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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 39 - The Knoteks and the I-44 Explosion

SARAH:

The Knoteks: Family of horrors


David and Shelly Knotek
David and Shelly Knotek - Parents from Hell.

Background

In April 1982, David Knotek was out and about and in a chance encounter, while living in Raymond Washington, he had met a girl named Shelly. David claimed that Shelly was “the most beautiful girl” he had seen in his entire life. She was a young, charismatic, single mom of two daughters - with two divorces under her belt, and a history of having a tragic childhood. The couple got married in 1987 and had a daughter, Tori, together in 1989. David was a good father, he loved Shelly’s two daughters like they were his own. He worked hard so they could have everything they wanted.


Shelly was a typical stay-at-home mom, while David set off to work everyday to be the breadwinner and provide for his family. He worked construction, so you know that was a lot of long days and physical labor. Before he met Shelly and did construction, he had spent years serving in the Navy - he was a hard worker.


The Knoteks seemed like your everyday normal run of the mill family. They seemed happy to everyone on the outside of their home. But inside their home was another story entirely.


Abuse

Inside the home, and very quickly after their wedding, Shelly began to physically and verbally abuse her husband David, and he never stood up to her. Sadly it wasn’t only David that was being abused by Shelly. Damn near all of the abuse she inflicted was upon her own daughters. Shelly was known to wake her oldest daughter, Nikki, up in the middle of the night by holding a pillow over her face, trying to suffocate her. Then turned around and consoled Nikki and told her that it was a bad dream, that no one was trying to suffocate her.


David, as well as her children were often beaten with whatever was laying around the house that Shelly thought she could inflict pain with. Shelly would often lock them in closets, locking them outside of the house and forcing them to sleep out there even if they were scared. She did this for the smallest of punishments, and most of the time her children didn’t even know why they were being punished in the first place.


Nikki was the one that got the most abuse. She was thrown into walls, punched and beaten with a phone cord. Nikki had to learn to save face while in public and began to hide her bruises from the world by wearing leggings and long sleeve shirts. She didn’t want anyone asking her questions or raising suspicions about what could be going on in the Knotek home. Nikki would grow up and leave the house for good, which sadly made her two younger siblings the targets.


Sami and Tori, the two youngest of the Knotek children, were restricted from using the bathroom and shower. They had to beg for permission from Shelly before they could do either. And oftentimes, that led to accidents happening, and being unable to wash for long periods of time, you can imagine the smell. This caused extreme embarrassment at school, and the alienation it caused from their peers was enough to make anyone wish they were dead.


However, the worst of the abuse was given to anyone that became a guest in their home after an invitation to stay from Shelly.


Guests

In 1988, Shelly’s 13-year-old nephew, Shane Watson, came to the Knotek’s home to live. Shane’s dad was not able to do much rearing of his own child as he was in and out of prison. Shane’s mom was a drug addict who was perpetually struggling with substance abuse. Shelly had sent him numerous letters full of love, and telling him if he ever needed to, he could come and live at her house.


Even with two absentee parents, Shane immediately knew when he entered the Knotek home that he had walked into another form of hell.


Shane would quickly become the new target of abuse. Shelly tortured Shane the same way that she tortured her daughters. A punishment that she called “wallowing.” This forced the children to lay in mud at night while naked while she dumped frigidly cold water on them. Shelly’s girls were also sometimes locked up in dog cages and chicken coops while “wallowing.”


Shelly often forced her daughters to cut their pubic hair out in the open to humiliate them. She made hers and David’s daughter, Nikki, dance naked with Shane.


Each time Shelly would abuse her girls and Shane, she would lovebomb the fuck out of them to keep them under her thumb, and in her control. She was the ultimate master manipulator that seemingly got off on her own power and the control she could force upon those around her.


The Knoteks opened their home, yet again, to an outsider the same year Shane moved in with them. This time it was a family friend named Kathy Loreno. Kathy had lost her job and was down and out on luck, so she turned to her friend Shelly. In the very beginning of Kathy staying in the Knotek’s home, Shelly love bombed her like she had everyone else. Unfortunately for Kathy, she chose the wrong person to turn to and be uplifted by, as she would not be safe from the abuse Shelly doled out.


