Friday, August 10, 2012

Monte Anderson

The mysterious ordeal surrounding the disappearance of 24-year-old Shelly Anderson began on September 14, 1981 when the slim, 5 foot, 100-pound bank teller bun­dled up her soiled laundry and left her Grand Boulevard apartment in Spokane, Washington, and headed for the South Hill home of her estranged husband.
It was still early evening when she left for her former residence, located in the 3800 block of East 13th Street, and she likely thought she could do her laundry, visit her daughters and still get back home at an early hour. What she didn’t know, and likely didn’t think about, was that she would ultimately end up dead at the hands of a merciless killer.
It was on that Monday evening in 1981 that Shelly Anderson was last seen alive, and her disappearance triggered a two-year probe that baffled her family and friends, detectives and even a psychic brought in from the East Coast. And in spite of the efforts of all those concerned, no one knew for certain that Shelly was really dead until her remains turned up two years later…
Shelly wasn’t reported missing to the police until the following day, Septem­ber 15th, when it was learned by a person wishing anonymity that she had not re­turned to her apartment the evening be­fore. When police went to the home of her estranged husband, naturally their next avenue of investigation, they were told by 31-year-old Monte Anderson that Shelly had done her laundry at the home the previous evening and left at approx­imately 11 p.m. Anderson told the in­vestigators that Shelly left the laundry behind after promising to pick it up later (presumably the next day), and that he saw her last when he kissed her on the cheek and watched her walk down the sidewalk in front of the East 13th Street home.
Was there anyone else living at the residence who could corroborate the story? It was then that police investigat­ing the matter learned that Monte An­derson had a young relative living at the house with him who was home the night Shelly came to do her laundry. The young relative told the cops that she last saw Shelly at 9:00 p.m., just prior to going to bed. The relative couldn’t offer the investigators anything additional, ex­cept that she hadn’t heard or seen any­thing unusual before or after she went to bed.
The investigators’ next step was to check with all of Shelly’s known rela­tives and friends in an attempt to de­termine whether or not anyone had seen her after she left the home of her es­tranged husband, either on the night that she did her laundry or on the following day. However, no one reported having seen her nor did anyone report having heard from her. Likewise, no one at the bank where she worked as a teller had seen Shelly since she left work on Mon­day, September 14th.
The detectives working on the case soon learned that Shelly had filed for a divorce from her husband, Monte An­derson, one month prior to her dis­appearance. They’d learned from court documents and from talking with rela­tives that Anderson had been involved in an industrial accident where he worked in which he lost three of his fingers. As compensation for the loss, Anderson was paid approximately $25,000 which, police learned, he had squandered on cocaine. Unable to live with her hus­band’s severe drug addiction any longer, Shelly left him and filed for divorce. But was a divorce petition motive enough for someone to hold another captive or, even worse, to kill her?
Normally, the cops reasoned, it wouldn’t be. But considering a drug addict’s frame of mind, the investigators felt that such a felony was possible in this case, and as a result of this line of reason­ing they soon began to focus on An­derson as a possible suspect in his es­tranged wife’s mysterious and sudden disappearance, particularly when she disappeared the day after her lawyer served the divorce papers on her hus­band.
Spokane Police Captain Richard Olberding assigned Detectives Charles Staudinger and Jerry Prescott to head the case, which they actively tried to clear through dogged determination. They returned time and again to An­derson’s home, questioning him repe­atedly about his wife’s disappearance. But they were told the same story each time, leaving them with no discrepancies on which to build their case.
Spokane Police Captain Richard Olberding assigned Detectives Charles Staudinger and Jerry Prescott to head the case, which they actively tried to clear through dogged determination. They returned time and again to An­derson’s home, questioning him repe­atedly about his wife’s disappearance. But they were told the same story each time, leaving them with no discrepancies on which to build their case.
Detectives Staudinger and Prescott spoke to the victim’s friends and rela­tives again and again, hoping to uncover or ferret out a vital piece of information which might have been inadvertently or deliberately left out in prior interviews. Each time, though, they came up empty- handed.
