulnerable people drawn to her

By Ian Ith , Michael Ko and Mary Spicuzza - The Seattle Times

August 12, 2003

RAYMOND, Pacific County — As residents and authorities in this small timber town spent another day trying to make sense of allegations of abuse, torture and three deaths at the hands of a well-known local couple, the scrutiny yesterday increasingly turned to the role of the wife.

Michelle "Shelley" Knotek, 49, has been described by acquaintances, officials and her own mother-in-law as volatile and temperamental yet having a knack for attracting some of Raymond's most vulnerable residents.

Yesterday, police in neighboring South Bend said they are reopening an investigation into last year's death of an 81-year-old local man who died while in her care — and left her his entire estate.

"The police have known she was dead for years, and did nothing about it," said Jeff Loreno of Agoura Hills, Calif., whose sister, Kathy, disappeared in 1994 while staying at the Knoteks' rural home.

"I don't understand why the police wouldn't just look in the back yard. Those other guys might be alive today if (police) had just done something. It's just sad."

Michelle and David Knotek remained in Pacific County Jail yesterday, each in lieu of $2 million bail. Public defenders assigned to represent them have declined comment.

Friends and relatives of Ronald Woodworth say he probably met Michelle Knotek one day three or four years ago, while he was on one of his many walks down Raymond's main streets, and she stopped to talk.

Woodworth grew up in California, served in the Vietnam War, attended the University of California at Berkeley, and was an expert in Egyptology, said a longtime friend, Susan Eppenberger of South Bend. He quit a good civilian job with the Air Force in California to move to Willapa Harbor, and brought his parents after him.

"He was no dummy," Eppenberger said. "There was nothing stupid about that man."

But many who knew Woodworth said his behavior grew erratic over the years, and his hygiene faltered. Most people conclude he was mentally ill.

He couldn't keep a job, and he ran out of money. He got busted for trying to pass bad checks, court records say. In 1999 he was forcibly evicted from a mobile home in Raymond and moved in with his mother.

Four local residents sought an anti-harassment order against him in 2001, but the court records don't say why and the four people all have declined to discuss it. Police never could find him to serve him with the papers, incorrectly thinking he had moved to Thurston County, so the court gave up on the matter a few months later.

After he met Michelle Knotek, they began spending a lot of time together when David Knotek was away. He even helped her take care of elderly patients.

"Their friendship just blossomed," said his mother, Catherine, 81, who lives in Raymond. "They got along like brother and sister."

Woodworth moved in with the Knoteks in late 2002, and his mother had to get a restraining order against him because "he was stalking me, watching me, watching every move I made," she said yesterday. He seemed to be upset with her for not taking care of his two cats. He sent her angry, profane letters.

Still, Catherine Woodworth blamed Michelle Knotek for inspiring anger in her son, saying she had a hot temper.

Court documents allege that David Knotek, 50, shot Watson in a shed after a confrontation, perhaps because the young man was planning to go to authorities about Loreno's death. Authorities have said little about Watson, who was about 19 when he was allegedly shot dead in the Knoteks' shed.

David Knotek's mother, Shirley Knotek, said Watson grew up in Tacoma, but when he was in high school, his parents divorced, he started getting in trouble, and his parents sent him to live with the Knoteks, figuring the fresh air would do him some good. After he died, friends said, the Knoteks claimed he went to Alaska to fish.

Prosecutors' contention

Prosecutors contend David Knotek burned the bodies of Loreno and Watson and scattered the remains at the beach. They say David Knotek has told police about what happened, while his wife stuck to prearranged stories explaining the disappearances.

Police this week said that while they had suspicions about the Knoteks over the years, it wasn't until several unidentified witnesses came forward about two weeks ago with evidence that police arrested the couple and searched their home and yard.

"It gets frustrating for police when they think something has happened to someone, but when you get into a court of law, you need evidence, and until now, we just didn't have it," Miller said.

In South Bend, the Pacific County seat, police Chief Dave Eastham said he didn't even think it was suspicious last fall when James McClintock, 81, fell, hit his head and died a day later. Yesterday Eastham said he would review the case.

McClintock, a retired merchant crewman and widower, had been in the care of Michelle Knotek, who had worked for years as a caregiver for local elderly people. In his will, McClintock left his house and $8,800 in cash to her.

Even so, police said they don't think they will find anything to prove the man's death was anything but accidental. McClintock, who used an electric wheelchair, had fallen before, Eastham said. And he lived long enough to talk to police who investigated the fall.

"If he was victimized, I doubt he would have kept it to himself," said the police chief, who added he has known McClintock for many years. "Normally if somebody made him mad, he talked about it." Police said they planned to search his home this week.

In April 2000, Michelle Knotek was hired by the Olympic Area Agency on Aging, an organization that provides home care and assistance for older and disabled adults. She worked in the Raymond office as a case aid, providing information to clients who called or came into the office, but never worked as a home care provider or case manager, according to the agency's executive director David Beatty.

Beatty says she was fired in June 2001, due to "consistently poor performance" and for being "unreliable and inconsistent."

The organization has offices in Pacific, Clallam, Jefferson, and Grays Harbor counties, and serves several thousand clients each year. Beatty said James McClintock, the 81-year-old man who died in Knotek's care in 2002, was one of the agency's clients. McClintock, Beatty said. But he added that Knotek knew McClintock before she began working at the center, and had told staff that he was a friend.

McClintock's certificate of death, dated Feb. 9, 2002, indicated that the widower died after a "blunt impact to the head," and said the circumstances of his death were undetermined. His will shows that he left his beloved black Labrador, Sissy, in the care of Michelle Knotek, who was to inherit his house once Sissy died.

Beatty said that he initiated Knotek's termination process, but had no idea that she might be involved in criminal activity.

"We had no indication, we still have no indication, that any people who came in contact with her here were in jeopardy," Beatty said.

The state Department of Social and Health Services said today that neither Michelle nor David Knotek were licensed by the agency to run an adult care center in their home. Nor was Michelle Knotek licensed through the state to provide elder care, said Steve Williams, a DSHS spokesman.

But that doesn't mean she was not supposed to be providing in-home care to older people in Pacific County, Williams said. Unless she was directly receiving DSHS money for care, no license through the agency would be needed. As an employee of the area agency on aging, her background checks and other employment details would be handled by that smaller agency. And if an older person hired her directly, and paid her out of pocket, no license would be required.

Still, if someone complained to DSHS that Knotek was abusing someone in her care, the agency would investigate regardless, Williams said.

He said privacy laws forbid the agency from saying whether it has ever investigated or censured Knotek, now or in the past. But he said "we anticipate the cops are going to come to us, so we're getting our paperwork together."

"We're looking at everything we have," he added. "We're not sure what we have, but we're certainly looking at everything."

In the house east of Raymond where she raised David Knotek, his 76-year-old mother, Shirley Knotek, spent the day with eyes glued to the television, watching the news about her son and his wife. And she accused her daughter-in-law of threatening and duping her son into participating in abuse, death and concealment at their home.

