Knotek Family House of Horrors

Michelle Watson, better known as “Shelly” to her friends & family, was born on April 15th, 1954. Her father left her mother when she was young, taking the children with him. Shelly was the oldest of 3 siblings, and her mother was a raging alcoholic. After her father left, her mother’s alcoholism only got worse. After the split, Shelly’s mother partnered up with another alcoholic and they lived on skid row. A slang term for living on the streets in the worst of neighborhoods. Her mother’s boyfriend ended up beating her mother to death in a motel room one evening after they were fighting with one another. Shelly was 5 when her mother was murdered, but Shelly didn’t learn of her mother’s death until she was 13. Her father had just told the children that their mother had abandoned them.

After Shelly learned of the truth regarding what indeed happened to her mother, her behavior began to change. Not unexpectedly, since there’s no mention or record of her getting any help to deal with the trauma. Shelly had become manipulative, troubled, and challenging to deal with. She developed elaborate stories about her family members hurting her, stealing from her, raping her…none of it was true. After her father remarried, Shelly made it very clear she didn’t like her stepmother, Lisa, from the start. Even telling her she hated her to her face. Also, Shelly would find other ways to act out, including putting glass in her own shoes & lighting things on fire. Shelly’s pathological nature didn’t stop there, she also accused her own father of raping her when she was 15, manipulating the school counselor into believing her story, and an investigation insued. Her father was cleared of any wrongdoing, but that was the last straw. Shelly was sent to live with her grandmother, while her 2 younger brothers stayed with their father.

Shelly didn’t like going to school or authority figures telling her what to do. For this reason, after she graduated high school, she drifted around, hooking up with different men, working odd jobs. She was described as an attractive, slender, fiery redhead. She had no problem attracting men, but did have a hard time keeping them. She married in her teens to Randy Rivardo, husband #1, and they had a daughter, Leslie Nicole Rivardo, better known as “Nikki”. But that relationship did not last. They divorced, and then Shelly dated & married husband #2, Danny Long. They also had a daughter together, Samantha Long, who went by “Sami”. Once again, the marriage did not last, and the men did not stick around. It is speculated that they were both driven away by Shelly’s manipulative, controlling, and abusive ways.

By the time she was 24, Shelly Watson had 2 daughters, Nikki & Sami, both under the age of 3, and was a two time divorcee. After becoming a single mother, Shelly seemed to settle down. She was more calm, and decided she wanted to become a nurse. Being a nurse was something that ran in her family, as her fraternal grandmother and aunt were both nurses. It’s also possible the death of her mother was a mitigating factor in her decision in wanting to take care of people . But, Shelly never became an RN. Instead, she took jobs working in skilled nursing facilities or as a home health aid, taking care of the sick in their homes.

20 years after the death of her mother, Michelle seemed to be getting her life in order. Even meeting 30 yr old former Navyman, David Knotek at a local bar in April of 1982. David was a Vietnam war vet, and had just come out of a failed relationship himself. Described as a lonely man, many believed David was trying to “fill a void in his life” when he met Shelly. He also described her as the “most beautiful woman” he had ever seen. After they met & started dating, Michelle showered David with attention & affection. She was described as giving him a “purpose”, as he wanted to take care of her and her 2 girls. He strived to make them happy and seemed to be a nice guy from what is known about him to this point. David & Shelly got married in 1987 and the new family moved to Raymond, WA. It’s described as a small town community, with a population of about 3,000 and has an everybody knows everybody kind of vibe to it. Fun fact, Raymond was named for the town’s first postmaster. The Knotek’s rented a small house and Michelle became a homemaker, for the most part, occasionally taking on a part-time job here or there. But mainly she took care of Nikki, now 12, and Sami, now 9. David got a job working in construction to provide for his new family. From the outside their relationship seemed perfect, but from the inside it was anything but. David may have been the breadwinner, but Shelly was the one wearing the pants in the relationship. What she said went, and if anyone challenged her, they paid the price, David included. Supposedly, she would slap and verbally abuse him, but because he was passive & submissive to her, he never fought back.

