BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES:
A Juror’s Plight
THE CARNATION MURDER TRIAL of MICHELE ANDERSON
February 9, 2016
Michele Anderson entered courtroom to face her banquet of consequences.
“I’M A MONSTER”
The jurors knew that something was up when Scott O’Toole passed them each a document of over one hundred pages in length. The Judge advised them twice that, despite the urge, they were not read ahead. They must read while an audiotape was played. The transcript would not be allowed in the jury room nor would it be allowed in the deliberation process. They would, however, have access to the two-hour tape recording they were about to hear.
The jurors one day would listen to this tape over and over again if the defendant, Michele Anderson, declined to testify.
Scott O’Toole, dressed impeccably in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, spoke with Detective Tompkins on the stand to give the jurors a preface of what they were going to hear.
Michele Anderson was with Detective Tompkins on December 26, 2007, forty-hours after the deaths of the Andersons. He had been at the Carnation crime scene since 8:00 AM. He had received a call from another deputy that a member of the Anderson family had arrived on the scene with her boyfriend. The deputy felt Tompkins should speak with her. At the time, only 11:00 AM, Tompkins was busy orchestrating the logistics of the huge crime scene; that had very few answers to. He was busy with delegating tasks, orchestrating the methods of establishing a secure perimeter and organizing a lot of agencies that arrived to assist. The one thing he did not prefer to do at the time was to handle a death notification to the family. It was part of his job but better left to a deputy who could stay with the family member throughout the rest of the day. He could not afford to be pulled away while he was in the organizational stage of the investigation.
He found no one who could take the task and made his way down the long gravel driveway to meet with her. He knew that her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe would be separated from Michele Anderson. He met her with alongside the road. She was talking with a deputy. She was wearing a dirty black t-shirt, knee-length black shorts and a pair of black boots. She was a heavy girl.
His first impression saw her as timid. The next thing, that took a while to dawn on him, was that her behavior did not match the environment around her.
They walked to his unmarked 2006 Chevy Impala parked on the side of the road, in a queue with twenty other parked police vehicles. Michele got in the passenger seat in the front, opening her own door while Tompkins got in on the driver’s side.
He remembered seeing her name on some mail from one of the two residences and wanted to hold back on a death notification as long as possible. He needed to get information out of her before she had the expected emotional reaction as family members do after being told of the death of a loved one.
When he started asking where she was on Christmas Eve, around 5:00 PM, the story got confusing very quickly. She told the detective that she and her boyfriend decided to get married in Las Vegas and then drove to Monroe, a town seventeen miles north of Carnation, and got lost. She decided that she wanted to go back home and get some fruit that she left on the kitchen counter.
Certainly, the detective was scratching his head.
After that, they headed back to Las Vegas, drove through Everett, then to Redlands and got a flat tire in Kelso, Washington. There was a cat in the car and it was freaking out so they decided to come home. That was how it came to pass that she was sitting with Detective Tompkins.
The Detective decided to take a break and get her some bottled water. He left her in the car and got the assistance of Detective Sue Peters to assist him. She would sit in the backseat and take notes while he would return to the front seat. This time, he would use a cassette recorder during their interview. He had also learned after getting Michele’s water that McEnroe’s story of events did not match her story of events, even though they had been together the whole time.
Scott O’Toole pressed, “play” on the CD player and the jurors went on a journey into the mind of a killer. They listened intently while they read each of the 112 pages one by one, the audiotape as the narrator.
They heard Detective Tompkins voice as he discussed the timeline of Christmas Eve and the day prior with her. It was more conversational than interrogational. It seemed like a cat and mouse game as she told her story of being lost. He was getting frustrated and wanted to move on to real information.
“Okay,” he said, turning toward her. “You and your parents live in a pretty quiet setting out here, correct?”
“Yeah,” she answered. Her hands were in her lap and she was looking at the floorboards.
“Kind of in the country, so to speak,” he said.
“Yeah,” she answered. She looked out the window ahead of her.
“When you came home a while ago, what did you see?”
“A row of cars.”
Tompkins nodded his head. “Yes? Were there some media members out front?”
She thought about it for a moment. “There was a van that had a weird thing on top of it.”
“Okay,” he prodded a little. “And, were there some Sheriff’s cars out there?”
“I don’t know,” she said offhandedly.