Her son grew up in Raymond like any other small-town boy, playing school sports and goofing around with buddies, she said. After high school, he traded a job at the local mill for a five-year tour in the Navy, where he learned heavy construction.

About 15 years ago in nearby Long Beach he met Michelle, a divorcée with two young daughters. She had divorced her first husband in 1977 in Pennsylvania. Shirley Knotek said another woman had dumped her son. "He was on the rebound, he was sad, and (Michelle) was friendly — you know how it goes," she said. The couple married and had a daughter, now 14 and in foster care.

Shirley Knotek contended her son was unhappy in his marriage to his increasingly moody wife and stayed away from the house for long periods.

He worked for a construction company in Oak Harbor and would often be gone all week on jobs.

"He stayed because of the girls," his mother said. "He's a loyal man."

Court papers say that loyalty appears to have led him to help his wife cover up the deaths of Loreno and Woodworth, and prosecutors suggest he may have slain Watson to keep him from talking.

Loreno likely befriended Michelle Knotek while David Knotek was away at a job, say acquaintances and relatives. They met at the South Bend hairdresser shop where Loreno worked.

Loreno grew up and went to high school in Simi Valley, Calif., her brother said yesterday. Their father, who worked in the movie business, had died in an accident on the set of a television show. Then their stepfather died in a car crash.

Loreno's mother, Kaye Thomas, moved with Loreno to South Bend, where the housing was cheaper, Jeff Loreno said.

Yesterday, Thomas declined comment. But Jeff Loreno said his sister never quite fit in on Willapa Harbor, where most people know everyone else. After a fight with her mother, Loreno moved in with the Knoteks.

Jeff Loreno said that after his sister disappeared he hired a private investigator, who concluded Kathy was probably dead at the hands of Michelle Knotek. But no witnesses would come forward to the police, and when confronted, the Knoteks always said Kathy had run away with a truck driver, or moved to Hawaii.

There have been times, Jeff Loreno said, when he wanted to drive to Raymond and take the law into his own hands. "She was the nicest person in the world, so sweet and darling," he said. "I can't believe anyone could have done this to her."


Suspicions raised over another death

'Blunt impact' killed veteran, 81, who had hired Michelle Knotek as caregiver

By Jeffrey M. Barker, Ruth Teichroeb and Lewis Kamb - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

August 12, 2003

RAYMOND -- James McClintock, an 81-year-old Pearl Harbor veteran who often rode his motorized wheelchair to the grocery store, needed a caregiver. So he hired Michelle Knotek.

Six months later, McClintock died from an unexplained blow to the head, leaving Knotek $5,000, his home and his beloved dog, Sissy.

McClintock may have met Knotek at a local social services agency where she worked, and after his death, records show, David Knotek began using McClintock's Social Security number.

Now, authorities are taking a renewed interest in McClintock's death after discovering human remains behind the Knoteks' red farmhouse.

Police believe the couple befriended those down on their luck, subjected them to humiliating and painful abuse, and then killed them.

Over the weekend, after excavating the couple's back yard, police believe they found the remains of one man, 57-year-old Ronald Woodworth. David Knotek told police he accidentally shot another man, Shane Watson, 19, and that Kathy Loreno, 36, died after choking on her own vomit while living at the couple's home.

Knotek, police say, burned Loreno and Watson's bodies, then spread their ashes along the beach.

From the beginning, authorities did not rule out the possibility that there could be more victims. And yesterday, as the circumstances surrounding McClintock's death surfaced, the case took yet another turn.

Michelle and David Knotek are being held on $2 million bail for investigation of first-degree murder in the deaths of Woodworth, Watson and Loreno. Authorities say more charges are likely as the investigation continues.

Yesterday, authorities said the couple's three daughters had also suffered abuse at the hands of their parents, and the Department of Health and Social Services began poring over its records to try to learn more about Michelle Knotek.

From April 2000 to June 2001, Knotek worked at the Olympic Area Agency on Aging in Aberdeen where she provided information and social services referrals before managers asked her to leave, said David Beatty, the agency's director.

The non-profit organization serves seniors and vulnerable adults in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.

McClintock was a client at the agency, where he received help with general issues, such as navigating Medicare, but he did not qualify for in-home care, Beatty said.

Sometime in September 2001, McClintock hired Michelle Knotek to care for him. During that same time, records show, McClintock wrote a will, leaving his home, his dog and some money to Knotek, whom he listed as a "friend."

Then, in February 2002, McClintock died from "blunt impact to the head," according to his death certificate. Michelle Knotek, who had called 911 that day, said McClintock fell, though a local doctor who examined McClintock's body ruled the manner of death "undetermined."

Michele Knotek received Sissy and at least $5,000 with which to take care of the dog. McClintock loved the black dog with skinny white legs so much that he wanted Sissy buried next to him.

Once the dog died, Michelle Knotek was deeded McClintock's $140,000 home, which is now up for sale.

Agency terminated Knotek

At the Olympic Area Agency on Aging, it was Knotek's job to provide information and referrals over the phone and for clients who walked in seeking help.

She also occasionally visited clients at home, Beatty said.

The agency terminated Knotek's employment as a case aide "by mutual agreement" in June 2001 -- 14 months after she was first hired.

Beatty declined to say why she was let go.

"It was better for the agency and better for her," he said.

He said he didn't know whether McClintock met Knotek through her job at the agency or if they had met previously. He also did not know what type of services McClintock paid Knotek to provide at his home.

None of the other three suspected victims -- Watson, Woodworth or Loreno -- was a client of the Olympic Area Agency, Beatty said.

But he declined to say whether he has concerns about any other clients or former clients of the agency who might have had contact with Knotek.

The agency is now reviewing its files to answer that question.

In the meantime, the Department of Social and Health Services, which provides funding to the Olympic Area Agency, also is investigating the Knotek matter, said Steve Williams, a spokesman.

DSHS has determined that Knotek and her husband were not licensed by the state and have no record of them working as state employees, Williams said.

He would not say whether any of the alleged victims were DSHS clients, citing confidentiality laws.

"We are checking our records," Williams said, "because we anticipate the police will be calling."

About two months after Knotek left the agency, Ron Woodworth allegedly began harassing its employees and threatening staffers.

"He said many things, including 'heads will roll' and 'Mount Vesuvius will blow,' " according to court records. "He made several references to the devil, and hell and retribution."

The alleged harassment occurred for about two years and came at about the same time that Woodworth moved into the Knoteks' home on Monohon Landing Road.

It was at the Knoteks' house, police say, that Woodworth was tortured, abused and ultimately buried in the back yard.

Neighbors talk of McClintock

Around South Bend, where McClintock lived, he was known affectionately as "Mac."

"Everybody up here called him 'Mac,' and everybody here looked out for him," said Al Faulkner, a longtime neighbor. "We felt bad when we heard he died, but (now) it's even worse."

About eight years ago, McClintock put his wife, Mary, into a nursing home, and he's lived alone ever since. In recent years, he had several strokes and heart problems, and he'd been getting back and forth with a motorized cart.

