Daughters Warn Their 'Ticking Time Bomb' Mom, Imprisoned For Two Torture Deaths, Is Still A Danger As Her Release Nears

Michelle Knotek took a plea deal in the brutal deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth and is set to be released from jail in 2022. 

By Gina Tron

The daughters of a woman jailed for murder want to warn the public about their dangerous mother in anticipation of her eventual release from prison.

Michelle "Shelly" Knotek was sentenced to more than two decades behind bars back in 2004 for the torture deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth at her Raymond, Washington home, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported at the time.

She entered an Alford plea, which means she did not technically admit guilt but acknowledged a jury would find her guilty, on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in both deaths. Her husband David Knotek was convicted of murder in a third death at the family's home, the fatal shooting of her teen nephew Shane Watson.

Knotek, now 65, is expected to be released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women in the summer of 2022.

Her three daughters, Nikki, 44, Sami, 41, and Tori, 30, were interviewed for a new book on the case entitled, “If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood.” They actually reached out to the book’s author, Gregg Olsen, two years ago, because they were worried about their mother’s release, the New York Post reports.

“My mother was like a ticking time bomb,” Nikki recalled in the book. “I never knew when she would go off.”

Michelle Knotek

In the book, Knotek's daughters accuse her of physically and mentally abusing them over the course of years. Among the many horrific and bizarre accusations, the women said that as girls, their mom regularly forced them to sleep outside. They claim she often sadistically forced them to get naked and roll around in the mud while she sprayed cold water on them with a hose as punishment for wrongdoings such as using the bathroom without permission. Knotek allegedly even forced one of her daughters to slow dance naked with Watson, the girls' now-dead cousin. The mother also allegedly shaved her own eyebrows to fake having cancer, according to her daughters.

The women recall that Loreno, a friend of Knotek who'd moved into the home in 1988 and offered to babysit in exchange for room and board, starved to death while imprisoned in the home’s laundry room six years later. Knotek's daughters said their mother began drugging and starving Loreno after a time, though the acts of abuse were mixed in with periods of affection.

“Kathy was a pleaser and never did anything to trigger such treatment,” Olsen told the post. “Shelly delighted in making other people hurt. It made her feel superior. She has never been formally diagnosed as a psychopath, but showed all the traits.”

A year later, the girls' cousin Watson vanished. They at first wanted to believe their mother’s cover story that he moved to Alaska to start a new life as a fisherman. It was later revealed that he was shot to death by David Knotek, allegedly at Shelly's urging; her daughters think he was killed in order to cover up Loreno's death.

Woodworth moved in with the family in 1999 as another boarder and, just as Loreno had years earlier, began suffering abuse before long. According to the book, he was forced to drink his own urine and coerced to jump from the roof of the two-story home onto gravel. His wounds from the jump were doused in boiling water and bleach; otherwise untreated, they ultimately led to the 57-year-old's death in 2003.

Tori, who was then just 14 and still living at home, talked to her sisters and they decided to call the police on their mom following Woodworth's death. Their decision led to the arrests of Shelly and her husband.

Olsen told the New York Post that Knotek's daughters want to warn society about the danger posed by their mother, a woman he likens in his book to literary and movie villains like “Cujo, Freddy Krueger [...] Pennywise.”

“They feel it’s their duty to expose their mother’s true nature as a predator,” he said.

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