BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES:
A Juror’s Plight
THE CARNATION MURDER TRIAL of MICHELE ANDERSON
January 28, 2016
The long driveway of the Anderson’s property in Carnation, WA
“THERE’S BEEN A MURDER”
A 911 emergency call placed at 5:13 PM on Christmas Eve, 2007 prompted a police cruiser to visit the house in Carnation. Located off the beaten path, and atop a long, winding gravel driveway, the deputies found they could not pass a locked gate. It was dark outside with a cloud-laden sky. It had been showery all day and the ground was muddy under their shoes. Far in the distance, they could see the lights of Christmas as it bordered the awnings of a distant neighbor house.
They listened in the night air for the sounds of anything out of the ordinary. The only sound that could be heard was the occasional shrill of a crow somewhere in the trees. In fact, it was eerily quiet. The deputies did not have cause to go past the chained and padlocked metal steel bar gate. They checked with dispatch and were released to move to the next call, fifteen miles north, in Monroe, Washington.
Scott O’Toole, dressed sharply in a black suit, white shirt and diamond patterned blue tie, walked to the CD boom box located in front of the Court Clerk. He put Exhibit #7, a cassette tape, into the player as the jurors looked on.
They had just spent thirty minutes with Pamela Mantle, Erica Anderson’s mother, hearing testimony about her close relationship with Michele. She had spoken to Erica on the phone three times on Christmas Eve. Erica was excited that her sister, Mary, was bringing her kids and looking forward to their Holiday tradition. She had last spoken to her daughter at 3:30 PM. Michele was also excited about the smell of the roast in the oven, permeating her house with the smell of a celebratory meal.
Pamela Mantle listened with her head down as the thirteen-second tape played.
“9-1-1, please state your emergency,” the voice said.
At first, one could only hear a hiss in the background of the recording.
“9-1-1,” the operator repeated. “Please state your emergency…”
Far away, it sounded like sobbing.
“Hello? Hello?” the operator asked.
The sobbing became clearer and it was of more than one person. The most dominant sob sounded like that of a woman. Everyone in the courtroom struggled to hear more including the jury and the witness on the stand.
“Hello?” the operator asked again.
One could definitely hear more than one person crying. One might even think that it bordered on terror, as the pitch was so high.
And just like the deputies who left the incident scene a half hour later, the incident on the phone ended.
“Can you identify the voice you heard on the phone?” Scott asked Erica’s mother on the stand.
“Yes, I can,” Pamela, responded firmly. “It’s my daughter, Erica.”
The jury would have found Pamela Mantle credible.
Defense attorneys, David Sorenson and Colleen O’Connor, seated next to the defendant, Michele Anderson, had no questions for Erica Anderson’s mother.
A second 911 call was placed forty hours after the first call. It yielded a much different result.
The caller, on the witness stand, was a feisty woman the same age as Judy Anderson. As she testified to earlier, it was through Judy that she had come to work for the tiny, but busy, Carnation Post Office for eleven years. She worked six days a week and ten hours a day as a substitute mail carrier. Many a conversation had been shared in the mailroom, so Linda Thiele felt as if she knew Judy’s family pretty well. Occasionally, she and Judy got together outside of work to share lunch, visit at each other’s house and, sometimes, shop together at IKEA.
Linda Thiele arrived at work at 6:30 AM on December 26, 2007. All the postal workers knew the day after a holiday was extremely busy which was why Linda became extremely concerned when it was almost 7:00 AM and Judy had not arrived. She instinctively knew something was wrong. She could understand Judy being a few minutes late as she had a short route but definitely not a half hour late. The last time she saw Judy was on December 23 and nothing seemed amiss. She told her other coworkers she was headed to Judy’s house. Something was wrong.
“So you went to the house,” the prosecutor staged, “and where did you park?”
“Well, I pulled up and the gate was locked. I parked my truck in front of the gate. Even then, I knew something was wrong,” Linda stated.
“The gate was locked. If Judy had left to work, the gate would be open.”
“What did you do next?” O’Toole asked.
Linda settled in on the stand. Her hands were clasped in her lap as she told her story. “I got out of the truck and went around the gate on foot. It’s about a seven-minute walk up the dirt road. I remember it being very quiet as I walked up the hill. I didn’t see anyone at the trailer on the property. I knew that’s where her daughter lived. As soon as I got to the front porch, the next thing I noticed was that I didn’t see the dog.”
“Oh,” Scott said to her. “You did not hear any barking?”
“There was just no dog. Normally, he doesn’t bark. He waits to sneak up on you and bite your ankles,” she answered, smiling at the memory.
“Then what happened?”
