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The suspicious reception of the Knotek family: Who was Michelle Knotek?

Michelle Knotek and her husband, David, were married in 1987. Michelle had children from previous marriages; however, they took David’s last name after they began living together.

At first, David Knotek treated his stepdaughters, Sammi and Nikki, as if they were his children, and he even worked hard to give the girls and his wife everything they wanted. Two years after their marriage, Tori Knotek was born, their daughter, to complete the family.

Little Tori, Sami and Nikki Knotek seemed to live a normal life with their parents, and all three enjoyed their affection within a conventional family.

Michelle, or Shelly Knotek, as many called her, was a homemaker and always proved to be very helpful to the community. The family lived in Raymond, Washington, and Michelle managed to make many friends by showing empathy for her friends and even those in need.

Because of certain situations, Kathy Loreno, one of Michelle’s best friends, moved in with her, and she began living with the Knotek family. Years later, Lorenzo’s family reported her missing and never saw her again.

Years later, Ronald Woodworth was taken in by the Knotek family to help him, as the man had become homeless; however, like Kathy Lorenzo, he also disappeared without a trace.

Both David and Shelly Knotek became the main suspects in her disappearance.

Kathy Loreno and Ron Woodworth received a stay and death.

Shelly Knotek had a very charismatic personality, so it was very easy for her to make friends. She always tried to look her best and was very friendly with everyone.

In this way, she became friends with her hairdresser, Kathy Loreno. Their friendship grew stronger over time and they shared a lot of time together, even inviting her over to the house to share with the whole family.

Kathy Loreno worked for a time at Bobbie’s Beauty Bar in South Bend, where many people came to have her personally attend to them. Her customers describe her as a very cheerful person who always had a smile on her face.

Loreno lived with her family and everything seemed to be going well, however, in 1991, Kathy had to leave her home abruptly after a fierce argument with her family.

Since she had become homeless, Shelly Knotek offered her home to live with them for a while till she could resolve her situation. By that time, Katy Lorenzo agreed with Shelly that she would work as a babysitter for her daughters to pay for her stay in their home until she could get a place to live.

Loreno lived with Shelly Knotek and her family for five years. During those years, Kathy lost a lot of weight and was noticed by many to be very emaciated.

In 1994, Kathy’s clients and friends stopped seeing her and her family did not hear from her. The family reported her missing, unaware of the terrible nightmare Kathy had lived through and that they would never see her again.

In 1991, Shane Watson, Shelly Knotek’s nephew, was also reported missing after he went to live with his aunt’s family in 1988. Since that year, Shane lived with the Knotek family because his father went to prison and had no one to stay with, however, in 1991 he was reported missing. Sharon Watson, his mother, couldn’t take care of him.

In 1999, Shelly Knotek, wanting to maintain her image as a selfless and helpful mother, took care of Ronald Woodworth, a former war veteran who was presumed to suffer from mental illness. Ron Woodworth became homeless and Michelle took him into her home.

In 2003, Ronal Woodworth died in suspicious conditions, suffering fatal injuries after what appeared to have been an accidental fall from a building.

Disappearances and a terrible confession

Kathy Lorenzo’s family reported her missing in 1994. When the Knotek family was interviewed by police, Shelly Knotek told them that Kathy had run away to California with a truck driver with whom she had fallen in love.

During the investigations, Shelly maintained that she and Kathy had been in contact for some time. Meanwhile, Loreno’s family hired a private investigator, who suspected the Knotek family and sensed that she had been murdered.

When the police asked them about their nephew Shane Watson, the Knotek family stated that the boy had gone to work as a fisherman in Alaska.

In the case of Ron Woodworth, there was also no satisfactory reason to describe the death. For although it appeared to be a suicide, there were many details to prove it.

The investigations into the 3 cases abruptly changed course when Nikki and Sami Knotek, Michelle Knotek’s two eldest daughters, called the police to testify about the abuse that Ron had suffered.

It was discovered that Michelle Knotek physically abused her three guests to the point of murder, with the support of her husband David.