What was even more frustrating was the fact that Shelly and her estranged husband seemed in good terms in spite of the divorce proceedings. After all, she did go to Anderson’s home to do her laundry the day after divorce papers had been served which, they reasoned, would not be a likely course of action if tempers had been flaring. Weakening their case against Anderson even more was the fact they couldn’t find anyone to testify that Anderson and his wife had been involved in any heated altercations prior to Shelly’s disappearance. Instinct told them, however, to follow their cur­rent avenue of investigation in spite of the fact that they had no evidence.
But after countless weeks of futile pro­bing resulting in no clues leading to the woman’s whereabouts, unable to find a single shred of evidence linking their prime suspect to their victim’s dis­appearance, they were no further ahead in the case than when they started. It appeared, at this point, that they might never find Shelly or her remains, and that they likewise might never solve the case.
Time moved forward to Thursday, February 18, 1982, at which time de­tectives Staudinger and Prescott called on Monte Anderson once again, this time to search his house and his car. But all they confiscated was a bloodstained shovel, which the detectives sent to the state crime labs for analysis. However, according to William Morig, a forensic scientist from the state crime lab in Spo­kane, there wasn’t enough blood on the shovel for him to determine whether it was of human origin.
Time moved forward again, and 1982 passed with no significant results and no new leads in the case. Monte Anderson sold his home and moved to a new resi­dence during the early months of 1983 and was questioned at sporadic intervals that year, but did not provide detectives with anything solid to work on. Shelly Anderson had not been seen or heard from, her body had not been found and police had no new leads to run down. It simply appeared as if she had vanished into thin air, leaving the detectives feel­ing as if the case would never be solved.
From time to time, friends and rela­tives made organized efforts to try and find the missing woman, but at best all they could hope for were revealing clues to Shelly’s whereabouts. At one point, they enlisted the aid of a New Jersey psychic, who came to Spokane to try and uncover clues through psychic experi­ences. However, the psychic’s efforts, as well as those of Shelly’s friends and family, were in vain. No progress was made.
In fact, there were no significant breaks in the case until Sunday, Septem­ber 4, 1983, nearly two years after Shel­ly’s baffling disappearance. As it turned out, the new owner of Anderson’s home on East 13th Street was the one respons­ible for providing police with their long sought-after lead — namely, the victim’s remains.
The resident was doing routine yard work on this particular Sunday afternoon when he decided to begin removal of an annoying compost pile in the back yard. By the time he had hauled away several inches of the pile he struck a layer of sod, underneath which were several pieces of asphalt roofing material. Curious, the man continued the removal process, and soon unearthed a large cloth suitcase. Inside, he found what appeared to be a human skeleton.
When Detectives Staudinger and Pre­scott arrived at the home they’d visited in line of duty many times before, the naturally shaken man explained to them exactly how he came to find the suitcase. He also told them that he hadn’t dis­turbed anything further while waiting for the investigators to arrive, and led them into the back yard.
The sleuths carefully removed the suitcase from • the shallow grave after briefly viewing its contents and de­termining that it contained the remains of a human being. After the blue, 29-by-22 inch vinyl and cloth suitcase had been placed into a large white plastic bag, the entire area was sifted for any additional evidence which might be present, in­cluding the compost pile that the new resident had hauled from the location. It was not revealed, however, whether anything significant, aside from the suit­case and its macabre contents, was un-­ earthed. The suitcase and its contents were then removed to the medical exam­iner’s office, where pathologist Dr. Hen­ry Arguinchona would examine it thor­oughly and attempt to arrive at the vic­tim’s identity and cause of death.
Dr. Arguinchona found a decayed towel lying over the victim’s skull when he opened the suitcase, and a larger bath towel lying next to the body which appeared to have been stained with blood. He took X-rays of the victim’s remains while still in its original posi­tion, prior to examining the skeleton. He took the extra efforts to make certain he had good photographs showing the vic­tim in the position it was found in, noting the photographs might prove useful in court. Before he proceeded, the patho­logist also noted that the zipper on the suitcase had severely rusted and no lon­ger served to keep the case closed.
In addition to the towels and skeletal remains, the pathologist and detectives also found inside the suitcase a woman’s necklace, ring, earring, articles of clo­thing a small clutch purse. Inside the purse were credit cards, a driver’s license and other items which belonged to Shelly Anderson. Before they could be one hundred percent certain that the remains were Shelly’s, however, dental records would be checked.