“Well, did you see a lot of police cars when you pulled in?”
She nodded her head. “I just saw a lot of these types of cars.”
The whirr of helicopter blades could be heard overhead while they chatted. Sue Peters jotted notes silently in the back seat.
“I’m just saying this is unusual, right?” he asked, looking toward her again.
“Well, yeah,” she answered quietly.
“There’re people running around in uniforms and things like that,” he said as they watched a fire truck make its way up the driveway.
“Yeah,” she agreed.
“What’s the one question you asked me when we first sat down?”
She thought about it and then remembered. “If my car was stolen.”
“What do you think all these police cars are here for?” he asked.
“I think the house is on fire,” she replied hesitantly.
“Why do you think that?”
“The last time I saw helicopters here was when the old house was on fire.”
“How did that fire start?” Tompkins asked.
“I think it was a chimney fire and Adolph used to live down there,” she said. Her voice seemed to drag on as if she were intoxicated or as if she had not slept in a long time. She looked at her feet.
“So, whose house do you think is on fire?”
“Probably my mom and dad’s because I wasn’t home,” she stated.
“Are you at all concerned about them?”
“Yeah,” she said. There may have been an attempt at emotion and then it fell away from her face, a discarded thought.
“Do you think with me wearing this Sheriff’s jacket, I’d be in a position to know such a thing?”
Michele picked at something on her knee. She didn’t answer.
“Yes or no?” Tompkins asked.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Well, why didn’t you ask me?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m just. I thought I wasn’t supposed to ask any of that. I thought you’d get mad.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten mad. You can ask me anything you want. Have you ever seen so many police cars in one place at one time?” he asked, as he waved his hand in the direction of the windshield.
“When the house was on fire,” she quipped. “There were a lot of police and fire trucks here.”
“Have you seen one fire truck since you’ve been here?”
“No,” she answered softly.
Dead silence filled the car.
“Michele? Is there anything, anything,” he emphasized, “you want to tell us?”
She rearranged herself in the front seat. “My, my dad might of got a heart attack.”
Tompkins dismissed it. “Police don’t come out for heart attacks.”
Suddenly Sue Peters, during another deadened silence, asked from the back seat, “Do you think something happened to your family?”
Michele mumbled something. “Maybe.”
“Why?” Tompkins asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, looking absentmindedly out the window. Her voice was timid and small. “Because all these cars and I don’t know what else it would be.”
Neither detective spoke. A helicopter could be heard a short distance away. The heater blew warm air through the air vents. Michele picked at her hands.
“Would you ever harm your family?” Detective Tompkins asked, shattering the calm.
“No,” she answered softly.
“Would you ever cover up for somebody who did?” he asked.
“No,” she responded.
Then Sue Peters interjected from the back seat. Her voice was confident, countering the voice of the witness in the front seat. “I think you might know a little more about why we’re here; and you have to talk to Scott (Tompkins) and I about that.”
Tompkins jumped in, turning toward Michele. “Let me tell you a couple of things we’re really good at,” he began.
He did not get to finish his sentence.
Suddenly, the girl in the black outfit broke down in the front seat. Her face was buried in her hands and her body heaved.
“It’s my fault. I’m sorry,” she gulped between sobs.
This moment is a moment that will one day be played over and over again in the deliberation room if the defendant does not choose to testify or if deliberations are longer than a day. It is the moment that bristles go up on a juror’s back. In the brief span of time that an interrogation turns from lies to a confession, it is the time that jurors become the most critical. The words of the defendant will no longer be trusted. Her lying once puts every one of her actions beyond that as suspicious. Although they are still holding firm to the presumption of innocence, it has quickly become an arduous task. Was her sudden remorse genuine or another bed of lies?
“Tell us what happened,” Tompkins asked softly.
Sue Peters offered, “It’s okay. Sometimes things get out of hand.”
She was still crying. “I’m not a bad person.”
“No one is saying you are a bad person, Tompkins said. “But, we…”
“It’s not Joe’s fault. It’s all me,” she said, her head in her hands.
“Okay. I, I know, honey, but tell me what happened at your parent’s house,” Sue said comfortingly.
It took Michele a few minutes to compose herself. Her hands were clasped in her lap. She appeared to try to focus on the questions. Her responses were in broken phrases. The next phrase had to be prodded by the asking of another question.