Despite the environment of the Knotek household, Shelly decided to take in her teenage nephew, Shane Watson in 1988. He was the son of Shelly’s younger brother, Paul, who rotated in & out of prison, and was allegedly involved with a biker gang. So, taking care of his pre-teen son was not really feasible for him. Many attribute this behavior to still struggling with issues stemming from his mother’s death. Shane’s mother was also struggling, but in a different way. She was a drug addict and didn’t have the resources to properly take care of Shane. Unfortunately, that meant Shane spent much of his life being under the care of many different people, including his grandparents. But, they weren’t able to properly care for him and Shane was acting out, getting into trouble. So, Shelly decided to be a good samaritan and take Shane into her family’s home. Some say it was less because she wanted to help, and more for the accolades that came along with doing so. In any case, the Knotek’s house was Shane’s new home. David took to & bonded with Shane, and saw him as the son he never had. He enjoyed spending time with & teaching Shane new things, including learning how to surf.

A year later, their family expanded again, this time with the birth of David & Shelly’s daughter, Tori in 1989. Not long after Tori’s birth, Shelly once again decided to be the good samaritan and brought in a close friend of hers, Kathy Loreno. Kathy was Shelly’s hairdresser at the local salon, but over the years they had become friends, often confiding in one another. That’s how Shelly learned of Kathy’s recent breakup, a falling out with her family, her inability to be able to afford the rent for her apartment, and the loss of her job. Shelly decided to make a deal with Kathy – you can live rent free at my place in exchange for child care and routine household chores. Without much of a choice, Kathy accepted Shelly’s offer and decided to move in. Needing a bigger house at this point, with 7 people now living in the home, the Knotek’s decided to buy a bigger, more secluded home on 5 acres of land in Raymond.

After settling in, Shelly doted on Kathy, acting like the perfect host. Once again, everything seemed to be “normal” from the outside. But also once again, things weren’t. In fact, now they had escalated and Shelly was in full control of every individual in her home. At this point, only little Tori was safe from her mother’s reign of terror. David was Shelly’s pawn, and would do whatever she asked him to do, no matter how cruel it was. Shelly would regularly emotionally & physically abuse Nikki and Sami. Sami would hide the bruises from the beatings she used to get by wearing long pants and shirts to school. She would make them sleep outside if they were bad in her eyes. One time, she got into an altercation with Nikki that ended with Nikki’s head going through a glass door. Shelly’s response when it happened, with her daughter bleeding in front of her was, “Look what you made me do.” She would berate both girls after asking them to cut off handfuls of their pubic hair in front of the other people in her household. Shane wasn’t excluded from Shelly’s abuse either. Shelly often locked the 3 of them in their rooms, or even worse, in a dog kennel or chicken coop outside. One summer, she locked Nikki inside her room for a month. Shelly would make Nikki & Shane slow dance naked together, in the living room, while she would watch and humiliate them. Shane also had his wrists and ankles wrapped with duct tape while Shelly applied IcyHot to his penis. If this weren’t enough, Shelly had a special form of punishment, which she called, “Wallowing”. This usually entailed forcing the children to go outside, naked, while she sprayed them with cold water from a hose, and watched as they would shiver and wallow around on the ground. This punishment was for infractions such as going to the bathroom without asking. If you’re wondering how Shelly got away with the physical abuse, or why Nikki, Shane, and Sami never told, it was because of the psychological games Shelly used to play. After every act of abuse, there would be a period of affection and “love”, when Shelly would buy them nice, often expensive things, or clothes, to manipulate them into forgiving her. And then the cycle would repeat itself again & again & again.

Dave and Shelly

Dave and Shelly (Source: GREGG OLSEN /https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/876416/shelly-knotek-abuse-daughters-serial-killer/)