Neighbors described McClintock as a big man with ruddy face and bald head who often fell out of his motorized wheelchair, requiring medical aid.

"I used to hear her (Michelle) holler a lot," Faulkner said, "and one time I saw her walking along talking to David (Knotek) like he was a small child."

Yesterday, South Bend police Chief David Eastham told The (Aberdeen) Daily World that "between a three- and four-year period, (McClintock) called for aid 70 times."

Herb Newton, who served as Pacific County sheriff from 1976 to 1986, lives two doors down from McClintock's old house. Newtown said he was surprised that McClintock willed Knotek his home, but also pointed out that McClintock didn't have any family nearby.

Sometime after McClintock's death, David Knotek began using McClintock's Social Security number, records show. It was one of several Social Security numbers used either by David Knotek or his wife, records show.

After examining McClintock's body, the doctor referred the death to the Pacific County coroner, Dr. David Burke, who is also the county's prosecuting attorney.

It was unclear yesterday whether the office ever looked into the death.

Burke could not be reached for comment, and police would say only that they would "look into" McClintock's death in light of the new developments.

Shane, a sweet-natured teen

In 1992, Lester and Diana Watson saw their grandson, Shane, for the last time.

Shane had been living with his grandparents since the 1980s, after his parents went through a rough divorce.

With his grandfather's blessing, the boy later moved in with David and Michelle Knotek, his aunt and uncle.

Shane, his grandmother recalled, was a sweet-natured teen who enjoyed taking part in simple outdoor tasks, such as chopping wood, with David Knotek.

"He had finally found the friend he had always wanted," she said of her grandson.

Later, though, when the Watsons called the Knoteks or stopped by for holiday visits, Shane was always gone. The Watsons were told he was working in Alaska on a fishing vessel, or that he had moved out and was living with his girlfriend.

In reality, police believe, David Knotek shot Shane, 19, with a .22-caliber rifle. He then burned his body and disposed of his ashes after the young man tried to photograph bruises suffered by Kathy Loreno, who was living with the Knoteks.

In 1994, Loreno's mother, Kaye Thomas, asked a Pacific County Sheriff's deputy to help her locate her daughter, who had been missing.

Yet, Loreno's name was not included among a list of unsolved missing persons cases provided to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as part of its yearlong investigation into flaws with missing persons cases and homicide investigations that often allow killers to remain at large.

Yesterday, Pacific County Sheriff John Didion said Loreno's case was mistakenly omitted because it was initially classified as an "attempt to locate," which is seen as less of a priority. The designation was later changed.

Meanwhile, back at the Knoteks' red farmhouse, investigators from at least a half dozen police agencies continued combing over the 4-acre property.

Didion, the sheriff, would not say whether more human remains or other evidence was found.

"We're taking this step by step," he said. "We'll be finished when we're finished."


Raymond couple befriended 3 strangers, who then disappeared

By Jeffrey M. Barker - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

August 11, 2003

RAYMOND -- Here, in a town once full of taverns and timber workers, everyone, it seems, knows everybody. But nobody knew this.

Not until David Knotek told sheriff's deputies that he and his wife, Michelle, befriended those down on their luck, subjected them to painful and humiliating abuse and disposed of three bodies after they had died.

Yesterday -- after a weekend in which police announced they had found the remains of one body and hoped to close a 9-year-old missing persons case -- authorities said they hoped to find the remains of two others.

They contend all three -- Ronald Woodworth, 57; Shane Watson, 19; and Kathy Loreno, 36 -- were killed by the Knoteks. All three had been living at the couple's home when they disappeared.

David Knotek, 51, and Michelle, 49, are each being held on $2 million bail for investigation of first-degree murder in Loreno's disappearance.

Charges in that case could be filed tomorrow.

As the case unfolds, the couple could face additional charges, and authorities haven't ruled out the possibility there may be more victims.

Prosecutors believe that Loreno and Woodworth died of injuries suffered from repeated abuse. Authorities say David Knotek told police he shot Shane Watson after Watson documented the abuse suffered by Loreno.

Over the weekend, police now say, they discovered Woodworth's remains in the couple's back yard. But Loreno and Watson may never be found: David Knotek told police he burned their bodies and spread their ashes along a nearby beach, according to court documents.

The new twists in the case not only disturbed residents in this town of less than 3,000, but they also raised larger questions about the way police handle missing persons cases.

Loreno's case was not included among a list of unsolved missing persons cases provided by the Pacific County Sheriff's Office in response to a recent public-disclosure request made by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

During a yearlong investigation into how police handle missing persons investigations, the P-I sent requests to more than 270 police agencies in Washington asking for information on all unsolved missing persons and homicide cases between 1980 and 2001.

In responding to the request, the Pacific County Sheriff's Office released information about one unsolved homicide and two missing persons cases.

Even though Loreno had been reported missing by her mother in 1994, her case was not included -- an omission Sheriff John Didion called "disturbing."

As for the two men, neither Woodworth nor Watson had been reported missing, probably because both had severed ties with their families, Deputy Prosecutor Lori Miller said.

During its investigation, published in February, the P-I detailed how police routinely ignore, lose and neglect missing persons cases, delaying body identifications and homicide investigations and sometimes allowing killers to get away with murder.

Quick to share a smile

Around Raymond, Kathy Loreno often used her mother's last name and was known to many as Kathy Thomas.

By all accounts, she had endured a difficult life.

She was only 19 when her father died -- electrocuted on the set of a movie he was helping film. That's when Kathy and her mother, Kaye Thomas, moved to Pacific County.

Kathy Loreno became a hairdresser, working for a time at Bobbie's Beauty Bar in South Bend. Those who knew her remembered a happy person who was quick to share a smile.

While playing on a softball team in Bay Center, Loreno met Carolyn Barnum and later baby-sat Barnum's children.

"She was just the greatest person," Barnum recalled.

At the time, Loreno started dating a man whom her mother didn't like.

Loreno's mother also warned her daughter to stay away from Michelle Knotek, whom she had befriended, recalled Loreno's brother, Jeff.

"I don't know how they met," Jeff Loreno said yesterday from his home in California. "Probably at the hair salon or around town."

Kaye Thomas was just trying to do what was best for her daughter. But it backfired, and Loreno left home.

At first, Loreno inquired about moving in with Barnum. But soon, she began living with the Knoteks.

She was 36 when she disappeared in 1994; she would have turned 45 last Friday, the day the Knoteks were arrested.

Little is known about Woodworth and Watson.

Watson, born June 6, 1975, was Michelle Knotek's nephew and had been living with the couple during the same time as Loreno.

Both disappeared at about the same time, too.

Woodworth was known around town as a "strange" man who had several brushes with the law.

In 2001, court documents show, Woodworth got in trouble for check fraud and for writing a couple of bad checks to the Pioneer Grocery store.

He was charged, but didn't appear for hearings. Also that year, four people applied for an anti-harassment protective order against him. The order was granted on a temporary basis. Last night, three of the four people declined to comment.

In 2002, a woman with Woodworth's last name filed for a domestic-violence protective order against him.