Noting that rigor mortis usually sets in within two hours after death, Arguin­chona determined that the body most likely had been placed inside the suitcase soon after death, because most of the victim’s major joints had been flexed by the perpetrator to fit neatly into the suit­case. The pathologist noted that the vic­tim’s pelvis had been rotated in such a manner that the right could be extended over the top of the leg to facilitate fitting the victim into the nine-inch-deep case.
A pair of pants was also found in the suitcase, but the victim had not been wearing them. One leg of the pants was turned inside out, and indicated to the officials that the jeans might have been pulled off an unwilling victim in an at­tempted sexual attack. A bra and T-shirt were still on the skeletal remains, which the pathologist carefully cut off and re­tained for additional analysis. In addi­tion, a third towel was found wadded up and stuffed near the remains. The items were forwarded to the crime labs in Spo­kane for analysis to determine if any trace evidence was presence, such as se­men, hair, and clothing fibers and so on.
After examining the remains, Dr. Arguinchona said that he found no knife marks or fractures on the bones, nor did he find any bullets or bullet holes. He said that the remains were consistent with a cause of death of such means as suffocation, internal injuries or perhaps even strangulation, but was unable to pinpoint a precise cause. He did say, however, that a neck bone, which some­times breaks during the act of strangula­tion, apparently had disintegrated, be­cause it could not be found. Arguinchona said that the remains were just too de­composed to make a precise determina­tion.
“Many of the things (injuries), if the body were intact, would show,” said Arguinchona. “But with the state of de­composition, there’s nothing to examine except the bones.”
Following a dental comparison with the remains and the records of the miss­ing woman, Arguinchona positively identified the skeleton as that of Shelly Anderson, ending the two-year mystery as to her whereabouts. Police still had a considerable amount of legwork to com­plete as a result, and admitted that no charges would be filed until their work was completed.
Meanwhile, after he had removed the remains and other items from the suit­case, Detective Staudinger carefully washed the inside of the suitcase, runn­ing the material through a sieve to collect any possible evidence that might be present. It was not revealed, however, if anything significant was found.
Results of the tests done on the items sent to the state crime labs proved as inconclusive as the autopsy results, serv­ing to keep the case from advancing sig­nificantly. The towels, “which all con­tained heavy concentrations of blood­stain” according to William Morig of the crime labs, were of little use scientifical­ly since analysts were unable to de­termine whether or not the blood was human. However, it should be noted that the towels could prove useful if their ownership were determined.
Meanwhile, police officials revealed that they had learned that Monte An­derson had pawned his wife’s heirloom wedding ring for $100 in December, 1981. When police questioned Anderson about the ring he admitted to pawning it, saying that he found the ring in a pocket of one of his wife’s sweaters shortly after Thanksgiving. He said he used the money to buy Christmas presents for his children.
During the course of the lengthy in­vestigation, detectives learned that the suitcase in which Shelly’s remains were found had been loaned to her by two of her friends, Larry and Lorraine Robin­son. The Robinsons told the cops that they last saw the piece of luggage the day they helped Shelly move, from her East 13th Street home to the apartment on Grand Boulevard-August 7, 1981.
Larry Robinson also told the de­tectives that Anderson was helping him paint his house on September 4, 1983, the day Shelly’s remains were reco­vered, and that Anderson appeared shaken and upset when he learned the news. Furthermore, when shown the towels found in the suitcase with Shel­ly’s body, Mrs. Robinson told the in­vestigators they looked very much like the ones she had seen many times before hanging in the Anderson bathroom. If the towels were in fact the same ones she saw in the Anderson home, the probers wanted to know how they came to be in the suitcase with Shelly’s body, particu­larly since Monte Anderson said Shelly left her laundry behind and planned to pick it up later.
In other developments, the detectives learned from a neighbor who lived in an apartment adjacent to Shelly’s that an .altercation or fight had occurred between Shelly and a man nine days prior to her disappearance. It was also revealed that police responded to Shelly’s apartment on the night of the fight, and Spokane Officer Eugene Ziegler stated in his re­port that he noticed a “slight swelling” beneath Shelly’s left eye. No other de­tails regarding the incident were re­vealed.