David and Kathy dared not intervene, as Shelly’s wrath would be unleashed onto them. David was away for work for long periods of time, but unfortunately for Kathy, the wrath would come anyway. After wooing Kathy into the house, and her period of affection and “love”, platonically of course, Shelly began her course of physical & emotional abuse. For Kathy, this entailed being fed sedatives, including antidepressants and muscle relaxers. She was starved of actual food and was regularly accused of sleepwalking & eating. She was made to sleep in the basement, next to the boiler. If they traveled anywhere by car, Kathy had to get into the trunk. If Shelly wasn’t happy with how Kathy did the cleaning & chores, she would force her to do them naked, and crawl across the floor naked, while taking photos of her. She would also lock her outside the house naked. Shelly forced Nikki & Sami to repeatedly stab Kathy, but never with too much force that it would kill her. Using the bathroom & taking a shower were privileges that were regularly revoked. When sores developed, Kathy was forced to bathe in bleach. Imagine the pain that caused. Over the course of 2 years, Kathy lost over 100lbs, had a pronounced facial droop, her hair & teeth fell out from malnutrition, and near the end of her life, lost the ability to speak or communicate. Her cognitive skills were described as that of a toddler. According to David, her death was accidental, supposedly choking to death on her own vomit. If this was true, they dared not take her to the hospital or report her death, as her many wounds, bruises, and signs of abuse were obvious. Shelly instead made David take her body to a more secluded area of their property and cremate her. Which, of course he did. Being a surfer, he took her ashes in a bucket to Long Beach, and scattered them into the Pacific Ocean. To explain away Kathy’s disappearance, Shelly concocted a story that Kathy fell in love with a trucker, and decided to take off with him and move to California. Kathy’s mother and brother did not fully believe the story, and contacted the authorities a couple years later to file a missing persons report. The Pacific County Sheriff’s Department looked into the disappearance and determined her last place of residence was the Knoteks. But when they went to the house to ask Shelley about Kathy’s disappearance, she showed them a number of postmarked postcards & letters from different places across the country written by Kathy. Satisfied, the police left and deemed the missing persons case closed.

In February of 1993, Shelly’s 17 year old nephew Shane had also “left” the Knoteks home. Shelley even filed a missing person’s report with Pacific County Sheriff’s Dept. to report his disappearance. This was not long after the death, or “disappearance” of Kathy Loreno. But, not long after she reported him missing, Shelly called the police back and said they could close the case, as she had heard from Shane, and he was fine. Allegedly he had taken a job as a fisherman in Alaska, and decided to stay. Now, this story might seem “fishy” to you, but it was actually very common for young men in and around Raymond, WA to take fishing jobs in Alaska, as these jobs paid pretty well. So, the Sheriff’s Department didn’t look into the matter any further. My question to you is, do you think Shane left the Knotek’s to become a fisherman? I mean given the abuse he endured, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think he wanted out, right? Well, if you’re thinking that something sinister may have happened to Shane, you’d be right. Shelly would never risk him leaving and telling someone about her reign of terror. Shane was present for the treatment, abuse, and ultimately the death of Kathy Loreno. And, if you remember, I mentioned how Shelly would take photos of Kathy doing demeaning things in the couple years she was there. Well, Shane had come across some of these photos, had hidden them inside a teddy bear, and told Nikki he was going to give them to the police. Not knowing what to do, and to protect her family from going to jail, as Shelly would always threaten & manipulate them into believing would happen if anyone told, Nikki told alright. But she told her mom about the photos Shane had and what he intended to do with them. In return, Shelly instructed David to take care of Shane, more specifically to kill him. And, like the submissive pawn he was, David did just that. Finding Shane in the workshop building they had on the property, David snuck up behind him and shot him in the back of the head with a .22 rifle. Shane died instantly. And once again. David cremated the body and disposed of the ashes. The pictures of Kathy were never discovered. Shelly didn’t tell the girls what happened to Shane. She told them the same made up tale of being a fisherman that she told others if they ever asked about where he was. Knowing the truth now, Nikki harbors a lot of guilt regarding Shane’s death, and wonders if she hadn’t opened her mouth about him to her mother if he would still be alive today.