One neighbor said Woodworth often hid in ditches and jumped out at people.

"He was living a different lifestyle than the folks around here," said the neighbor, who admitted that she didn't know Woodworth that well and didn't want her name used.

"But nobody deserves to be killed."

All three were abused

While living at the couple's red home on Monohon Landing Road, all three victims -- Loreno, Watson and Woodworth -- suffered physical abuse at the hands of the couple, according to witnesses cited by the Sheriff's Office.

For example, each was made to do chores outside wearing only underwear, and to jump from heights onto hard gravel, injuring their feet.

One neighbor, Matt Noren, recalled seeing an older man doing yard work at the Knoteks' home wearing only a bathrobe and a hat.

On Sunday, the neighbor said he wasn't surprised to hear that authorities had made a gruesome discovery on the property.

But this isn't the kind of news that usually hits a town such as Raymond.

This weekend, at the Corner Cafe, residents proudly called the town "podunk."

"Never seen anything like this," said Cub Latta, a 66-year-old lifelong resident, sitting outside Ugly Ed's New & Used store.

"I don't know how anybody could be connected to something like this," he said. "I really don't."

But David Knotek told police that all three deaths were accidental.

Woodworth last seen July 20

Ron Woodworth lived with the Knoteks over the past two years, and was last seen July 20. Two days later, David Knotek said, his wife called him, saying Woodworth had died.

David Knotek returned home and buried Woodworth July 25, he said.

He admitted to inventing cover-up stories with his wife, according to the Sheriff's Office. And he admitted to working with her to destroy evidence of the deaths.

Loreno, David Knotek told investigators, had been very ill and died from choking on her own vomit. He said he did not take her to the hospital or contact police because of the injuries on her body.

As for Watson, authorities believe he photographed Loreno's injuries. They say Michelle Knotek found the photograph and beat Watson.

Two weeks after that incident, Watson disappeared.

David Knotek said he shot Watson with a .22-caliber rifle, but he says the shooting occurred during a struggle over the gun, according to court documents.

In those same documents, however, David Knotek said he always feared that Watson would someday "go into a bar and spill all of the information about Kathy Loreno."

No serious trouble before

David Knotek works in construction, with a company called Island Construction, and is often out of town.

Larry Williams, a Raymond man who knew David Knotek as a kid, said Knotek is a Vietnam veteran and wouldn't be mixed up with something like this.

For the most part, the Knoteks have no serious run-ins with the law.

During yesterday's hearing, David Knotek said little when he came into the courtroom and was told of the charges he will face later this week.

Michelle Knotek also said little in a separate hearing, but exhaled loudly and shook her head when Judge Joel Penoyar said witnesses in the case would fear for their safety if she were released from jail.

The Knoteks have three daughters, two of whom are adults. The third daughter, who is 14, was removed from the home before police executed their search warrant and discovered the remains.

David Knotek's mother said she did not want to speak with the media, but expressed concern for her son and the six dogs and bird left behind at the couple's home.

In the meantime, an autopsy on the remains removed Saturday from the Knoteks' property is scheduled in King County either tomorrow or Thursday.

To help with the case, Didion has formed a task force made up of area sheriff's offices and police departments, as well as the King County Sheriff's Office and the King County Medical Examiner's Office, which have developed expertise during their work with the Green River serial killings.

Case reopened

If it weren't for the public's help, all three disappearances might still remain a mystery.

But about 18 months ago, authorities say, someone familiar with Loreno's disappearance came forward, prompting the Pacific County Sheriff's Office to reopen the case with a new focus.

Since then, Loreno's family had worked hard to keep the case before the public eye.

In May, Loreno's mother placed a small item in the Willapa Harbor Herald, with a picture of her daughter, asking the public for any clues.

And Loreno's two brothers had hired a private investigator to help with the case.

Less than two weeks ago, a witness came forward with information that allowed deputies to serve the search warrant on the Knoteks' property, Didion said.

When confronted by police, authorities say, David Knotek began sharing information about the case.

Now, Didion said, he hopes to bring some closure to the families of the missing people -- and particularly to Loreno's family.


Body found at home of couple arrested in 1994 disappearance

The Associated Press

August 8, 2003

RAYMOND, Wash. -- Investigators found human remains over the weekend behind the home of a local couple arrested in a woman's 1994 disappearance, Pacific County officials say.

"We have found human remains," Pacific County Prosecutor David Burke told The Daily World of Aberdeen. "I don't know how many sets. We're still examining the site."

The occupants of the home, David and Michelle Knotek, remained in Pacific County Jail for investigation of manslaughter following their arrests Friday.

A search warrant was issued for the home as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Kathy Loreno nine years ago, said a news release from the Pacific County Sheriff's Department. Officials offered no details about the crime or the Knoteks' alleged connection to it.

An autopsy was planned on the remains.

According to the sheriff's Web site, witnesses "provided information that there may be the remains of another possible missing person on the property." Authorities from King and Lewis counties were aiding in the investigation.

The Knoteks were scheduled for an initial court appearance Monday in Pacific County Superior Court in South Bend.

"On the surface, it is elevated beyond your typical Monday (docket) topic," Burke said.

"But I still don't know whether it's going to turn out to be a real big deal or a smaller deal. We're not sure exactly what we will have."

David Knotek graduated from Raymond High School in the early 1970s. Local residents said he had most recently been employed doing construction work.

"I've known David (Knotek) forever," former Raymond Mayor Leon Lead said Saturday night. "He applied for a garbage truck driving job (with the City of Raymond) 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."

Friends said the Knoteks have been married about 15 years. They have two daughters, one 25, the other in her early teens.

Information from: The Daily World


Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2.

STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Michelle L. KNOTEK, Appellant.

No. 33644-8-II.

Decided: December 26, 2006

Gregory Charles Link, Washington Appellate Project, Seattle, WA, for Appellant. David John Burke, Attorney at Law, South Bend, WA, for Respondent.

¶ 1 Michelle Knotek appeals her guilty plea convictions for second degree murder and first degree manslaughter;  she also appeals the trial court's denial of her post-judgment and sentence motion to withdraw her guilty plea.   Knotek argues that she did not enter into her Alford 1 plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily because she was misinformed about (1) the maximum sentences that could be imposed and (2) the term of community placement.   In her Statement of Additional Grounds 2 (“SAG”), Knotek further contends that (1) her attorney coerced her into entering into the plea agreement;  (2) her attorney provided ineffective assistance;  (3) she was not competent at the time she entered her guilty plea;  (4) the crimes to which she pleaded guilty “didn't fit” the facts of this case;  and (5) the trial court committed judicial misconduct.3  Holding that the record shows that Knotek entered her guilty plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, we affirm.


I. Murders

A. Count I-Kathy Loreno

¶ 2 In 1991, Michelle Knotek invited Kathy Loreno to live with her family in South Bend, Pacific County.   Loreno was to help care for Knotek's two teenage daughters and a third daughter expected to be born soon.   Loreno accepted the offer.   Loreno was in good health when she began living with the Knoteks.   Initially the Knotek family treated Loreno well.