In their dogged determination to build a solid case against Anderson, the de­tectives ferreted out a witness who re­ported seeing scratches on the suspect’s neck a day or two after Shelly dis­appeared, but a close relative told the detectives that the scratches were present hours before Shelly disappeared and were noticed while Monte Anderson was having dinner on the evening of Septem­ber 14, 1981. Although the alibi was a setback for the detectives, they felt cer­tain at this point that they would be mak­ing an arrest soon.
In their search for additional evidence the sleuths revealed that they found neighbors of Anderson’s who told them they experienced a strong, unpleasant odor emanating from his backyard three days following Shelly’s disappearance, but the odor only lasted a day or two. Could it have been Shelly’s body de­composing? It was possible, but Dr. Arguinchona, the pathologist who did the autopsy on Shelly’s remains, said that the stench accompanying a de­composing dead body would reach a par­ticular level of intensity, and then linger on at that level for some time. So if it was Shelly’s body that the neighbors had smelled, they failed to notice it after the first day.
At one point in the investigation, a woman, Barbara Jones, called the Spo­kane County Secret Witness Program and reported that she had spent three hours with Monte Anderson in January, 1982 at a Spokane bar during which time they drank and talked. It was during these three hours of conversation, Ms. Jones alleged, that Monte Anderson admitted killing his estranged wife and pawning her wedding ring.
Before the end of September, 1983, detectives’ felt they had a good case against Monte Anderson and presented their evidence to the Spokane County prosecutor’s office. Evidently the pros­ecutor also felt they had a good case against the suspect, and, as a result, for­mal charges of second-degree murder were filed against him. Anderson was arrested before the end of September, 1983 and lodged in the Spokane County- City Jail. Bail was set at $100,000.
Anderson pleaded innocent to the charges at his arraignment, and it was announced that he would be defended by Spokane attorneys Mike Hemovich and Carl Oreskovich.
At his bond hearing on October 7, 1983, Anderson’s attorneys argued that he should be released or his bail lowered because there was no indication that the defendant would flee the area.
“Mr. Anderson has been a suspect since the time of Mrs. Anderson’s dis­appearance…he has appeared in court twice, and during that time he was in­terviewed by the court and told by the prosecution that he could be a chief sus­pect,” argued Hemovich. Spokane County Superior Court Judge Marcus M. Kelly agreed to lower Anderson’s bond from $100,000 to $50,000, and likewise agreed to release Anderson if the de­fendant’s relatives would put their home up for collateral, which they did.
Meanwhile, in December, 1983, An­derson allegedly stole a credit card and fled the state, a flagrant violation of the terms of his release. APBs and mug shots of the suspect were sent throughout the western states, and a warrant for his im­mediate arrest was filed in Spokane County Superior Court on Tuesday, De­cember 27th.
However, Anderson’s attempt at evading justice was a short-lived affair, as he was captured on the following Fri­day in Riverdale, Utah. According to au­thorities in Utah, Anderson fled, but was eventually apprehended. He was charged with six counts of theft involv­ing use of the stolen credit card, as well as resisting arrest.
Anderson was eventually returned to Spokane County, where, this time, he was held without bail pending the out­come of his trial. Following lengthy jury selection, Anderson’s trial finally got under way in May, 1984 in the court­room of Spokane Superior Court Judge John J. Lally.
During opening statements, defense attorney Oreskovich said that drug deal­ers killed Shelly Anderson because of her husband’s indebtedness to them over his cocaine addiction. Oreskovich admitted that the Anderson’s relation­ship deteriorated followed the industrial accident in which Anderson lost three fingers, and that he subsequently spent the cash settlement on drugs. Anderson “became seriously involved in drugs and had started to develop a cocaine habit,” said Oreskovich. “It gets to the point where you can’t stop it. That was the problem Mr. Anderson had,” and as a result of the addiction and indebtedness, said Oreskovich, drug dealers began making serious threats against him.
Oreskovich told the jury that prior to Shelly’s disappearance, drug dealers placed two silver bullets on his doorsteps as warning to pay up or else. One day before Shelly’s disappearance a tele­phone call was made in which the caller said, “Tell Monte he’s got twenty-four hours to Pay up or it’s all over,” said Oreskovich.
On the other hand, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Fred Caruso told the jury that Monte Anderson beat his wife to death while attempting to have sex with her and buried her body in a suitcase in the backyard of his home.
