The House of Creeps

Three elderly brothers were discovered with a huge stash of child porn. They are suspects in two murders.

Jean Campbell
Oct 11 · 7 min read
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Photo source: AdobeStock.

In August 2017 three North Seattle brothers were convicted of possession of child pornography. The men, ranging in age from 78 to 82, kept a mountain of child porn inside their squalid home.

But authorities were unable to prosecute them fully for other crimes against children — the statute of limitations for child molestation had long since expired.

Charles, 82, Thomas, 80, and Edwin Emery, 78, had been molesting girls for 55 years. Their fourth and eldest brother, Donald (deceased) was also implicated.

Police only found this collection of child porn because a family member was clearing out the garage. She’d recently been assigned as the legal guardian for Charles, who had developed dementia.

The clutter inside the Emery home revealed a huge stockpile of children’s shoes and other belongings. Based on what they found, police immediately began searching the grounds and Donald’s former property in Shelton for evidence of kidnapping and murder.

Seattle Police Captain Mike Edwards told Newsweek, who devoted an article to the story, “We started with two victims and it’s grown to four. We’re confident we’re only at the tip of the iceberg.”

The two-story Victorian house looked in fine order from the outside, but police described the interior as “littered from floor to ceiling” with pornographic material, including notes in the brothers’ handwriting depicting rape, torture, satanic rituals, and murder.

The house is located in an affluent enclave called Green Lake, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in North Seattle. Charles purchased it in 1962, paying $12,500 — it’s worth about a million today.

When police detectives arrived on the scene in Green Lake, they walked into fifty years of hoarding, saying it “was difficult to walk through … as every square inch was covered with items,” including trash that should have long been discarded.

Authorities — including the FBI, Homeland Security, and K9 units — scoured the 14 acres of property adjacent to the house. They then took a trip out to a despoiled lake house in Shelton, WA, where Donald Emery had lived.

On both properties, investigators sifted through the detritus to find dozens of pairs of penny loafer shoes (with pennies inserted), along with little girl’s (used) underwear, a child’s hat, and toys.

Detectives began to suspect the Emery brothers were guilty of more than incest.

“There is a subculture,” said Mike Edwards, Commander of the High-Risk Victims Section for SPD, “that thinks incest is a good thing, it’s a very normal thing, that there’s nothing really wrong with it. These guys were one of those families.”

Few people ever visited the three brothers, who lived together in the same house all their adult lives. Then one day, a niece (called “SK” in legal documents) who’d recently become Charles’s legal guardian, decided to clean out the garage. She found notes about child porn, then saw an airline-sized bottle of vodka with her initials on it and a note, “the first quarter ounce of Vodka given to SK.” She hastily called police.

SK was so quick to act because she could clearly remember her uncles molesting her. She recalled they routinely fitted her with penny loafers and gave her vodka before they sexually assaulted her.

Investigators would soon learn she wasn’t the only victim.

Before SK was born, the brothers abused her mother (their sister), to the point where she left the family. She fled to foster care and grew up in the Child Protective Services system.

After she reunited with her family as an adult, she soon discovered the Emery brothers were molesting her toddler daughter, SK. At that point, she cut off contact.

When this story broke, the brothers had never been jailed or convicted of a crime. Their neighborhood teems with kids who play on the streets outside the Emery house.

Charles dressed SK in other children’s socks and shoes (these were discovered in the garage, house, and basement in the 2017 raid), then laced her soda pop with vodka and sexually molested her.

But Charles went further. He penned hundreds of pages and a “manifesto” on the topic of sex with children. Investigators in the Emery case described this material as stories and fantasies about satanism, murder and dismemberment. He wrote with gusto about his deep desire to kill children.

Like Edwin and Thomas, Charles denied it was anything more than writing. True crime fans will recognize, however, that fantasy about murder is often the prelude and accompaniment to the actual deed.

The other brothers didn’t confess to having any part of writing, insisting it was only Charles Emery’s “hobby.”

Charles also spent a great deal of time collecting vintage cars, some of which he stored at his brother Don’s property.