¶ 3 But soon, Knotek and her husband, David Knotek,4 began abusing Loreno physically and mentally;  they continued this abuse through 1991.   Knotek and her husband (1) hit and slapped Loreno, including numerous blows to the  head;  (2) dragged her across the ground;  (3) pulled her hair;  (4) poisoned her;  (5) forced her to submit to bizarre “treatments,” such as bleach and salt to clean her wounds, and ingesting salt and prescription medications;  (6) forced her to live and to work outdoors in harsh weather conditions while minimally clothed or naked until she became hypothermic;  (7) starved her;  and (7) as punishment, forced her to immerse herself in cold water or mud.   As a result of this abuse, Loreno lost 100 pounds, her hair and teeth fell out, and she declined physically and mentally.   Near the end of her life, Loreno could not walk or talk, one side of her face drooped, her vision had declined significantly, and she was covered in vomit.

¶ 4 Eventually Loreno died as a result of this prolonged abuse.   Acting on Knotek's decision, David and Shane Watson, David's nephew, burned and buried Loreno's body in the Knoteks' backyard.   Knotek concocted a story about Loreno having run away with her boyfriend, repeatedly quizzed her (Knotek's) children about the story, and generated letters to Loreno's family purporting to be from Loreno so her family would believe she was still alive.

B. Count II-Ron Woodworth

¶ 5 In October 2001, Knotek invited Ron Woodworth to live in the Knotek home.   Knotek's youngest daughter witnessed Knotek and her husband inflict physical and emotional abuse on Woodworth, virtually identical to the acts of abuse they had committed against Loreno ten years earlier.   Like Loreno, Woodworth declined physically and mentally, and eventually died as a result of the abuse sometime between the end of 2001 and August 2003.   David buried Woodworth's body in the backyard of the Knotek residence.

C. Arrest

¶ 6 In August 2003, Knotek's two older daughters contacted the police about Knotek's abuse of Woodworth. Knotek's youngest daughter also provided a statement. The police arrested Knotek and David.

II. Procedure

¶ 7 The State charged Michelle Knotek 5 with two counts of second degree murder:  Count I, for the 1991 death of Kathy Loreno;  and Count II for the 2003 death of Ron Woodworth.   The trial court denied Knotek's motion to sever counts because the State planned to use David as a witness against Knotek.

A. Alford Plea

¶ 8 On June 18, 2004, Knotek appeared in Pacific County Superior Court to plead guilty to second degree murder and first degree manslaughter.   The State agreed to reduce Count II from second degree murder to first degree manslaughter, and to recommend sentences at the low end of the standard range for both counts.   The parties stipulated that the facts contained in the August 11, 2003 Probable Cause Affidavit, the Bill of Particulars, and the State's brief in opposition to Knotek's Motion to Sever, were sufficient to find Knotek guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on these two charges.

¶ 9 The trial court engaged in a thorough inquiry to ensure that Knotek was entering her plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.   Knotek indicated that (1) she had completed 14 years of school and could read and write “very well”;  (2) she had discussed “everything set forth in the Plea Agreement” with her counsel over the course of a “few hours,” and they had “talk[ed] about it throughout the last few weeks” Report of Proceedings (RP) (June 18, 2004) at 6-7;  (3) she understood the standard sentencing range for second degree murder was 123 to 164 months, with a maximum term of life in prison, RP (June 18, 2004) at 7;  (4) she knew the standard sentencing range for first degree  manslaughter was 78 to 102 months, with a maximum term of life in prison;  (5) because these were serious violent offenses, she understood the sentences for each count would run consecutively, which she confirmed meant she would first serve one sentence and then serve the other sentence, after completing the first one;  (6) she understood that the State would recommend sentences of 123 months on Count I and 78 month on Count II, for a total of 201 months;  (7) she understood that the court need not follow the State's sentencing recommendation;  (8) she also understood that she faced the possibility of an “exceptional sentence” on each count, meaning sentences above the standard range;  (9) she understood that the plea bargain also called for her to serve 24 months of community custody;  (10) she was entering an Alford plea, which she understood was a plea of guilty;  and (11) she understood the financial penalties that could result from her plea, including restitution.

¶ 10 The trial court asked Knotek five different times whether she was entering her plea voluntarily;  in each instance, Knotek answered in the affirmative.   The trial court also (1) made sure that Knotek had gone over her Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty with counsel and that she understood the provisions of the Statement;  (2) explained to Knotek each of the rights she was waiving by entering her guilty plea;  and (3) explained to Knotek that her crimes would constitute “one strike” for future charging and sentencing purposes, which Knotek confirmed she understood.   The court then asked Knotek how she would plead on each charge, and Knotek replied, “Guilty.”

¶ 11 Based on the parties' stipulation and Knotek's Alford pleas, the trial court found Knotek guilty of Count I, second degree murder, and Count II, first degree manslaughter.

B. Sentencing

¶ 12 At Knotek's August 19, 2004 sentencing, the parties and the trial court addressed a recent relevant United  States Supreme Court decision, Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 159 L.Ed.2d 403 (2004), rendered on June 24, 2004, less than a week after Knotek's June 18, 2004 guilty plea.

¶ 13 The State acknowledged that (1) as a result of the Blakely decision, “the Court's hands are bound by the standard range”;  and (2) during “quite a few conversations” with Knotek, defense counsel, and the trial court, had explained the Blakely decision and how the decision would affect her sentence.

¶ 14 Knotek's counsel acknowledged that (1) Knotek's “decision to enter such a plea was also reflective of the threat of an exceptional sentence recommendation ․,” and (2) the “threat certainly is not as strong in light of the current Blakely decision as it was at the time the plea was entered.”   Appendix C to Respondent's Brief, Supplemental Sentencing Memorandum at 6. Knotek proceeded to sentencing, fully aware of the reduced sentence that she now faced because of Blakely.   Knotek did not claim that she had been misinformed about the consequences of her plea.   Nor did she move to vacate or to withdraw her plea.   Instead, the colloquy focused on her good luck-that the Blakely decision had eliminated the possibility of the more severe exceptional sentence to which she had been previously exposed.

¶ 15 Just before pronouncing sentence, the trial court reminded Knotek that, but for the Blakely decision, it would have imposed a sentence above the standard range:

I also know, finally, that [Knotek] should be very thankful to the U.S. Supreme Court and the 5-4 decision in Blakely v. Washington because this would not be the sentence that I would hand down but for that decision.

RP (Aug. 19, 2004) at 34.   The court then sentenced Knotek to the top end of the standard range on each conviction, 164 months on Count I and 102 months on Count II, to run consecutively, for a total of 266 months confinement.   Knotek did not raise any question about the voluntariness of her Alford plea in connection with her sentencing.

C. Post-judgment Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea

¶ 16 Eight months later, in April 2005, Knotek moved pro se to withdraw her Alford plea.   She alleged that she had not been correctly informed, that generally she did not understand the consequences of her plea when she entered it the previous year, and that she had been denied effective assistance of counsel.   The trial court denied the motion.