Investigators searched the Knotek home, found human remains behind the house.

Following the confession of their eldest daughters, David and Michelle Knotek were arrested on August 6, 2003.

The horrifying torture

During the time Kathy Loreno lived with Michell Knotek, she was a victim of physical abuse. Michelle constantly tortured her by beating her and pouring bleach on the wounds she inflicted on her. Michell Knotek’s daughters told police that their mother would make Kathy Loreno spend hours outside the house naked in cold temperatures.

Prior to this, Michelle would put power pills in Kathy’s food, making her believe she was sleepwalking. When she fell asleep, she would remove her clothes and move them around to make her think she had walked around the house naked.

Kathy died choking on her own vomit in the laundry room area of the house after being beaten many times. She was fed rotten food, had all her hair cut off with scissors, and forced the children to beat her. Then, David and Michelle Knotek burned her body and threw her ashes into the sea.

According to the statements of Michelle Knotek’s daughters, their mother forced Ron Woodworth to drink his own urine and he was the victim of several acts of abuse. Michelle constantly beat him and also poured bleach and hot water on his wounds, and then some time later, forced him to jump off a building.

The initiative of Michelle’s daughters to tell what had happened was the constant emotional abuse of which they were victims. Michell Knotek would lock his daughters in the closet, take them out of the room naked and make them go out to the backyard, where she would douse them with cold water.

Michelle would also bathe them with scalding water and sometimes would not let them take a shower without her consent. On several occasions they needed medical attention for the beatings; however, she never took them to the hospital.

Both Sami and Nikki Knotek also witnessed the abuse of their cousin Shane Watson. He was forced by Michelle Knotek to take pictures of the abuse of Kathy Loreno, forbid him to bathe and tortured him and his daughters.

After beating him for hours, he was sent to sleep in the basement with no clothes on. When his nephew and his children were together, he would make them dance together naked and beat them constantly.

When Michelle found out that Shane had shown her cousins the photos of the torture against Kathy Loreno, she had David Knotek shoot the boy in the head, then burned the body and the ashes disappeared.

David allowed Michelle to torture Kathy and Ron so his attention would not be on the girls.

Michelle Knotek had total control over everyone, and none of them ever tried to escape.

Michell Knotek’s tumultuous past

Michelle Knotek was born on April 15, 1954, in Raymond, Washington. She had a traumatic childhood and was raised by her father along with her siblings and stepmother.

Michelle and her siblings were abandoned by Sharon Watson, their biological mother when they were very young. During her interviews, it was discovered that Shelly’s mother abused them when they were young and died when Michelle was only 13 years old.

After the murders and crimes, it was also discovered that Michelle made her husband David believe for a time that she had cancer, even shaving off her eyebrows so that her husband would believe her.


In August 2003, Michelle Knotek was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder. One count related to the 1991 death of Kathy Loreno and the other count related to the 2003 death of Ron Woodworth.

The jury found that there was sufficient evidence to find Michelle Knotek guilty of the murders.

On June 18, 2004, Michelle Knotek appeared in Pacific County Court to plead guilty to first-degree murder and guilty to second-degree murder respectively.

The court agreed to reduce the second-degree murder charge to first-degree manslaughter due to circumstantial evidence.

Meanwhile, David Knotek was convicted of first-degree murder in the Shane Watson case.


On August 19, 2004, Knotek was sentenced to a prison term of 164 months for the murder of Kathy Loreno; and 102 months for the murder charge of Ron Woodworth. A total of 22 years in prison.

David Knotek was found guilty of the second-degree murder of Shane Watson and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Frequently asked questions

Did Shelly Knotek get released?

No, for now he is still serving his 22-year prison sentence.

Is there a movie or show about the Knotek family?

The case has been the inspiration for several television shows, including Snapped, Sins and Secrets and Wicked Attraction.

Is the book “if you tell” really a true story?

Yes, it was inspired by the crimes of torture and murder of Michelle Knotek.