Two brothers wanted in the disappearance and presumed slayings of a Washington state couple may be heading for the Mexican border, authorities said Tuesday.
Detectives found a red Volkswagen that had been driven by 53-year-old John Blaine Reed and his brother, 49-year-old Tony Clyde Reed, in Phoenix, but they said the suspects had since taken a 2002 gold Acura 32T with Arizona plate BNN-9968. A license plate reader captured that plate near Calexico, California, on Monday, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said.
The brothers are wanted in the disappearance of John Reed’s former neighbors, 45-year-old Patrick Shunn and his wife, 46-year-old Monique Patenaude, who were reported missing one week ago. Investigators say they found evidence the couple was killed, and teams were searching a wooded 23-square-mile area around their home near Oso, 50 miles north-northeast of Seattle, for their bodies.
“The exact location of the Reed brothers is unknown, but there is reason to believe they may be trying to flee to Mexico,” the sheriff’s office said in an email Tuesday. It described them as convicted felons who should be considered armed and dangerous.
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 neighbors 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 said Monday.
“They weren’t looking forward to any kind of conflict with Mr. Reed,” the couple’s former lawyer, Thomas Adams, said Monday. “They didn’t want to provoke any kind of an issue with him.”
Court documents say John Reed had threated to shoot the couple for cutting brush between their two properties, according to The Seattle Times. The newspaper reported that Reed threatened to shoot or assault them if they didn’t leave him alone, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.
The grim mystery played out on land abutting the nation’s worst landslide disaster, the 2014 Oso landslide, which wiped out a rural neighborhood and killed 43 people. In an interview shortly afterward, John Reed told The Seattle Times he watched the slide as it roared past his front yard.
“This mountain of dirt taller than any trees near me cut off my view like a curtain,” he said. “And it shot right in front of me, right by my house.”
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, the sheriff’s office said. Court documents say the couple had complained to county officials that Reed was squatting at his old house, which prompted the county to warn Reed not to trespass.
In 2013, Shunn and Patenaude joined two other property owners in suing neighbors David and Shelly Dick over the use of the old logging road, which crosses their property. They alleged that the Dicks had been allowing people to trespass on their land to reach an unoccupied riverfront parcel owned by the Dicks.
Last month, the Dicks asked the court to dismiss the complaint.
John Reed’s property was further along the logging road, and he too used it regularly, but the couple didn’t want to sue him, Adams said. It’s possible he had a right to use the road because of his historical practice of doing so, Adams said.
John Reed has been cited for a number of mostly minor offenses.
Tony Reed 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 misdemeanors, including an assault charge.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.