The First Murder

Six years after opening their home to guests, the Knoteks would become murderers. Kathy Loreno had lost 100 pounds while being abused and performing laborious tasks while naked for Shelly. She was forced to sleep next to the boiler that was in the basement. David also had a hand in Kathy’s abuse. He DIY’d waterboarding equipment for their use. He would duct-tape Kathy’s arms and legs together so that he could pour bleach into the open wounds on her body.


The Knoteks forced Kathy to drink smoothies made from rotten food, and to eat cups of salt.

Kathy had deteriorated so quickly that it was difficult for her to stand and walk, keeping her balance was something that just wasn’t doable for her anymore. Cognitively she declined as well, and the closer she came to death, the more she was not able to respond, and didn’t seem to know her surroundings.


Shelly, being the manipulator that she was, explained to her children and nephew that what she was doing was to keep Kathy safe. After that, she began forcing the children to help her abuse Kathy. They became desensitized and easily turned a blind eye to keep themselves out of harm's way in terms of Shelly.


Kathy suffered years of abuse, torture and humiliation before her suffering came to an end at the age of 36 in 1994. She died while being locked inside of the laundry room of the Knotek’s home. David claimed Kathy choked on her puke. He stated that they never took Kathy to a hospital because it would implicate them if her death was investigated. They went a whole different direction. They burned Kathy’s body in their backyard and then scattered her ashes into the Pacific.


Anyone who asked what happened to Kathy, the couple would state that she ran off to live with a man she met, named Rocky, and that they had not heard from her since.


Disappearance of Shane

Shane was said to have disappeared not long after Kathy had. But with Shelly’s daughters speaking out against their parents, she came out with the truth.


Shane had come to Nikki one night and showed her pictures that he had been taking. Pictures of Kathy. He had in pictures, documented the entire experience that Kathy had before her death. He had photographed her bruises, her extreme weight loss, the teeth that had been knocked out of her face. He took a lot of pictures of Kathy just days prior to her death because of how terrible she looked because of David and Shelly.

Shane had told Nikki his plan to show the pictures to the police. Unfortunately, stating this did him no good, as Shelly had told her family that if anyone ever found out what happened to Kathy that they all would go to prison for it. So the children never spoke of it to anyone. And with Shane having photo proof, and saying he was taking it to the police, Nikki went to her mom and told her about Shane’s new photography hobby - and its intended audience.


Days after that, Shelly demanded that David shoot Shane in the head, and he did. They then cremated his body in their backyard and scattered his ashes - just as they had done with Kathy.


Ron Woodworth

In 2001, Shelly invited another guest into their home. David was 160 miles away working when Shelly's new guest was invited to stay, and moved in. This time it was a man. Ron Woodworth was 57 years old and had a substance abuse problem. Just as with the others, upon arrival Ron was treated well, but that soon stopped. Ron wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the Knotek home, therefore, Shelly often forced him to piss in a cup and drink his own urine.


At one point Shelly repeatedly made him jump off of the roof of their two-story home and lay in agony on top of a gravel bed. The cuts he sustained to his feet from jumping down onto the gravel were “treated” with boiling water and bleach. The youngest daughter, Tori, stated later on that it always smelled like bleach and decomposing flesh…like it was burning his skin off of his body, and that he smelled that way all the time. Shelly was forcing him to take every drug she had in the house. And like with Kathy, Ron began to deteriorate. He too had lost a ton of weight, his teeth fell out.


In August of 2003, when Ron succumbed to the torture, and mistreatment, and most likely severe infection in his feet. His dead body was then stored in Shelly’s deep freezer until David returned home from working out of town. To the detriment of Shelly, there was a burn ban happening so there was no way they could burn Ron’s body. Instead, she forced David to bury the body in their backyard.


The Plan and Outcome

The same week that Ron passed away and David buried his body, the Knotek daughters had reunited at Nikki’s Seattle home. Before the youngest, Tori, had gone to Seattle, her sisters had told her to collect some of Ron’s things and bring them with her when she came out. Tori did exactly that.


Once they were all together, and looked over the evidence that Tori brought with her, they talked and came to a consensus - they were going to turn their parents in, and had proof of Ron’s death to boot.