“Right at the door, I knew something was really wrong. The screen door was ajar and that would have been unlike Judy to leave it that way. I knocked on the door and called her name a bunch of times and, of course, no one answered. I turned the doorknob handle and the door was unlocked! It didn’t make sense that the gate would be locked at the end of the drive and this door would be left open. I pushed open the door…”
A short time later, Scott O’Toole pressed the play button on the boom box for the second time. Named as Exhibit #11, the jurors each held a transcript of the call in their hands. They could read along but they could not read ahead as advised by Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell. Although the jurors would one day be able to hear this 911 tape again in the deliberation room, the transcripts would not be allowed in.
Quite frankly, most of the jurors did not need the transcripts. The call was clear and the words succinct as Linda Thiele’s voice came through the speakers from a time over eight years ago. Some jurors would look at the witness on the stand and saw a woman with her head down and her hands in her lap.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency,” a female operator asked.
A breathless voice responded quickly. “There’s been a murder!”
“How do you know that?”
“There’re three bodies that I could see,” Linda whispered frantically into the phone.
“What’s your name?”
“Linda Thiele,” she said. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
“Calm down, ma’am,” the operator said. “I have police and fire on the way.”
“I can’t believe this. It was a man, a woman and a baby. They were lying on the floor. I didn’t see any weapons…”
“Is anyone in the house with you? Do you think someone is still there?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered hurriedly. “I’m in a back bedroom. All I saw were the bodies. I didn’t stop to look at them really.”
“Do you know if the bodies are cold?” the operator asked.
“Hold on,” Linda said. One could hear the phone being set down or dropped.
“No, no, no,” the operator said quickly but it was too late. “Hello? Hello?”
Light noises could be heard in the background as everyone assumed she ran to check the bodies.
“Yes, they’re cold!” Linda said when she got back on the phone. “It looks like they’ve been dead a long time. I checked the adults and they’re totally cold. I couldn’t touch the baby… the poor baby. My God.”
“Linda, please don’t leave the phone like that until my deputies get there. It’s for your own safety,” the operator admonished. “Do you know who they are?”
“Yes,” Linda whispered. “One has to be Wayne and the other must be Mary. He was shot in the face and she looks like she was shot right where she was seated on the couch. It might be Judy. I can’t tell as she’s shot, too. She’s my best friend. She was supposed to be at work at 6:30. I knew there was something wrong when she was late. I just knew it!”
“Are you in a safe place, Linda?” the operator interrupted.
Linda laughed a little. “Yes. You ought to see me. I’m on the floor in a corner in the back bedroom, between the bed and an end table. I don’t think anyone is here but I can’t tell. I wonder if I should search the house.”
“Stay on the phone with me,” the operator ordered. “You need to stay right there until the deputies get there. Do you understand?”
“I do,” Linda said. “I’m worried someone’s going to shoot me, too. Hold on,” she suddenly said, setting the phone down again.
“Linda? Linda?” the operator called out, some frustration in her voice.
“I locked the door,” Linda said when she picked up the phone. “I’m worried about getting my ass killed. Wait! Shh! Shh!”
“What is it? What do you hear, Linda?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was a dog. Maybe the house creaked. I don’t know who’s on the goddamn property! Where are the police? What’s taking so long?”
“Don’t worry, Linda. They are on the way.”
“What’s taking so long?” Linda asked again in a frustrated tone.
“Well,” the operator explained. “We did not have a unit in the area so a couple vehicles are coming from Monroe.”
“Monroe?” Linda repeated. “That’s almost twenty miles away. Why didn’t they send a car from Duvall? Even Carnation? Isn’t there a Sheriff here? Damn! I just heard something!”
“What did you hear?”
“I don’t know! I thought I heard something. Can I go wait in the car? It’s parked in front of the gate.”
“Stay with me Linda. The deputies know I’m on the line with you. You said your car is in front of a locked gate? What kind of car and what color is it?” the operator prodded.
“Yes, in front of the gate. It’s a blue black Mountaineer. I walked around the locked gate. You better hope the police are in good shape. It’s a long walk up the driveway. And tell them to check the house on the left down the road. The daughter, Michele, lives there. Maybe she did this. It has to be someone from the family. She’s very unstable.”
“You said someone else lives on the property?” the operator asked.
“Yes. One daughter lives out by Monroe and another daughter lives in the trailer down the road at 1905. My friend’s house is at 1806. Just down the driveway is where Michele lives. Where’s the fire department?”
“They are arriving now and staging the area. They have to check the property for intruders,” the operator said assuredly.
“Do you know how scary this is? This is like your worst nightmare! My friend and two people are dead in the living room. Oh my God,” Linda said, her voice trailing off.
“There is no need to worry, Linda. You are doing a great job. When is the last time you saw your friend?”