III. Appeal

¶ 17 Knotek appeals both the trial court's denial of her motion to withdraw her guilty plea and the guilty plea conviction and judgment and sentence.6


I. Voluntary, Knowing, and Intelligent Plea

¶ 18 Knotek argues that she did not enter her Alford plea knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily because she did not understand the direct consequences of her plea.   She contends she was misinformed about (1) the maximum sentence that could be imposed for the charged offenses, and (2) the proper term of community placement.   These arguments fail.

A. Issue Raised for First Time on Appeal

¶ 19 Generally, a defendant waives any issues he did not raise in the trial court.  RAP 2.5;  State v. Smith, 155 Wash.2d 496, 501, 120 P.3d 559 (2005).   Nonetheless, a defendant can raise for the first time on appeal alleged manifest errors significantly affecting constitutional rights.   RAP 2.5(a)(3);  State v. Scott, 110 Wash.2d 682, 686-87, 757 P.2d 492 (1988).   Alleged involuntariness of a guilty plea is the type of constitutional error that a defendant can raise for  the first time on appeal.   See State v. Walsh, 143 Wash.2d 1, 6, 17 P.3d 591 (2001).  “[W]hen an adequate record exists, the appellate court may carry out its long-standing duty to assure constitutionally adequate trials by engaging in review of manifest constitutional errors raised for the first time on appeal.”  State v. Contreras, 92 Wash.App. 307, 313, 966 P.2d 915 (1998).

B. Standard of Review

¶ 20 “The State bears the burden of proving the validity of a guilty plea,” including the defendant's “[k]nowledge of the direct consequences” of the plea, which the State may prove from the record or by clear and convincing extrinsic evidence.  State v. Ross, 129 Wash.2d 279, 287, 916 P.2d 405 (1996).   A defendant, in contrast, bears the burden of proving “manifest injustice,” defined as “ ‘an injustice that is obvious, directly observable, overt, not obscure.’ ” State v. Saas, 118 Wash.2d 37, 42, 820 P.2d 505 (1991) (quoting State v. Taylor, 83 Wash.2d 594, 596, 521 P.2d 699 (1974)).

C. Direct Consequences of Plea

¶ 21 Due process requires an affirmative showing that a defendant entered a guilty plea intelligently and voluntarily.  State v. Barton, 93 Wash.2d 301, 304, 609 P.2d 1353 (1980) (citing Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 89 S.Ct. 1709, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969)).   A defendant need not be informed of all possible consequences of a plea, but rather, only the direct consequences.  Ross, 129 Wash.2d at 284, 916 P.2d 405.   The maximum sentence and term of mandatory community placement are among such direct consequences of a plea.  State v. Morley, 134 Wash.2d 588, 621, 952 P.2d 167 (1998);  Ross, 129 Wash.2d at 284-87, 916 P.2d 405.   If based on misinformation about sentencing consequences, a guilty plea is not entered knowingly.  State v. Miller, 110 Wash.2d 528, 531, 756 P.2d 122 (1988).

¶ 22 Beyond this constitutional minimum, Criminal Rule (“CrR”) 4.2 provides further safeguards for guilty pleas:

The court shall not accept a plea of guilty, without first determining that it is made voluntarily, competently and with an understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea.   The court shall not enter a judgment upon a plea of guilty unless it is satisfied that there is a factual basis for the plea.

Ross, 129 Wash.2d at 284, 916 P.2d 405 (quoting CrR 4.2(d));  see also RCW 9.94A.431.

¶ 23 CrR 7.8 governs post-judgment motions to withdraw a guilty plea.   This rule allows the trial court to relieve a party from a final judgment if the judgment is void or for any other reason justifying relief from operation of the judgment.  CrR 7.8(b)(4)-(5).7

1. Direct Maximum Sentence

¶ 24 Knotek contends that she was misinformed about the maximum terms of confinement for the homicide charges to which she pleaded guilty when the trial court told her that she faced the possibility of an exceptional sentence above the standard sentencing range, up to life in prison, for each conviction.   She argues that because “Blakely v. Washington rejected the notion that this life term under RCW 9A.20.021(1)(a) was the statutory maximum for a Class A offense,” the correct maximum terms were 164 months for second degree murder and 102 months for manslaughter.8  Br. of Appellant at 7.

¶ 25 Contrary to Knotek's assertion, Blakely, 542 U.S. 296, 124 S.Ct. 2531,9 does not nullify life imprisonment as the statutory maximum for a Class A offense.   Rather, Blakely outlined the procedure by which a life term for a Class A offense may be imposed in the State of Washington:  A life sentence is possible for a Class A felony only if the trier of fact specifically finds beyond a reasonable doubt, or the defendant admits to, aggravating facts supporting an exceptional life sentence.   Otherwise, the effective maximum for a Class A felony is the top end of the standard sentencing range, which here, is 164 months for second degree murder and 102 months for first degree manslaughter.  RCW 9.94A.510.

¶ 26 Under her pre-Blakely plea agreement with the State, Knotek stipulated only to facts supporting convictions for second degree murder and first degree manslaughter.   She did not stipulate to additional facts that could have supported an exceptional sentence;  nor was there a jury finding of these additional facts, as Blakely required shortly after Knotek entered her plea.   Filed between Knotek's guilty plea and her sentencing, Blakely eliminated the possibility of exceptional life sentences that the trial court had discussed with her before accepting her plea.  Blakely thereby reduced the maximum terms of confinement to which the court could sentence Knotek post-Blakely as a result of her pre-Blakely plea-the top end of the standard ranges-164 months for second degree murder and 102 months for first degree manslaughter.  RCW 9.94A.510.

¶ 27 The record clearly shows that, regardless of Knotek's currently claimed understanding of the sentencing consequences when she entered her pre-Blakely plea,  before the trial court sentenced her post-Blakely, she clearly understood that Blakely had eliminated the possibility of exceptional life sentences and, thus, had substantially lowered the maximum sentences that the trial court could impose.   Armed with this knowledge, Knotek chose to proceed to sentencing in order to take advantage of this windfall sentence reduction, knowing that if she withdrew her plea and went to trial, she would face the possibility of two life sentences.

¶ 28 Where a defendant enters a plea agreement under the erroneous belief that her standard ranges are higher than they are in fact, she is not entitled to withdraw her plea under a claim that it was invalidly entered.   In re Pers. Restraint of Matthews, 128 Wash.App. 267, 273, 115 P.3d 1043 (2005).   See also State v. Mendoza, 157 Wash.2d 582, 592, 141 P.3d 49 (2006) (where defendant is aware of an offender score miscalculation before sentencing but does not object, she waives any challenge to the voluntariness of her guilty plea on appeal.)

¶ 29 Moreover, Knotek never claimed to have been misled about the consequences of her plea nor sought to withdraw her plea before, or even immediately after, sentencing.   Instead, she waited for eight months before filing her motion to withdraw.