The house was much quieter now, with not only Shane & Kathy gone, but Nikki and Sami had actually moved out on their own, leaving 14 year old Tori alone with her mother. David was working as a logger on an island about 160 miles away from Raymond. So, in 1999, Shelly once again invited another poor bastard, I mean down on his luck guy, by the name of Ron Woodworth, to live under their roof. Ron, a 57 year old veteran, had been charged with passing bad checks, couldn’t keep a job, lost his mobile home to forclosure, and had developed a drug habit. Like the others, Ron was also treated well in the beginning, and also like the others, that hospitable treatment didn’t last long. Shelly had confiscated all of Ron’s clothes, dehumanized him, made him take pills, beat him, and made him work outside in his underwear if he triggered her in any way. As if those things weren’t enough, she would call him humiliating names, tell him he was useless, an ugly lowlife, and even convinced him to drink his own urine. Ron wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom inside the house, he had to go outside to relieve himself. While enduring the physical and psychological punishment, Shelly convinced Ron to separate and cut ties with all of his family members. One one occasion, as punishment, Shelly made Ron climb onto the second story roof of the house and convinced him to jump barefoot to the ground below. He shattered his ankles and had multiple lacerations to his body. Unable to walk, he was even more prone to Shelly’s evil ways. This included putting his badly injured feet into boiling water until she could smell the scent of burning flesh. She would also pour bleach on his open wounds and lacerations to inflict more pain. In August of 2003, after 4 years of torture, Ron either gave up or his body did, as he died most likely from his injuries. You see, it wasn’t completely clear, as Shelly, to cover her tracks and buy herself some more time, had said Ron had gotten a new job and moved away. She even went so far as to change Ron’s address on one of his credit cards to Tacoma, WA. In actuality, Shelly hid Ron’s body in a freezer for approximately 4 days, and waited for David to return from his logging job. After she told him what happened, which she described as a suicide, David realized he couldn’t cremate Ron’s body like the others. Why, you ask? Well because the county was under a burn ban, due to the extreme heat and dry summer they were having. This meant that any burning done on their property would easily be seen and reported to authorities. And, given the decomposing body they had lying in their freezer, that’s not the attention they were looking for. Instead, Shelly had David bury Ron’s body on their property, about 4ft underground. They figured when the burn ban was lifted they could burn the body then no questions asked.

Now I want to mention that Nikki tried to go to authorities to report the torture and death of Kathy Loreno. while Ron was still alive in the house. She gave them a statement, but refused to write it down or be recorded as she feared for her own and the safety of her sisters, especially Tori who still lived in the house. A Pacific County Sheriff’s Deputy went out to check on the welfare of Ron Woodward, but at that time, he still appeared well from all outward appearances, and refused to speak with the deputy, instead disappearing into the house when the deputy arrived on scene. Since there were no apparent injuries and he didn’t want to speak to him, the deputy left and went back to the station. Nikki also didn’t stick around for the sheriff’s department to follow up with. She went back into hiding fearing her mother would track her down and punish her for going to the police.

During the time of Ron’s confinement in the Knotek’s house, around April of 2000, Shelly was working as a case aid for the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. She was not a home health aid, but rather an officer worker answering any questions clients or their families may have. It’s suspected that this was how she was able to scope out potential targets or future victims of her crimes. One such gentleman was 81 year old James “Mac” McClintock. Mac was a Pearl Harbor veteran, retired merchant crewman, and a widower, who lived with his black lab Sissy. Unfortunately, Mac had a history of strokes, cardiac issues, and falling and injuring himself. To assist with his mobility, Mac had a motorized scooter to get around in. Over the course of a 3-4 year period, Mac called for help nearly 70 times for assistance, though none of those injuries were severe. In 2002, he had the unfortunate luck of crossing paths with Shelly Knotek. Although Shelly wasn’t working as a home health aid, she told co-workers that she was friends with James and knew him prior to her employment with the agency. This was likely untrue, with it being more likely she found his information in their files, as he was a client, determined he didn’t have any real family, and swooped in to profit from his care. Since James only had Sissy, his lab in his life, he had told Shelly that upon his death, he would stipulate in his will she receive a $5,000 stipend to take care of Sissy until her passing, as she was an older dog. Then, Shelly would be given full ownership of his estate, including his house, worth approximately $140,000. Not surprisingly, James McClintock’s death came sooner than expected. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, but it was undetermined how it happened, so the only person who could say what did was Shelly. And, according to her, Mac had fallen and must have hit his head. Shelly called 911, and when deputies arrived on scene, Mac was still alive, and mentioned nothing to them about any wrongdoing. However, Mac did pass away from his injuries, the means of death was undetermined. So, Shelly received her $5000 stipend from the estate, and coincidentally enough, 6 months later Shelly said Sissy had passed away as well. So, as it stood, she was the sole beneficiary of Mac’s estate, including his house. As his death wasn’t ruled a homicide, Shelly was never arrested or charged, and Mac’s death remains a mystery.

