A Juror’s Plight



DAY 24

February 29, 2016



Ross Gardner prepares for the arrival of the jury in the Carnation Murders Trial.

Ross Gardner prepares for the arrival of the jury in the Carnation Murders Trial.

“HEART OF THE MATTER”           

(This was written with all my respect to the family and those who knew the victims: This was a difficult chapter to write and will be a difficult chapter to read.  My heart goes out to you and no offense will be taken should you not read this piece.  Rest in Peace, Wayne, Judith, Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan Anderson.)


It was as if the jurors had been transported back in time when they took their fourteen seats in front of an exact replication of the murder scene from Carnation, Washington.  They were an audience to a living room built on the first floor of the courthouse. The floor was bloodied and marked with small yellow scales throughout.  A drape hung to the floor from floor to ceiling but there was no window behind it.  It, too, was marked with signs of blood spatter.

The jurors were seated in two rows of seven behind the living room.  They knew their positioning in the scene was where the hallway was.  To the direct right of them was the front door.  Just behind them, on the right, there would have been a Christmas tree.

There would be no Christmas lights at the crime scene and the jurors would not have been able to take in the smell of a rib roast in the oven.

From where they were seated, they knew that just off to the left, where the defendant was now seated, was the dining room.

The jurors had learned from Ross Gardner, the crime scene recreation expert that Wayne Anderson’s death had occurred in or at the perimeter of the dining room.  A shooter had fired from the northeast corner of the living room, from just to the right of the jurors, toward the dining room and the bullet had missed.  Before it went through the dining room window, it came so close to Wayne that it took fibers from Wayne’s t-shirt and dropped them on the floor with some landing on the dining room table.  The bullet exited the glass and was never found even though it left a trail inside.

The second bullet fired from the .357 Magnum hit Wayne in the forehead on a path from left to right and exited.  Fragments were found near the threshold of the dining room and kitchen.  Those fragments may have been moved during the clean up so their position was not trusted as completely accurate.

Wayne Anderson collapsed by the kitchen.  His hair had left marks of his position before he was later moved.  There was a corresponding void pattern, illuminated through the lack of color from the LCV test, and no blood was found under him.  He had been in that position for some time.

It was within seconds of time that a second action occurred.  The evidence told a story of Judith running from the craft room to the kitchen and saw Wayne at, about, or just after the time of the second bullet as it made contact.  The same .357 that fired the shot that killed Wayne now turned its attention toward Judith.  The shooter fired and missed as evidenced by the bullet recovered in the Ziploc box in the laundry room.  The bullet had come from the dining room, went through the blue hoodie shirt that Judith was wearing in the kitchen and carried the fibers to its resting place on the laundry shelf.

The next bullet found its mark by hitting Judith in both the shoulder and neck with the final contact in her vertebrae.  The evidence pointed to her having had her arm up to protect herself when the second shot hit her.  The angle of the bullet told the jurors that she was down and in a defensive position.  The blood evidence said the shot was not immediately fatal.

The fatal shot came from a shooter that was close to the victim marked by the stippling on Judith’s forehead.  She was probably looking up at the person holding the gun.   The blood pool discovered under the refrigerator spoke to Judith’s final resting spot before she was eventually moved.

“We did not recreate the dining room and the kitchen simply because the scene had been altered,” Ross Gardner explained to the jurors.  He was standing in the recreated living room between the love seat and the coffee table.  “We do think it took two and a half hours of time before the second series of events happened.  I say this because there was a roast in the oven.  The preparations for the holiday dinner had begun but side dishes had not been prepared and the table had not been set. We then had to consider that the process of clean up would have taken a significant amount of time.”

Scott O’Toole and Ross Gardner walked the jurors through the next sequence of events using the living room displayed in front of the jurors as a life-sized prop.  It was as if the jurors were in the living room on that fateful Christmas Eve while Scott O’Toole and Ross Gardner were the stage managers as they used freeze-frames to make their points.

The .357 Magnum was definitely reloaded between the conclusion of the first event and the commencement of the second event.

It must have been gut-wrenching for the family members of the victims to see the room of the deadly events replayed in front of them.  I am sure each remembered the good times they had spent with Wayne and Judy and had probably sat on that very couch at one time.  Each survivor could hear the victims as they spoke of their final moments through the voice of Scott and his discussion with Mr. Gardner.

Scott, Erica, Olivia and Nathan were in the living room, probably seated, when the shooter fired the first shot.

The first thing jurors would have realized when imagining the four victims alive in the living room was that it was a very small area which only measured twelve feet by fourteen feet.   The jurors were staged behind the leather recliner. Slightly to the left, a couch ran lengthwise.  The loveseat was perpendicular to the couch.  A coffee table, void of holiday treats, was in the center of the seating area.  Far to the right, a big screen television faced the room at a forty-five degree angle.  A bullet hole could be seen marked on the screen. Far to the left, before the imagined dining room area, there stood a telephone table with a cordless receiver base.

Michele Anderson was seated just behind the telephone table.  She kept her head buried in her hands.  There would be jurors who would wonder what she was thinking as she saw the living room recreated in front of her.  Would she remember Erica as she tried to call 911 in her final moments?

Seven bullets were fired from the .357 Magnum in the next few minutes.

The first bullet had been fired at Scott from the area just to the right of the jurors.  Scott would have been seated on the couch to their left.  He may have been leaning forward when the first bullet hit him in the chin and into his chest.  The blood pool under the coffee table and below him under the couch demanded that he was there.  At some point, however, he got up and headed in the direction of the shooter toward the window curtains, low to the ground.  He collapsed straight back when he got there.  He was supine and alive for a time on the floor.