In 2003, police showed up to the Knotek home in Washington and supplied a search warrant. They began digging and found Ron Woodworth’s body in their backyard. Both David and Shelly were arrested on August 8th of the same year and sat until they were tried. Five months after the arrest, David confessed to police to shooting Shelly’s nephew Shane, and to burying Ron Woodworth.


On August 27th, 2004, David was found guilty of first-degree murder of 13 year old Shane Watson, as well as criminal assistance and unlawful disposal of human remains. He was sentenced to 15 years at the Monroe Correctional Complex though he only served 13. He was paroled in 2016.


Shelly was found guilty and charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the murders of Kathy Loreno and Ron Woodworth. She was sentenced to 22 years in prison at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. She tried appealing her convictions but was denied by the Washington Court of Appeals. She served 18 of her 22 year sentence and was released on November 8th, 2022.


Tori being the youngest and still a minor, Sami (the middle sister) was granted custody while their parents went on trial.


All three Knotek children have moved on with their lives. Now in their 30’s and 40’s, Nikki and Sami both live in the Seattle area. Tori wanted a fresh start, and moved to Colorado where she lives today. Nikki works with her husband's landscaping company, Sami is a teacher and Tori has a job in social media in Colorado.


Sami and Nikki are both married and each have three children of their own.


Sami has stated that she will never open herself or her life back up to her mother. Should she knock on the door, she would cower in a bathroom while fumbling to call 911.


The two youngest Knoteks have said they forgave David when he reached out to ask forgiveness. Nikki said she will not because the amount of years they endured the abuse was unforgivable. While David didn’t inflict the abuse, he was so meek and timid that he never tried to stop his wife Shelly inflicting it. He was a weak man with no backbone.


All three daughters have said they didn’t have concerns for themselves being hurt upon their mom’s release from prison, that they instead had concerns for others and that they felt it was their duty to expose their moms true nature as a predator.


 

DAVID:

The I-44 Explosion


I-44 Explosion
Tri-State Truck, I-44 Explosion

This week I had a goofy drug fad planned but with so many strikes happening this year in 2023 especially what could be the most historic one to date starting last week with the UAW at the big three. We even had our own scare with my own labor union a few weeks ago too but thankfully we didn’t strike.


Most of us probably know what labor unions are and what they stand for, even though when they first were created what they fought for are now laws but now witnessing firsthand what they can do they are still important today. With the unions of the past, they have brought an end to child labor, safer working conditions, reasonable hours, health benefits, and higher wages. One of the earliest recorded strikes was in 1768 by New York journeymen tailors in protest of wage reductions.


Even though the history of labor unions can be its own episode and some of the riots from their strikes, There is one strike incident that I had seen months before.


In September 1970, John A. Galt, a 48yo contract engineer laid off from General Electric, without having worked for an unknown amount of time and needing to provide for his wife and four children, John ended up taking a trucking job with Tri-State Motors Trucking based out of Joplin Missouri that specialized in moving dynamite and radioactive materials, but at the time he took this job, Local Teamsters 823 is on strike with TSMT.


So this job John has taken is a replacement driver or a scab driver since he has crossed the teamster picket line. During their strike, a fourth of the drivers of TSMT were on the picket lines, Even though John was an engineer he also drove truck frequently in between his engineering contracts and had logged 2 million accident-free miles before taking on the job at TSMT.


Unhappy with the replacement drivers Bobby Lee Shuler and Gerald Lee Bowden became angry with their jobs being taken over by replacement drivers and wanted to intimate and dissuade the new drivers from making their runs. Soon after the strike started Shuler and Bowden would take shots at TSMT truck's grills to hit the radiator behind to disable the trucks from completing their runs.


I’m sure how they were able to do this without hitting any other cars, with TSMT protocols moving dangerous cargo like dynamite they specialized in these trucks would be on the move late at night when the roads had less traffic.


September 30, John Galt is preparing to make his first run with TSMT bound for a mining operation in Boss, Mo with another driver Norman Hopkins ahead of Galt. My best guess is that since this was Galt’s first run and had the same or similar destination, they traveled together in a convoy.