As I mentioned earlier, Nikki went to the police to try to convince them of her mother’s murderous ways, but they were unable to substantiate her claims, and Nikki went back into hiding. Well, Nikki along with Sami and Tori met up in Seattle, where Nikki was living, to devise a plan to turn their mother in. They instructed Tori to try to find anything related to Ron Woodward that they could show police to make them believe their story. In the meantime, Sami went with Nikki to the Sheriff’s office, reiterated what Nikki previously told them, and made it clear they were worried about the abuse and safety of their sister, Tori. They also mentioned that Ron Woodward had disappeared, and that their mother told them a story they’d heard before, Ron ran away in the middle of the night after meeting someone in CA. Deputies, along with CPS, went to the residence the next day, and removed Tori from the home. When they told Shelly the reason for the removal, she adamantly denied their claims. Shelly sent David to the Sheriff’s office the next day to try to get Tori back. This turned out to be one of the worst decisions Shelly could have made, as David showed why he was the weaker of the two.

During questioning, David said Shelly never abused any of the girls, and was reluctant to answer their questions about anyone else that was in their house. But after some time, and additional prodding by investigators, David made his first mistake. He admitted Kathy Loreno was dead, but that she had died after falling in the shower. Before cremating her body, they sent the children away to stay at a relative’s, so they wouldn’t see or ask questions about the disposal. He also admitted to throwing the ashes into the ocean at Long and Washaway Beaches. But this was just the start. He then confirmed the death of Ron Woodward, but said that it was a suicide. He found 2 bottles of pills that Shelly had said went missing from her bathroom. And, that’s how he believed he died. When asked about where Ron’s body was, he told them he buried him in the backyard because of the burn ban. This admission gave investigators the ability to obtain a warrant to search the Knotek’s property for Ron’s body, and any other remains that may still exist from Kathy’s cremated body.

Not only did investigators begin excavating the acres of land surrounding the Knotek home, but they placed both David and Shelly under arrest for 2nd degree murder. David had told them where they could find Ron’s body, and that proved to be truthful information. In addition, investigator’s found a quarter sized piece of bone, but not much else when it came to human remains. The bone was determined to be from the distal radius, and it was either human or orangutan. They could not extract DNA, so they were unable to determine if it came from Kathy or Shane. They decided to bring David to the scene, and while he was there, he admitted to killing Shelly’s nephew, Shane, by shooting him in the back of the head, at the behest of Shelly. Investigators did find an undeveloped roll of film, and when it was developed, they found a photo of Kathy, nude on all fours, crawling on the floor. Other photos and home videos in the home showed a chronology of Kathy’s decline in health and weight. They also showed just how domineering Shelly was to her family.

Despite all the evidence, prosecutors were worried about their case against the Knoteks.. They had 2 supposed murders with no bodies, and 1 body that was supposedly a suicide. And actually 1 of the supposed murders, was being called an accidental death by the Knoteks. Without the bodies to be able to prove intentional vs. accidental death, a case with no body was going to be very difficult to prove. In the end, much to the chagrin of their daughters and victims’ family members, prosecutors came to an agreement with defense counsel for both David and Shelly.

In 2004, David pled guilty to second degree murder,unlawful disposal of human remains, and rendering criminal assistance. He received a sentence of 15 years, which if you do the math had him getting out in 2019. He was released a year earlier for good behavior, in 2018. Nikki and Tori keep in touch and have forgiven him for his role in what happened. But Sami has not been able to forgive him thus far for his role in her abuse, though she does on occasion speak with him.