2. Mandatory community custody and placement

¶ 30 Knotek also argues that her Alford plea was involuntary because she was misinformed about the proper term of mandatory community placement and community custody.

a. Community custody

¶ 31 Knotek first contends that (1) paragraph 6(a) of her Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty (“Statement”) indicated that she faced a “community custody range” of 24 months for her second degree murder conviction;  (2) but  there was no such “community custody range” because this murder was committed in 1991, before enactment of RCW 9.94A.717, which implemented community custody;  and (3) paragraph 6(f) of her Statement specified that she faced “community placement” of 24 months or a period equal to any earned early release time.10  This argument fails.

¶ 32 Knotek's Statement properly informed her of the mandatory periods of community placement for her second degree murder conviction, Count I, committed in 1991.   Paragraph 6(a), as it relates to Count I, refers to “community placement,” not “community custody.” 11  Paragraph 6(f) expressly acknowledges:  “In addition to sentencing me to confinement, the judge will sentence me to serve 24 months of community placement or up to the period of earned early release, whichever is longer.”   Thus, Knotek's Statement shows that she received accurate information about the community placement consequences of her plea of guilty to the 1991 murder of Loreno.

b. Consecutive terms of community placement and custody

¶ 33 Second, Knotek argues that, although her guilty plea statement indicates she will serve her terms of confinement consecutively, it does not state whether she would similarly serve her terms of community placement for Count I and the range of community custody for Count II consecutively.   This argument also fails.

¶ 34 Immediately underneath recitation of the standard sentencing ranges, maximum sentence, and community placement and custody terms for her two convictions, paragraph 6(a) of Knotek's guilty plea statement says that her “sentences [are] to run consecutively.”   A “sentence” is  “[t]he judgment that a court formally pronounces after finding a criminal defendant guilty;  the punishment imposed on a criminal wrongdoer.”   Black's Law Dictionary 1393 (8th ed.2004).   In the context of a guilty plea, community placement is deemed part of a defendant's punishment.  Ross, 129 Wash.2d at 285, 916 P.2d 405.   Therefore, the term “sentences” in Knotek's Statement necessarily included her terms of confinement and her mandatory periods of community placement and custody.

D. Additional SAG Arguments

¶ 35 In her SAG, Knotek argues that she did not knowingly or voluntarily enter her Alford plea because (1) her attorney coerced her to accept the plea agreement;  (2) she was not competent at the time she entered her plea;  and (3) the crimes to which she pleaded guilty “didn't fit” the facts.   These arguments also fail.

1. Voluntariness

¶ 36 The record shows that Knotek entered her Alford plea voluntarily.   The trial court asked five different times whether anyone had coerced her to enter into the plea agreement, and each time Knotek indicated that she was entering her plea voluntarily.   And nothing in the record indicates that Knotek's attorney manipulated her into entering the plea, by failing to inform her that an Alford plea is not a guilty plea.

¶ 37 On the contrary, the record shows that the trial court specifically asked Knotek, “[D]o you understand that an Alford plea is a guilty plea and you'll give up these rights by making an Alford plea.”   To which Knotek replied, “Yes.” RP (June 18, 2004) at 18.   Consistent with this response, when the trial court asked Knotek how she was pleading to each charge, Knotek replied, “Guilty,” both times.   RP (June 18, 2004) at 20-21.   See State v. Perez, 33 Wash.App. 258, 262, 654 P.2d 708 (1982) (“When the judge goes on to inquire orally of the defendant and satisfies himself on the record of  the existence of the various criteria of voluntariness, the presumption of voluntariness is well nigh irrefutable.”).

2. Competency

¶ 38 The record also shows that Knotek was competent to enter her plea of guilt.   In Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 113 S.Ct. 2680, 125 L.Ed.2d 321 (1993), the United States Supreme Court held that the level of competency required to stand trial and plead guilty are the same-a “sufficient present ability to consult with [her] lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and “a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against [her].”  Godinez, 509 U.S. at 396, 400-01, 113 S.Ct. 2680 (quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960)).   At the time of her plea, Knotek's responses to the trial court's thorough questioning demonstrated that (1) she had communicated extensively with her attorney regarding the plea proceeding, and (2) she had a firm grasp of the events that took place at the proceeding.   Furthermore, there is nothing in the record showing that Knotek lacked competency.

3. Factual basis

¶ 39 The record shows that the facts sufficiently support the crimes to which Knotek pleaded guilty, including the intent element of second degree murder.   SAG at 29.

¶ 40 CrR 4.2(d) requires the trial court to determine whether there is a factual basis for the plea.   A factual basis for a plea of guilty exists if there is sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the defendant is guilty.   The trial court need not be convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  In re Personal Restraint of Ness, 70 Wash.App. 817, 824, 855 P.2d 1191 (1993).

¶ 41 When a defendant enters an Alford plea, the trial court must exercise extreme care to ensure that the plea satisfies constitutional requirements.   An Alford  plea is valid if the record before the trial court contains strong evidence of actual guilt.  Ness, 70 Wash.App. at 824, 855 P.2d 1191.   Such is the case here.

¶ 42 Knotek and the State stipulated that the facts contained in the State's August 11, 2003 Probable Cause Affidavit, the Bill of Particulars, and the State's brief in opposition to Knotek's Motion to Sever Counts were sufficient for a finder of fact to find her guilty of the two homicide charges beyond a reasonable doubt.  Ness, 70 Wash.App. at 824, 855 P.2d 1191 (the prosecutor's factual statement is a source the court may consider at a plea hearing to determine whether the plea is supported by sufficient evidence).   These facts were sufficient for a jury, or the court sitting without a jury, to conclude that Knotek had the “intent to cause the death of another person,” as required for second degree murder.12  State v. Caliguri, 99 Wash.2d 501, 503 n. 1, 664 P.2d 466 (1983) (intent to kill may be inferred from circumstantial evidence);  RCW 9A.32.050.

¶ 43 We hold that (1) record shows Knotek entered her plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, (2) that Blakely's effect in lowering her maximum sentences did not affect the voluntariness of her plea;  and (3) even if it did, Knotek waived her ability to raise this issue when she proceeded to sentencing fully intending to take advantage of this Blakely windfall without then challenging the voluntariness of her plea or the correctness of the sentencing information on which her plea was based.   Knotek having failed to show that her judgment and sentence were void or any other reason warranting relief from operation of the judgment, we uphold the trial court's denial of her motion to withdraw her Alford plea.  CrR 7.8(b)(4)-(5).

II. Effective Assistance of Counsel

¶ 44 Knotek next contends that she received ineffective assistance from her two attorneys because they did not (1) accurately articulate her concerns at sentencing;  (2) accurately explain that an Alford plea is a plea of guilt;  and (3) explain that the trial court does not have to follow the State's sentencing recommendation after she enters her plea.   These arguments also fail.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 45 Review of an ineffective assistance claim begins with a strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.  In re Personal Restraint of Pirtle, 136 Wash.2d 467, 487, 965 P.2d 593 (1998) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984)).   To prevail on this claim, Knotek must show (1) her attorneys' representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) their errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.  Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052;  In re Personal Restraint of Rice, 118 Wash.2d 876, 888-89, 828 P.2d 1086 (1992).   The latter element is met by showing that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, there is a reasonable probability the outcome of the proceeding would have been different.  Rice, 118 Wash.2d at 889, 828 P.2d 1086.   In a plea bargaining context, “effective assistance of counsel” merely requires that counsel “actually and substantially assist[ ] his client in deciding whether to plead guilty.”  State v. Cameron, 30 Wash.App. 229, 232, 633 P.2d 901 (1981).   Knotek fails to meet these criteria.