Earlier that night Shuler and Bowden had attended a party Gerald Boden and his wife Sharon along with Lenora Kimmel. Before they leave for this party Shuler grabs his rifle which was originally concealed in a blanket and puts it in Lenora Kimmel’s car. With the group heading to Springfield, Mo they by chance came across a TSMT truck on I-65 going in the opposite direction. Shuler would tell Lenora to turn around and to get ahead of the truck. After overtaking this truck Bobby Shuler would lean out the passenger side taking two shots at the truck's radiator disabling the truck as they head on down the interstate to the next exit to escape.


Around 1 Am, the four come across two TSMT trucks on I44 These are the two trucks of John Galt and Norman Hopkins. Hopkins still leading Galt on their run, just like before Bobby would tell Lorena to get off at the next exit to turn around which she did.


With the adrenaline rushing as they finally caught up to the two trucks and overtaking them they missed a very important detail to one of these trucks. This detail is the reflective orange placards with the word explosives in bold lettering. Instead of taking his shots, Bobby has to use the bathroom and Lorena would then drive ahead of the two trucks, and pull on an exit ramp.


After Bobby was done and knew the trucks were approaching, he would grab his rifle again from Lorena’s car and like before take two shots at the first truck that was being driven by Norman Hopkins. Hearing these shots Hopkins would flash his brake lights to Galt to alert him something was going on. Hopkin's truck would still continue moving on after taking on the shots.


Now fueled by anger that his shots didn’t take this truck out Galt is now approaching the four off the side of the highway where Bobby Shuler would take another three shots to make sure this truck didn’t escape, and on the third shot would cause the 42,800 pounds of Gelex Dynamite John Galt was carrying to explode. After the explosion that Hopkin saw in his rearview mirror, he said it was bright as daylight and louder than any other thunder he had ever heard.


He crossed the median to stop traffic from driving into the affected area from the blast that killed John Galt instantly and saw the four standing along the side of the road before they drove off.


Most of the resources I used for this said John was vaporized from the explosion except for his left hand which was found 465 feet away from the crater and a cowboy boot still containing his foot. The size of the crater left behind was 50 feet wide, 70 feet long, and 25 feet deep. The only identifiable parts from the truck that were found nearby were an axle, engine, and eight feet of the frame of the truck.


The concussion wave was powerful enough to damage or destroy nearby buildings and the wave could be felt up to 16 miles away and were damaged as well. Cora Babcock who lived nearby testified in court she was knocked out of bed at 1:12 Am from the blast. Edwina Clingan from the Brookline area feared it was the rapture from how powerful it was and baptized her newborn in her kitchen sink before it was too late.


The blast was strong enough to knock the rifle out of Bobby Shuler’s hands and him to the ground along with tearing his shirt from his body, shattering the windshield of Lorena Kimmel’s car. Laminated windshields have to withstand impacts 3 times of their strength rating but this blast completely shattered it. They were approximately 300 feet away from where the explosion happened and the rifle was found by LEO 263 away from the crater in the westbound lanes of I-44


Probably now instantly sober from realizing they just killed someone Shuler demands everyone back into the car before they escape down the ramp on the backroads. They would end up ditching their car after getting a flat tire driving it down to the rim and hitting an unknown object on a farm. They would take to open fields by foot and eventually turned themselves in after seeing planes flying around the area and dogs barking in the search for them.


During their trial, Bobby Shuler said he didn't mean to actually harm anyone he just wanted to stop the trucks. Also, he wasn’t aware the truck was carrying dynamite even though he knew that 50 percent of TSMT's business was hauling explosives.


Bobby Lee Shuler was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 99 years for the killing of John Galt but only served eight of those years, I couldn’t find out why he was released early but he did try to appeal his conviction on the grounds he was convicted solely under felony murder charges and not manslaughter. Because in his testimony in court, he stated he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. Along with that, a film that was used in court showed how a bullet can cause the dynamite to explode took up to 7 shots for it to detonate. Along with that, he shot at night and not during the day as the film showed. His appeal was denied



Gerald Lee Bowden pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years for firing on TSMT trucks previously to the one that killed John Galt.


Sharon Lynn Bowden was sentenced to time served and three years probation.


I tried to find anything on Lorena Kimmel if she was ever officially charged with anything but I wasn’t able to.


John A. Galt's widow filed a wrongful death suit against the Teamsters local and was awarded 220,000 dollars about 1.6 million today.



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