Michelle Knotek’s early childhood was rife with suffering, according to Gregg Olsen of The New York Times, who published a tell-all on the killer in 2019.
She was the oldest of three siblings, who were raised by an alcoholic mother who appeared to forsake her children. Shelly Knotek tortured her younger brothers because she couldn’t process her grief. But it wasn’t until she was 13 that she realized her mother hadn’t abandoned them at all, but had instead been battered to death.
Shelly, according to her daughters, reacted to the news with pyromania, stealing, and filling up her own shoes with glass.
Knotek was sent to live with her grandmother after falsely accusing her father of rape at the age of 15, before eloping with her first husband at the age of 17. Those closest to her stated that after being first charmed by her, all three of her subsequent spouses were emotionally and physically abused by her.
Shelly Knotek married David Knotek, her third and final husband, in 1987. She repeatedly assaulted him. He was a construction worker and Navy veteran.
David Knotek’s new wife grew more sadistic as time went on, despite the fact that he was twice divorced and had two kids of his own, 12-year-old Nikki and nine-year-old Sami.
In 1988, Shelly Knotek’s first victim moved into her house. Shane Watson, her 13-year-old nephew, whose father was in prison and whose mother was too poor to care for him. Knotek welcomed Kathy Loreno, an old friend who had lost her job and needed assistance, later that year.
Knotek started abusing Watson almost right away. She coined the term “wallowing” to describe her method of reprimanding him for minor infractions such as going to the bathroom without asking. She even made him stand outdoors in the cold, naked, and poured water on him.
The Knotek sisters were also not spared. She made fun of her eldest two stepdaughters by demanding them to give her handfuls of their pubic hair on the spur of the moment. Some time she even locked them in a dog kennel. One time, she even pushed Nikki’s head through a glass door. “Take a look at what you forced me to do,” she said to the child. Shelly Knotek, on the other hand, appeared to have spared someone, her infant Tori, who was born the next year.
Meanwhile, she giggled as she pushed her nephew and Nikki to dance naked together. She would dump “love bombs” of total affection on her children and nephew after abusing them.
Knotek greeted Loreno in December 1988 with deceptive enthusiasm and affection, but she soon began abusing Loreno as well. Loreno acquiesced to performing forced work in her panties, being fed nightly sedatives, and sleeping near to the basement boiler because she had nowhere else to go.
In 1994, Shelly Knotek advanced to the level of murder. Loreno had lost more than 100 pounds by this point and had died after Knotek had beaten her. Knotek convinced her spouse,David and kids that if they told outsiders, they would all be imprisoned, thus Loreno’s body was burned.
Shelly Knotek easily explained Loreno had run off with her lover if anyone questioned. Watson, on the other hand was aware of the atrocities that surrounded him. He showed his cousin Nikki images of Loreno that he had taken while she was still alive – she was very starved — and that he planned to show them to the cops.
But when Nikki revealed his plot to her mother, David Knotek retaliated by shooting Watson in the head in February 1995.
“My mother was able to manage Dave because — as much as I love him — he’s a really weak man,” Sami Knotek explained. “He lacks the courage to stand up for himself.” He could have married happily and been a fantastic husband to someone, and he would have been, but instead, he had his life devastated as well.”
Michelle Knotek’s Last Murder
Shelly Knotek, took up the care of James McClintock, an 81-year-old retired merchant seaman, in 2002. McClintock reportedly left Knotek his $140,000 fortune.
McClintock died from a head wound he purportedly received after falling in his home, which may or may not have been a coincidence. Knotek, on the other hand, was never successfully linked to his killing by police.
Knotek compelled Woodworth to cut relations with his family, forced him to drink his own urine, and then ordered him to jump from the roof. He wasn’t killed in the two-story fall, but he was gravely wounded. Knotek poured bleach on his wounds and he died in August 2003 as a result.
Shelly Knotek told Woodworth’s friends that he had taken a job in Tacoma while his body was in their freezer. Woodworth’s “disappearance” was what made Tori who was 14 recognize what was going on in her family. David Knotek eventually buried him in their yard.
Tori’s older sisters had already moved out by this point, but when she informed them what she thought had happened, they urged her to gather Woodworth’s stuff so they could present their case to the police. She did.
In 2003, police raided the Knotek property and discovered Woodworth’s buried body. On August 8, that year, David and Shelly Knotek were arrested.
David Knotek admitted to shooting Watson and burying Woodworth five months later while Tori Knotek was placed in the custody of her sister Sami. For shooting Watson, he was charged with second-degree murder. He was in prison for 13 years.
In the meantime, Michelle Knotek was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the murders of Loreno and Woodworth. She was given a 22-year sentence, however she will be released early in June 2022.
Her family is really worried about her being released.
“I can just see myself locking all my doors and barricading myself in the bathroom to call the cops if she shows up on my doorstep,” Sami added.
Nikki and Sami Knotek are now in their mid-40s and live in Seattle, while their sister Tori relocated to Colorado for a change of scenery.
David Knotek’s children have forgiven him after he was pardoned in 2018. Shelly Knotek, on the other hand, is a scary presence for all three women, and her impending release is terrifying.