B. Trial Counsel's Performance

¶ 46 First, contrary to Knotek's contention, before Knotek entered her plea, counsel informed the trial court that they had gone over the nature of an Alford plea with her so that she understood the concept.   RP (June 18, 2004) at 4-5.   When  the trial court asked Knotek directly if she understood that “an Alford plea is a guilty plea and you'll give up [her relevant constitutional rights] by making an Alford plea,” RP (06/14/04) at 18, Knotek replied, “Yes.” RP (June 18, 2004) at 18.   Additionally, before entering her plea, Knotek stated on the record that she understood that the sentencing court need not follow the State's sentencing recommendation.

¶ 47 Second, by arranging for Knotek to enter an Alford plea, counsel allowed her to maintain her innocence 13 while simultaneously providing her an opportunity to plead guilty to reduced charges with a low-end standard sentencing range recommended by the State on both counts.

¶ 48 Third, Knotek's counsel adequately addressed her concerns at sentencing.   Even though Knotek took responsibility for the victims' deaths by abuse, counsel specifically told the court that Knotek had entered an Alford plea because, although she took responsibility for the abuse that occurred in her home, she still maintained she did not kill either of the victims.

¶ 49 Knotek has not shown that her trial counsel failed or prejudiced her in any way.   Therefore, her ineffective assistance of counsel arguments fail.

III. Judicial Conduct

¶ 50 Finally, Knotek argues that the trial court engaged in judicial misconduct in (1) failing to call a recess or to inquire whether she needed to speak with her attorney when she was “upset” and “under duress”;  and (2) ignoring  that, by entering an Alford plea, she was not admitting guilt.   These arguments also fail.

¶ 51 First, Knotek asserts in her SAG that the trial court must have heard her saying she was not guilty when her counsel told her to say she was guilty.   But, the record does not reflect such statements.   Similarly, there is no indication in the record that Knotek protested her innocence before she pleaded guilty, as she alleges.   Nor does Knotek further articulate how her emotional state was evident to the trial court so as to prompt additional questioning about whether she was entering her plea voluntarily.   On the contrary, the record supports the trial court's conclusion that, after thorough dialogue with counsel and the trial court, Knotek entered her plea intelligently, voluntarily, and knowingly.

¶ 52 Second, the record shows that Knotek, both counsel, and the trial court clearly understood the nature of Knotek's Alford pleas.   Numerous times throughout the proceedings, the parties and court discussed Knotek's Alford plea, the nature of which is reflected in her statement on plea of guilty.   For example, immediately after Knotek pleaded guilty to both counts, the trial court noted, “[I]t's my understanding that she's making an Alford plea on each count.”   RP (June 18, 2004) at 21.   And at sentencing, (1) Knotek articulated on the record her responsibility for the deaths, but not her guilt in causing them;  and (2) she explained to the trial court that she was not contesting the charges because that would just bring more pain.

¶ 53 Knotek has failed to allege sufficient facts to support her contention or to prompt additional review of her claim that the trial court committed misconduct.   Thus, we do not further consider this argument.

¶ 54 Affirmed.


1.  North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970).

2.  RAP 10.10.

3.  In her SAG, Knotek also asserts the following:  (1) she received unsatisfactory treatment in jail;  (2) she was denied her right to prompt mental health care;  (3) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct;  (4) she was denied her right to medical treatment;  (5) both law enforcement and her attorney could not find, or lost, an allegedly exculpatory letter, the contents of which she does not reveal;  and (6) law enforcement mishandled her personal effects.   These claims are unsubstantiated, not recognizable on direct appeal of a criminal conviction (in contrast with collateral attack in a personal restraint petition under RAP 16), or not ripe for review;  thus, we do not address them.

4.  For clarity, we will refer to Michelle Knotek as “Knotek” and to David Knotek as either “David” or “Knotek's husband.”

5.  David separately pled guilty to murder in the second degree, unlawful disposal of human remains, and rendering criminal assistance in the first degree.   His case is not part of this appeal.

6.  We granted Knotek's motion to file a late notice of appeal from her guilty plea, judgment and sentence.

7.  See CrR 4.2(f), which governs pre-judgment motions to withdraw guilty pleas and references CrR 7.8 for post-judgment motions.

8.  The State argues that, even applying post-Blakely standards, the trial court's instruction that Knotek faced maximum life sentences for both counts was correct because Knotek potentially faced “theoretical maximum” life sentences if (1) she went to trial, (2) the State submitted aggravating factors to the jury, and (3) the jury found her guilty of a Class A felony.   This argument fails to address that it is the direct consequences of her guilty plea, not the maximum potential sentence if she went to trial, that Knotek had to understand.  Ross, 129 Wash.2d at 284, 916 P.2d 405.

9.  Blakely clarified the United States Supreme Court's earlier opinion in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000), which held that “[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”  530 U.S. at 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348 (emphasis added).   The court in Blakely explained that statutory maximum referenced in Apprendi “is the maximum sentence a judge may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.”   Blakely, 542 U.S. at 303, 124 S.Ct. 2531.

10.  Knotek's Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty.   Clerk's Papers at 245-51.

11.  The relevant table, titled “community custody range,” specifically instructs the reader that it is “[o]nly applicable for crimes committed on or after July 1, 2000” and “[f]or crimes committed prior to July 1, 2000, see paragraph 6(f).”  Clerk's Papers at 246-47.

12.  These facts include that Knotek committed particularly egregious forms of mental and emotional abuse against the victims.   More specifically, Knotek pulled the victim around by her hair, frequently delivered blows to the head, forced the victim to ingest medication, forced victim to ingest salt and rotten foods, would “waterboard” the victim, forced the victim to stay outside with little or no shelter, and would force the victim to work outdoors in extreme weather conditions either naked or minimally clothed.

13.  In North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970) the U.S. Supreme Court held, “An individual accused of a crime may voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly consent to the imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his participation in the acts constituting the crime.”  Id. at 37, 91 S.Ct. 160.   In State v. Newton, 87 Wash.2d 363, 552 P.2d 682 (1976), our State Supreme Court adopted the Alford rationale and held that a guilty plea from a defendant who maintains his or her innocence is constitutionally valid if there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict of guilty, id. at 370-71, 552 P.2d 682, and the plea is “ ‘a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action open to the defendant.’ ” Id. at 372, 552 P.2d 682 (quoting Alford, 400 U.S. at 31, 91 S.Ct. 160).


We concur:  HOUGHTON, C.J., and VAN DEREN, J.



home last updates contact