“My brother owes me a lot of money and he refused to pay me back. He knows we’ve been struggling. And my parents weren’t even…. they don’t care about it. I love my family so much, and it hurt when he took my money and didn’t give it back,” she explained.
“Okay. Then what happened?”
“Me and Joe went up to the house for help with the lights. My light went out in the kitchen. My mom and dad were up there when we arrived. And then I told Joe to go back to the other house,” she said. She paused as she looked out the side window.
“And then?” Tompkins asked.
“I got into an argument with them ‘cause they said they’re not helping me get my money back from Scott. They threatened to kick me out because they don’t believe Scott’s a bad person. They want to charge me rent and they changed the rules. They want the rent now. And,” she said pensively, “I have too much stuff around here that I gotta sell. There’s no way I’d get out in time. And I panicked.”
“Yes?” Tompkins prodded gently.
“I went into my truck and got my handgun. I didn’t want to live out on the street and I panicked. And soon as I did that, I regretted it,” she said as she broke down in tears and sobs again.
“I know you did,” Tompkins said supportively.
“And that’s not me because I love them so much. But I was so mad,” she emphasized.
“And then I tried to hide it. They were too heavy. And then I got into an argument when Scott came over. I told him I wanted my money and he said ‘he doesn’t have to listen to this shit’ and he came after me. He charged me and he was gonna hurt me. I’m not lying,” she said, conviction in her voice.
“I don’t blame you a bit.”
“I love him but ever since he married Erica, he hates me,” she said absentmindedly. “Anyway, I freaked out and shot him. He kept coming and I shot him four times. I thought he would stop when I pointed the gun. I just wanted my car back and the $40,000 that he owed me.”
The jurors heard her break down in tears and many saw her credibility drop even further. It would not get past them that Joe McEnroe was in the living room when Scott was shot. Again she had lied and the review of her testimony later would be a study in the search for lies in her words instead of truths.
Later, Tompkins asked her, “You said that after the killing of your mom and dad, you tried to cover it up. What does that mean?”
“I drug them in the backyard so when Scott came over, I could try to get my money from him and just leave.”
In a juror’s mind, this was yet another caught lie.
“And, as soon as I shot the gun, I felt so bad. Like, what the hell have I done? I’m a monster. I turned into a monster. I told Joe everything. I told him that he had to not tell anybody. I’m so sorry,” she said, as she broke down in heaving sobs.
“Did you shoot Scott’s wife and kids?” Tompkins asked, the question nobody wanted to ask.
“I did,” she said, starting to cry again. “They were wrapped around their mom’s legs screaming. She was running to the phone and somehow called 911. I don’t know how she did that. I freaked out. They were running to the phone!”
There was silence in the car except for the weeping of the witness in the dirty black t-shirt.
“Michele?” Tompkins pressed.
She mumbled, her mouth in her hands.
“How many times did you shoot them?”
“One shot Erica and one to each kid. I saw something in Nathan’s face, like he was at peace with dying. It was weird,” she commented.
I saw members of the family seated in the rows in front of me in the gallery. They shook their heads as they heard the tape while the jurors were reading along. I knew they knew a lot more truths and had probably discovered many more lies hidden within the interrogation.
This was a crushing blow to the defendant, whether she chose to testify or not. It was the one piece of evidence that arose from the words of her mouth. It was probably the only time that the jurors would hear from her. They were words that would be used against her in a court of law in the future and the future had arrived. Those same words she was warned about when her Miranda Rights were read to her by Detective Scott Tompkins on December 26, 2007 were the words that had come back to haunt her just as they would haunt the jurors dreams at night.
All day long, throughout the playing of her impromptu interrogation, they heard her repeatedly say that she was sorry. Over and over again, she would comment that she was so stupid. The act was over stupid money. She should have run away.
The jurors would go home that night, while a gerbil wheel of thoughts rolled incessantly over and over again in their heads, and they would ponder her words, comingled with lies and dusted with feigned remorse.
Every juror had each member of the Anderson family on their minds. They knew each of their names by heart as Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Nathan and Olivia.
Suddenly, those names stood on the other side of the scale. The jurors were responsible to the victims and each juror felt the burden of responsibility when they saw the other side of their task. It was not just about the presumption of innocence for the defendant.
It was about an innocent six and the most incredibly stupid reason in the world to kill them…
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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