Charles never had to stand trial. He was diagnosed in 2018 with advanced dementia. He has been remanded to custody in a mental institution where he is closely watched. Now 86, he’s been moved into a hospital, relieving SK from the duty of looking after him.

Like the others, Charles was employed for decades. One of his jobs was at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he swept the halls and mopped the floors as a janitor for 20 years. He earns a monthly pension of $3,100.

A court petition to have Charles committed due to his dementia also indicated he has a quarter-million dollars in the bank and was first in line to inherit Don’s Shelton property, amounting to another estimated half million.

Thomas hadn’t amounted to much. He held odd jobs over his lifetime. The court found Thomas just as guilty as Edwin based on evidence found in the house. Due to the statute of limitations, Thomas (like Edwin, the only other surviving mentally competent brother), received a light sentence. He only served 9 months for possession of pornography.

Thomas also received probation, which allows the court to restrict his access to children. He returned to his house in Green Lake in 2018 after serving his sentence.

Thomas and Edwin are now registered as Level 1 Sex Offenders in the state of Washington. Because they are “only” Level 1 (based on their conviction for possession) an online search of the Sex Offender Registry would not bring up their names.

Edwin was the youngest brother and, at least professionally, the most successful. He held down a job for decades at Boeing and, like Charles, receives a comfortable pension.

In 2013, Edwin took his computer to Office Depot for repair. Employees found one sexually explicit image of a child and called police. When police interrogated Edwin, he was relaxed and easily admitted to sexually abusing girls who were family members.

He also admitted being the family expert (indeed, the only user) of computers. He would track down online images of children, then share them with the other brothers.

Despite the evidence in 2013, no charges were brought against any of the Emerys largely because “single image” cases are more difficult to prosecute. Captain Edwards noted that, when approached by police, Thomas and Edwin denied any involvement in child porn and would not let police search their house.

Edwin Emery received the same sentence as Thomas: just 9 months of jail time and probation. The probation sentence required visits by a probation officer and no contact with minors.

Don Emery died in 2016 at the age of 85. He is the only brother to have married, but the union lasted a very brief three months. His wife left, or so he claimed. Donald filed for divorce, stating he couldn’t find his bride, Sandra Emery. She has disappeared without a trace. If living, she would be near 80 years old.

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Donald Emery’s former home in Shelton, WA. Photo credit: Erik Lacitis/The Seattle Times

On May 27, 1987, Don Emery filed papers with the court indicating he’d searched in vain for Sandra. In September, the court granted Don his divorce.

Evidence from the Shelton property indicates Don was as knee-deep in child porn as his brothers. But the location of his property added another twist to the investigation.

The police have two possible links with old homicide cases relating to the Emery case.

Tracy West, a 17-year who was riding her motorcycle to her job, was last seen in 1988. Her body has never been recovered. She worked in the same town where the brothers lived.

Based on their abuse of family members, it’s likely that all four brothers chose victims of convenience. Tracy West, although somewhat older than their typical victims, may have been their preferred victim.

Lindsay Baum, 10, may have been another.

The police speculated the Emery brothers could be implicated in the Lindsay’s disappearance after they discovered a missing person flyer for the girl inside their home.

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Flyer and tip sheet for Lindsay. The case is still open. Photo source: Facebook.

Lindsay told her mother that a man in a white car had been following her before she disappeared on Friday, June 26th, 2009. She was walking home from a friend’s house just after dark, at 9:15 p.m., after her friend’s mom declined her request to sleepover. Lindsay lived in McCleary, Washington, about 30 minutes from the Donald Emery’s property.

The 11-year old Baum case is still considered an active investigation. Lindsay’s remains were discovered in 2017, on the other side of the state in September, just one month after police searched Don’s property.

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Jean Campbell

Written by

Slo-mo jet setter. Unlicensed artist. Freelancer covering true crime, poetry & more.

The True Crime Edition

A publication that delves into fascinating cases, the psychology behind criminals and the history of finding them.

Jean Campbell

Written by

Slo-mo jet setter. Unlicensed artist. Freelancer covering true crime, poetry & more.

The True Crime Edition

A publication that delves into fascinating cases, the psychology behind criminals and the history of finding them.

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