Raymond pair charged in killings

RAYMOND, Pacific County — Most everyone here knew James McClintock and his black Lab, Sissy. She followed him and his motorized wheelchair all around town. He fed her steaks, roasts and choice cuts.

McClintock loved his dog so much that he bequeathed his entire estate to her.

"When you seen Mac, you seen the dog," said Roger Williams, dairy manager at the Pioneer Grocery here.

What did — or didn't — happen to Sissy after McClintock died in February 2002 adds another bit of mystery to the already gruesome case against David and Michelle Knotek, who are accused of torturing and killing three people.

The Knoteks were formally charged yesterday by Pacific County prosecutors.

Michelle Knotek, 49, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth. Her husband David, 50, was charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Shane Watson.

Police dug up Woodworth's body last weekend in the Knotek's back yard. Police believe Loreno and Watson's bodies were burned, and their ashes dispersed in the ocean.

The Knoteks are scheduled to enter formal pleas to the charges in court today.

Prosecutors say the Knoteks befriended people who were down and out or estranged from their families, invited them to live in their home, then abused, tortured and ultimately killed them.

They allege that Michelle Knotek abused and tortured Woodworth, 57, scalding his feet in boiling water. The abuse may have started in July 2001, and continued until he died, which they think was July 24.

They also say Loreno, who friends believe met Michelle Knotek in the beauty parlor where Loreno worked, was abused and worked until she died, sometime between April 1990 and December 1993.

Prosecutors say Watson, Michelle Knotek's nephew who was about 19 when he disappeared, was taken to a shed and fatally shot, possibly for knowing too much. Prosecutors say he was killed by David Knotek sometime between January 1993 and December 1994.

David Knotek also was charged with rendering criminal assistance to his wife in Woodworth's death and unlawfully disposing of human remains.

And now, South Bend Police Chief Dave Eastham says his department is reopening the investigation into the death of McClintock, the 81-year-old man Michelle Knotek cared for over a two-year period.

Part of that probe focuses on the dog, Sissy. Is she alive or dead?

Before he died, McClintock made Michelle Knotek a beneficiary of his estate. But there was a provision that she would not get McClintock's three-story house overlooking the Willapa River or any of the $8,825 he left her until after Sissy died.

McClintock died Feb. 9, 2002, after suffering a "blunt impact to the head," according to his death certificate.

That same year, the Knoteks were in danger of losing their house, according to documents filed at the Pacific County Auditor's office. They were almost $5,000 behind in house payments and the bank had ordered a public auction of the property for Aug. 30, 2002.

That summer, the Knoteks came up with the money and the bank called off the auction, documents say.

Herbert Newton, the former Pacific County sheriff who lived down the street from McClintock, was appointed Sissy's legal guardian. After McClintock died, Newton said he gave the dog to the Knoteks.

The couple called Newton in July 2002 saying that Sissy had died.

No one checked to see if the dog, in fact, had died, including Newton's attorney, Elizabeth Penoyar, who said she didn't think to look for the dog's remains.

Shortly after reporting Sissy's death, Michelle Knotek received the house and the $8,825.

Yesterday, Dr. Gina Lewis at the Vetters Animal Hospital in Raymond said she had a dog matching Sissy's description: about 13 years old, a female black lab mix with white whiskers.

The dog was one of six confiscated from the Knotek property after the couple was arrested.

Employees at Pioneer Grocery, where McClintock shopped at least every other day for five years, looked closely at a picture of the dog in the pound and swore the dog was Sissy.

David Knotek's mother, Shirley, looked once at the picture and said, "Yup, that's Mac's dog."

Police continued to search the Knoteks' property yesterday for any evidence in connection with the three deaths. Police also were searching McClintock's home.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration said it would conduct a preliminary investigation into allegations that David Knotek was using the Social Security number of McClintock after he died.

The Social Security office also will try to determine whether the Knoteks ever illegally obtained his or anyone else's Social Security payments, said Manuela Oellerman, a Social Security spokeswoman.

It's still unclear exactly how Michelle Knotek met McClintock and others who may have stayed at her home.

In April 2000, she 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 aide, 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 Knotek 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 says McClintock was one of the agency's clients.

But he added that Knotek knew McClintock before she began working at the center and had told staff members that he was a friend.

Beatty says he initiated Knotek's termination, but he said he 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 yesterday.

The state Department of Social and Health Services said yesterday that neither Michelle nor David Knotek was 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.

Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or mko@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporters Ian Ith, Jonathan Martin and Mary Spicuzza contributed to this report.