“Just a few days ago. I think it was on Thursday. God, I’m a total coward,” Linda added nervously.
“Did you touch anything when you went into the house?”
“No, I did not” Linda answered. “Well, I touched the front door. I saw the bodies on the floor and I just ran out of there. I went into the dining room and then into the kitchen. I couldn’t find a phone. I left my cellphone at work. I didn’t touch anything until I called you from the back bedroom.”
“That’s good,” the operator offered.
“It must have been a .45 or a .38,” Linda said pensively. “The bodies had small bullet holes. The woman is the child’s mother. I can’t stop thinking about the poor little baby. You know? I’m wondering if there might be other bodies. I’m thinking that one of the children is missing. Maybe the female on the floor isn’t Judy. I wonder where the other bodies are. Where are the police? I don’t hear anything, yet!”
“I’m still with you,” the operator said.
“Can anyone call the Carnation Post Office for me? I’m supposed to be at work. Tell them that I won’t be in,” Linda explained, concern in her voice.
“Yes. Who do we ask for? Do you have a supervisor?”
“Just tell anyone,” Linda whispered. “You can ask for Kim or Lori. Let them know that I am okay but won’t be back. They need someone to run my route. The mail isn’t going to quit because this happened. They can’t be thinking postal office workers are dropping off the face of the earth. Where are the police? Aren’t they here, yet?”
“You’re doing a great job, Linda. My deputies have arrived but they are still securing the premises for your safety…”
A muffled sound can be heard in the background.
“Linda?” the operator asked.
“The deputies are in front. They want you to come out now. Can you go outside?”
“Okay,” Linda answered.
The call ended with the thump of a phone being dropped.
Scott O’Toole stopped the tape in the boom box and walked back to the podium. He waited patiently with his hands behind his back as Kenya, the bailiff, collected the jurors’ transcripts.
“What happened after that, when you went out the front door?” O’Toole asked when the jurors had finished their task.
“I walked out the front door,” Linda began, “and I put my hands behind my head. There were officers hiding behind trees and vehicles with six guns trained on me. They hollered that I was to make no sudden moves and to walk forward. I did as they said and then told them they needed to look for more bodies. I saw the deceased lady again before I left and it was not Judy. She would never leave her children and she had to be somewhere.”
“Who was the lady?” Scott asked.
“Well, it wasn’t Judy and I was pretty sure it wasn’t Mary. I was all ‘shocky’. My head couldn’t keep things straight. It was weird. I still thought the other body was Wayne but nothing made sense,” she explained as best as she could.
“Let me ask you this,” Scott said. “How long did you stay with the Post Office after the incident?”
The witness shook her head. “I left about four or five months afterwards. I took over Judy’s job. The thing was, I became paranoid. I kept thinking at every turn that someone must have been murdered if they didn’t pick up their mail on time or were a few minutes late at work. It drove me crazy. I couldn’t do the job, anymore,” she responded remorsefully.
“You had mentioned on the call that you thought the daughter, Michele, might have done it. Why did you think that?” O’Toole asked.
“I don’t know. Who would think anyone could do that? But, the front door being unlocked along with the driveway gate being locked told me someone didn’t want somebody to come up the driveway. Judy told me about the arguments they were having over the rental and bills. Judy told me Michele was upset. It had to have been a family member. Who else would do it?”
“Thank you. No more questions,” Scott O’Toole said as he gathered his things from the top of the podium.
“Mr. Sorenson?” Judge Ramsdell queried “Your witness.”
The attorney stood briefly. “No questions, your Honor.”
Once again, the silence from the defense spoke volumes to the jurors. They would have found the second witness of the day more than credible.
Flanked by three officers, Michele Anderson was led out of the courtroom after the jury had exited.
She was wearing pink handcuffs.
Paul Sanders is the author of “BRAIN DAMAGE: A Juror’s Tale – The Hammer Killing Trial” and “WHY NOT KILL HER: A Juror’s Perspective – The Jodi Arias Death Penalty Retrial”, both of which are available on Amazon. The author began his True Crime writing career after being deliberating death penalty juror #13 in the State of Arizona vs. Marissa DeVault in 2014. Paul reported daily on the Carnation Murder Trial daily with Trial Talk Live’s Jarrett Seltzer. The interviews may be found in the archive section of Trial Talk Live. This work is a draft of the upcoming book: “BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES: A Juror’s Plight – The Carnation Murder Trial of Michele Anderson”.
The sentencing of Michele Anderson is scheduled for April 21, 2016.
This work is copyrighted by Paul Sanders.
Pictures courtesy of Paul Sanders, KOMO-TV, KIRO-TV, State of Washington Prosecutor’s Office.
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