Knotek Children

Knotek Children (Source: GREGG OLSEN /https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/876416/shelly-knotek-abuse-daughters-serial-killer/)

As for Shelly, and you’re not going to like the outcome I’m afraid. Due to Washington State Spousal Immunity Provision, none of the information provided by David incriminating his wife would be allowed to be entered into evidence, and he would not be allowed to testify at her trial against her. Even if the prosecution attempted to do so, her attorney’s would immediately invoke the Immunity Provision. Handcuffed by what they would be able to prove, and not wanting her to go free, Shelly Knotek entered an Alford plea, in which she did not admit responsibility but acknowledged the prosecutor’s case against her. She plead guilty to one count of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter. It’s like pleading innocent and guilty at the same time. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended she serve 17 years in prison. But Judge Mark McCauley, after a 40 day delay to consider the recommendation, decided to sentence her to 22 years in prison. This was the maximum sentence he could impose without Shelly or her legal team being able to appeal it. With this term, she would be released in 2026. However, according to a couple sources I came across, Shelly was eligible to be released for good behavior as early as June of this year. Thus far, according to the Washington State corrections database, called Vine, Michelle Knotek, inmate #865733, is still listed as in custody at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. I will keep checking to see if she is released early or not.

Shelly’s daughters collectively do not want to have anything to do with their mother. Sami tried to keep in touch just after her mother’s conviction, but Shelly kept asking her to send her things, including sexy lingerie. Recognizing she was being taken advantage of, Sami discontinued any further communication with her mother. These days Nikki is married, has 3 children, and works with her husband at his landscaping business in Seattle, WA. Sami decided to stay in Raymond, as a schoolteacher, who is married with 3 kids. And, Tori has a job in social media, while living in Colorado. They say they don’t fear their mother when she is released, but they do worry about her taking advantage of other people as she did in the past.

In order to make more people aware of who she is and what she is capable of, they, along with David, worked with New York Times best selling author, Gregg Olsen to expose Shelly Knotek for the monster she is. The book, If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood, took nearly 2 years to write and was released on December 1st, 2019. It gives a survivor’s perspective on the atrocities that took place under their roof by both their mother and father. But, more importantly, how they were able to move forward and discover the light at the end of a very dark, seemingly endless tunnel.

 

 

 

Sources:
Snapped: Season 10, Episode 19: Michelle Knotek
Accessed August, 2022. Kids of murderer Michelle ‘Shelly’ Knotek warn their mom could kill again https://nypost.com/2019/11/30/kids-of-murderer-michelle-shelly-knotek-warn-their-mom-could-kill-again/?sr_share=facebook&utm_medium=SocialFlow&utm_source=NYPFacebook&utm_campaign=SocialFlow&fbclid=IwAR3RAky8NOJD2Wcc-Z7Oq5q5vFNnnqMrOSTPV_Sw63xgEvc1qbwHA1lciaI
Accessed August, 2022. Michelle Knotek https://alchetron.com/Michelle-Knotek
Accessed August, 2022. The Disturbing Story Of Shelly Knotek, The Serial Killer Mom Who Brutalized Her Own Family https://allthatsinteresting.com/shelly-knotek
Accessed August, 2022. VINE https://vinelink.vineapps.com/person-detail/offender/352442;tabIndexToSelect=0
Accessed August, 2022. Murderpedia: Michelle Knotek https://murderpedia.org/female.K/k/knotek-michelle.htm
Accessed August, 2022. Dog adds twist to Raymond case https://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Dog-adds-twist-to-Raymond-case-1121726.php
Accessed August, 2022. Serial Killers’ Daughters https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/202006/serial-killers-daughters
Accessed August, 2022. US SUN: ‘BIGGEST MANIPULATOR’ America’s ‘most evil mom’ Shelly Knotek abused her daughters and tortured and killed her friends https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/876416/shelly-knotek-abuse-daughters-serial-killer/
Accessed August, 2022. Serial killer ‘Shelly’ Knotek who tortured, killed helpless relatives is a ‘ticking time bomb’, says daughter https://meaww.com/serial-killer-michelle-shelly-knotek-biggest-manipulator-daughter-tortured-killed-friends-family
Accessed August, 2022. Dog’s caretakers sue murder defendants seeking control over estate https://products.kitsapsun.com/archive/2003/11-30/333192_dog_s_caretakers_sue_murder_def.html#:~:text=SOUTH%20BEND%20%2D%2D%20A%20black,the%20care%20of%20Michelle%20Knotek.
Accessed August, 2022. Michelle Knotek, Serial Killer Landlady – 2003, Washington http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2016/09/michelle-knotek-serial-killer-landlady.html