Simultaneously, a 9 MM shooter would have entered the picture.  A shot was fired from the couch to the jury’s left toward the northwest corner and missed its target.  The bullet travelled through an Afghan blanket stand and was recovered from inside the windowsill.    Based on the angle, it was likely that the shooter was in a seated position on the couch.  There was an unexplained dual hole in Erica’s hooded sweatshirt that pointed in the direction of the bullet in the wall.

It was probable that Erica had come forward to help her dying husband who lay on the floor.

The next bullet was likely to have been from the .357 Magnum coming from the right of the jury toward the loveseat across from them.  It made contact with Erica’s left shoulder and exited out her back by the armpit area.  She had to have been bent down and gunshot residue evidence showed the gun was fired from over Scott.

It was probable that Erica retreated and ended up back near the loveseat.  Her left flank was exposed to the shooter with the .357 Magnum.  One shot hit her in the right thigh.  It was more than likely, given the complicated wound path that she was in a fetal position on the loveseat. It was possible that she was in a defensive position when another bullet entered her back and went upward. She had to have been bent over.

Still another bullet struck Erica in the chest.  This bullet had evidence of shoring, which meant it was in contact with something else before the bullet from the .357 struck.

“At this point in time,” Ross Gardner explained, “the situation has become very dynamic.  Things are starting to happen very close to each other.  We know Erica is trapped in this area on the loveseat and we know a 911 call was made.  It was a cordless phone and the evidence suggests it was not recovered from the cradle but may have been within reach of Erica when she called.  One drop of blood was found on the Pepsi crate near the phone stand.  It was Erica’s blood. She could have been in the proximity.  At the same time, Nathan and Olivia are in this scene.”

The investigator stopped speaking.  He was suddenly choked up.  “I’m sorry,” he said.

It was a moment that would have impacted the jury because it had come out of the blue.  Suddenly, the horrific emotion of the event had come over the witness. The jurors had gotten used to his analytic and meticulous explanation of the sequence of events.  Yet, he became human when he cracked.  The jurors would relate to him because they had each shed many a tear in silence over the victims. It was an important impromptu moment.

Everyone waited silently as the reconstruction expert regained his composure.

“There is evidence of stippling on Nathan’s face.  He was on Erica’s chest when the bullet hit him in the left side of the face and ended up deep in Erica’s chest,” he said as he returned to his knowledgeable tone. “The shooter would have been closer than twenty inches from the victim. Nathan would have collapsed to the left of Erica and did not move after the bullet hit him. The 9 MM shooter had killed him almost instantly.”

The defendant had her head down on the defense table with her hands covering the sides of her face.  The jurors would have ignored her.

“The 9 MM shooter was on the other side of Erica, in front of the couch.  The evidence suggests a shot was fired in a downward direction into Olivia’s head.  Olivia had also been hit in the abdomen by another bullet but it’s difficult to tell when it happened in the sequence of events.  She had moved after receiving the abdomen wound so was alive when she got the head wound.  The hair on her head masked the stippling effect although I am confident the shot was from a close range,” Gardner explained.

He paused again and took a deep breath.

“The coup de grace was the shot to Olivia’s head.  It was followed by a final shot was to Erica’s head.  It is probable that the very last bullet fired at the scene was the shot to the abdomen of Scott who was lying on the floor.  I still believe Scott was dead by the time that shot went into him as evidenced by the lack of blood around the wound.”

Scott O’Toole paused to speak with Michelle Morales and then told the witness he was done with his questions.

The jurors looked on as David Sorenson cross-examined the investigator on such things as bullet trajectories and flow charts.  He tried to take the witness to task when he questioned the assumption that Judith was cooking and that she was going to make side dishes.

The crime scene reconstruction expert simply explained that common sense was part of the equation in the sequencing of events.

It would be a day that the jurors would never forget.  For a short time, the victims had managed to come alive in their final moments on Christmas Eve of 2007.  The jurors could almost smell the roast in the oven.  Some would remember the Christmas tree and know the lights were probably on in anticipation of the holiday guests.  They would especially remember that the second scene of horror began with all the victims seated in the living room at its commencement.

Jurors would be restless to speak with each other.  The vision in their mind was horrifying and their hearts needed the consoling of another soul.  But, due to their admonishment, each would be made to suffer the continuous turn of the gerbil wheel of thoughts in their minds.  It was the fuel for a sleepless night.

Each juror would replay the scene they had witnessed throughout the day.  Over and over again, they would consider each moment in the sequence that had unfolded.  When they tried to compare the inherent elements of the crime, the horror of it all, each element became worse.  Some considered Erica’s final moments as the most horrific of all.  Yet, their minds would jump to the final moments of the children and wonder what was worse.  At the same time, they could not forget what happened to Wayne, Judith and Scott.  It was a lot to wrap one’s head around.

There was nothing that would ever take away the visuals that had finally come together in their minds.  The more perplexing issue was the utter senselessness of it all.

Two selfish shooters had taken six innocent lives.  They were taken with premeditation and in a coldness that was nearly palpable.  Every shot of the gun was an act of premeditation. Just as the jurors could almost smell the roast in the oven, they surely heard the screams of the victims.

No juror had to be told that the prosecution would rest soon.

It would be time for the defense team to speak.  Although they needed to hear some sort of defense, the jurors only wanted to hear from one person and that was the defendant herself.  Would she take the stand or would she continue to cower on the defense table and let the cards fall where they probably would anyway?







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, King County, State of Washington Prosecutor’s Office.


Facebook: Paul Sanders
Twitter: The13thJurorMD



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