The first witness was Anderson’s friend, Larry Robinson, who told the jury that Anderson told him shortly after Shelly left her husband that “if he couldn’t have her, nobody was going to” have her. Robinson also testified that he noticed three scratch marks on An­derson’s neck the day after Shelly dis­appeared, and that Anderson told him he found Shelly’s wedding ring in a sweater and sold it for $100 to buy Christmas presents for his children.
At one point during this testimony, Robinson was asked by Prosecutor Caru­so if he could identify the suitcase he said he’d loaned to Shelly Anderson to use when she left her husband. Caruso wheeled the suitcase, covered by a white plastic bag, to a spot in front of the wit­ness stand in a grocery cart. When Robinson looked inside the bag, he told Caruso and the jury that it was the same suitcase he loaned Shelly Anderson on August, 1981.
At an early point in the trial .it was revealed that Robinson knew the drug dealer Monte Anderson allegedly owed money to for cocaine purchases, and it was brought up that this same drug dealer allegedly made threats against Anderson. However, Robinson testified that he had never heard the alleged drug dealer make any threats against An­derson or any member of his family, a statement which ultimately served to re­fute defense claims. Robinson also testi­fied that Anderson was known to use up to $100 worth of cocaine at a time, and on occasion injected the drug, as op­posed to sniffing.
Another witness to testify against An­derson early in the trial was a Spokane County-City Jail inmate, 23-year-old Gerald Smith. Smith told the court that Anderson made some incriminating statements to him about his wife’s death while he and Anderson shared a cell in January, 1983.
“If the bitch wouldn’t have crossed me,” Smith quoted Anderson as having said, “She wouldn’t have been found in the back yard.” Jurors, as well as specta­tors, were visibly stirred, even shocked by the inmate’s statement.
“You obtained…this information while in jail?” asked defense attorney Hemovich.
“Yes,” was Smith’s reply.
At another point in the often dramatic trial the jurors were told how Shelly An­derson’s remains were found buried in a suitcase in Anderson’s backyard beneath several inches of pine needles and sod, with dirt packed firmly behind the suit­case and asphalt roofing and sod cover­ing the top and sides. Spokane Police Captain Richard Olberding told the jury that the suitcase was partially de­composed.
“In it there were the skeletal remains of a human being,” testified Olberding, who also told the shocked jury that the suitcase held the victim’s identifica­tion, personal items and the towels. Detective Stauding also testified about find­ing the suitcase and the remains, follow­ing Olberding’s testimony.
“It is the suitcase that the remains were found in,” said Stauding, who also showed the jury items of clothing that’d been cut from the skeletal remains during the autopsy proceedings. The detective also exhibited the three towels found with the remains, as well as the clutch purse which contained the victim’s driv­er’s license, credit cards and other per­sonal items. When Staudinger showed the jurors and the spectators the victim’s decayed pair of jeans, pant legs turned inside out, gasps could be heard around the courtroom. Anderson, however, displayed little emotion and remained calm as he had throughout most of the trial.
At another point in the trial, the patho­logist who conducted the autopsy on the victim’s remains, Dr. Arguinchona, reiterated his findings for the benefit of the jury and showed them grisly photo­graphs of the remains just as they had been found in the suitcase, raising an objection from the defense as he did so.
“My objection to (the photos) is sim­ply that we all agree as to the contents of that suitcase,” defense counsel Hemovich. “This merely is designed to inflame the jury.”
During questioning by Prosecutor Caruso, Dr. Arguinchona stated that he could find no bullet, knife marks or fractures on the victim’s bones, and that no bullets had been found inside the suitcase.
“Can you pinpoint the time of death in this case?” asked Caruso.
“No,” replied the pathologist. “Can you pinpoint the cause of death in this case?”
“No,” Arguinchona replied again, but stated that the victim’s remains were consistent with death caused by internal injuries, suffocation, or strangulation.
As promised to the jury during opening statements, Prosecutor Caruso called to the stand the Spokane woman who had called the Secret Witness program and reported that Monte Anderson had confessed the killing of his wife to her during a three-hour drinking session at the local bar.
The woman, Barbara Jones, testified that she met Anderson at a bar in January, 1982 and that Anderson confessed to killing his wife and to pawning her wedding ring. Jones said that a day or two after the barroom conversation she received a telephone call from a man she thought to be Anderson, and that the man told her to forget the confession, “to forget everything that I’d been told. It was a lie,” Jones quoted the man as having said.
