SEATTLE – Two brothers wanted in the disappearance and presumed slayings of a Washington state couple may be heading for the Mexican border, authorities said Tuesday as they charged the pair with first-degree murder.
Detectives found a car in Phoenix that had been driven by John Blaine Reed and his brother, Tony Clyde Reed, and they said two friends of the brothers gave them a different car — a gold Acura sedan — and $500, knowing they were on the run from police.
A licence plate reader captured the Acura’s plate near Calexico, California, on Monday, authorities said.
The brothers are wanted in the disappearance of John Reed’s former neighbours Patrick Shunn, 45, and his wife, Monique Patenaude, 46, who were reported missing a week ago. Investigators say they found evidence the couple were killed, and teams were searching for their bodies in a wooded 23-square-mile area around their home near Oso, 50 miles northeast of Seattle.
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“The exact location of the Reed brothers is unknown, but there is reason to believe they may be trying to flee to Mexico,” the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington said in an email Tuesday.
Authorities described them as convicted felons who should be considered armed and dangerous, as several guns seemed to be missing from John Reed’s former home. Charging documents filed Tuesday said authorities found blood in the home’s bathtub, as well as in John Reed’s pickup, the victims’ vehicles, and on gasoline-soaked clothing found in bags underneath a mattress outside the home.
The state crime laboratory is analyzing the blood for DNA evidence.
The victims’ vehicles had been driven or pushed down a steep, forested embankment, and at 3:30 a.m. on April 12, a neighbour’s surveillance camera caught the vehicles being simultaneously driven up the remote road on the way to where they were later discovered, a prosecutor wrote. The camera also recorded John Reed’s pickup travelling up the same road the next day, he said.
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Authorities found the pickup at the home of the brothers’ parents, in the central Washington city of Ellensburg. Clyde Reed, their father, told investigators he had just cleaned the truck and added “that he did not know where his two sons were, but if he did, he would not tell law enforcement,” the charging papers said.
When the brothers left Ellensburg last Thursday, they were driving the parents’ red Volkswagen — the same car authorities found in Phoenix, detectives said.
The grim mystery played out on land abutting the nation’s worst landslide disaster, the 2014 Oso landslide, which wiped out a rural neighbourhood and killed 43 people. In an interview shortly afterward, John Reed, 53, told The Seattle Times he watched the slide as it roared past his front yard.
The county bought out Reed’s house last month to ease any risks from future flooding, but investigators believe Reed had been returning to the home since then. According to charging documents, John Reed was upset that his property had been condemned, and he recently had been angry because the couple had complained that he was squatting at his old house, prompting authorities to warn him to leave.
Shunn and Patenaude had long worried about getting on the wrong side of John Reed, who lived a little ways up an old logging road from their 21-acre spread in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. When they sued other neighbours over a property dispute more than two years ago, they avoided naming him as a defendant because they didn’t want to irk him, their former lawyer, Thomas Adams, said Monday.
Court documents say John Reed had threatened to shoot the couple for cutting brush between their two properties in 2013.
John Reed has been cited for a number of mostly minor offences, but also was convicted of felonies for growing marijuana and eluding law enforcement.
Tony Reed, 49, has amassed dozens of arrests and twice was under state supervision — from 1989 to 1991 on drug charges, and from 1994 to 2003 for three misdemeanours, including an assault charge.
Authorities believe they are now driving a 2002 gold Acura 3.2TL with Arizona plate BNN-9968.