Another witness, Lorraine Robinson, was called to the stand by the prosecution to identify two bath towels that had been stuffed near the victim’s body and a hand towel that covered the victim’s skull.
“I’ve seen the bath towel a thousand times in the Anderson home on (East) 13th,” said Robinson, who had been Shelly Anderson’s best friend. All three towels had the same flower pattern, but the witness was unable to bring herself to look at the three towels.
“Are you telling us that there are no other towels like that in this communi­ty?” asked defense attorney Hemovich in an obvious attempt to show the jury that the towel patterns were not unique.
“No, I’m not saying that,” said Mrs. Robinson.
Perhaps the most dramatic portion of the trial was when Monte Anderson him­self was called to testify, at which time he again denied killing his estranged wife. He also denied ever being at the restaurant-bar where he allegedly confessed the killing to Barbara Jones. “Monte, did you kill Shelly An­derson?” Hemovich asked.
“No, sir, I did not,” replied An­derson, who contended that Shelly came to his home on the night in question to do laundry. He testified that he and Shelly talked for some time, took some cocaine together, and that she left shortly after 11:00 p.m.
“I walked her out to the front porch, gave her a little hug and a kiss on the cheek, and she left.”
“Was that the last time you saw her?” asked Hemovich.
“Yes,” replied Anderson, facing still more questions from the prosecutor.
“How do you explain (the victim’s) towels being in that suitcase if she didn’t take the laundry?” asked Prosecutor Caruso, as he dramatically tossed the towels onto the courtroom floor in front of Anderson.
“I don’t know whose towels those are,” responded the defendant.
“When you learned the police knew you pawned the ring, you knew it was all over?” asked Caruso during his cross- examination of the defendant.
“That what was over?” replied An­derson in a soft voice.
“That the police would arrest you for killing your wife?”
“No, sir.”
“Isn’t that why you told (Barbara Jones at the restaurant-bar) that you kil­led your wife — because you expected to be arrested at any time?”
“I said yesterday that I never met (Barbara Jones) in my life,” Anderson replied.
During those arguments, Caruso por­trayed Anderson to the jury as a jealous cocaine addict who beat Shelly An­derson to death while attempting to force her to have sex with him, after which he stuffed the petite woman into a large suitcase and buried it in his backyard.
In spite of the defense contentions that drug dealers killed Shelly in an attempt to frame Anderson for the murder be­cause of a cocaine debt, the jury con­victed Monte Emil Anderson of second-degree murder after deliberating nine hours.
“There wasn’t any other conclusion you could come to reasonably after an­alyzing the facts, and your verdict is cor­rect under the evidence,” Judge John Lally told the jurors. He also praised the prosecution and defense attorneys, de­tectives and friends of the victim.
“I think the friends of this dead lady should be thanked,” said Lally. “I know from my own recollection that as soon as (the victim) disappeared, they began to search and never gave up.” As far as the defendant was concerned, the judge sim­ply said that it was “a tragedy that he would bring such sorrow to his parents.”
At his sentencing, the judge called Monte Anderson “unbelievably stu­pid…you left behind you a trail with your name signed,” said Lally. “You signed your own warrant…In light of the seriousness of the crime, you must be sentenced to life imprisonment,” said the judge. Under Washington State law, Anderson will be eligible for parole in seven and one half years, but actual time served will be determined by the State Parole Board.
Editor’s Note:
Larry and Lorraine Robinson, Bar­bara Jones and Gerald Smith are not the real names of the persons so named in the foregoing story. Fictitious names have been used because there is no rea­son for public interest in the identities of these persons.

1 comment:

  1. This was my sister that was killed. I want to day thank you to all the people who helped in this case. Shelly was slot older than me I was 12 when she was killed at 24 years old. I had to watch my mother fall apart as she waited for two years to finally hear they found her body. My mother is 83 years old now and still talks about Shelly my sister to this day and has never gotten over her death at that Monsters hands. Monte also killed his own son by getting him addicted to cocaine and his son died of aids due to shooting up drugs with Monte. Shelly's son was only 1 year old when Monte killed her. He has ruined so many lives and there is a special place in hell for him! April Moore