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Michael Anderson - Craigslist Killer

Job Hunting on Social Networking Sites Can Open Doors, But to Whose Door?

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Katherine Ann Olson was 24 years old and had recently graduated summa cum laude from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She had a degree in theater and Latin studies and was looking forward to going to Madrid to enter into a graduate theater program and get her master's degree in Spanish.

To help finance her trip she was searching for a job as a nanny. In the past she had luck finding positions through Craigslist, including one as a nanny in Turkey.

Many her age would have been afraid to venture so far from home, but Olson had a passion for traveling and had been to several places around the world. One time she had even worked as a juggler for a circus in Argentina.

All of her previous travel adventures had been good experiences and she was looking forward to Madrid.

In late October, 2007, Katherine spotted a babysitting job listed on Craigslist from a woman named Amy. The two exchanged emails and Katherine told her roommate that she found Amy strange, but had agreed to babysit her daughter on Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

On October 25, 2007, Olsen left for the babysitting job at Amy's home.

Investigation

The following day, October 26, the Savage Police Department received a phone call that a discarded purse had been seen in the garbage at Warren Butler Park in Savage. Inside of the purse the police found Olsen's identification and contacted her roommate. The roommate told them about Olsen's babysitting job and that he thought she was missing.

Next the police located Olson's vehicle at Kraemer Park Reserve. Olson's body was found in the trunk. She had been shot in the back and her ankles were bound with red twine.

A garbage bag filled with bloody towels was also found. One of the towels had the name "Anderson" written in magic marker on it. Olsen's cell phone was also inside the bag.

Investigators were able to trace "Amy's" email account to Michael John Anderson who lived with his parents in Savage. The police went to Anderson's place of employment at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport where he worked refueling jets. They told him that they were investigating a missing person and then took him to the police station for questioning.

Once in custody, Anderson was read his Miranda rights and he agreed to talk to the officers.

During the questioning Anderson admitted that he used the online service, admitted he was present when Olson was killed, and stated a friend of his "thought it would be funny" to kill Olson. The questioning stopped when Anderson requested an attorney.

Evidence

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) examined Olson's body and the Anderson residence. The following is a list of evidence that was collected:
  • A hair collected from Olson's body had matched Anderson's DNA.

  • Anderson's fingerprint was found on the drawstring of the garbage bag in Warren Butler Park.

  • The garbage bag contained a blue towel with blood that matched Olson's DNA profile.
  • Olson's cell phone contained Anderson's thumbprint.

  • DNA analysis of a blood smear found at the bottom of the stairs in the Anderson residence matched Olson's DNA profile.

  • A Ruger .357 Blackhawk revolver was found in Anderson's parents' bedroom was the same revolver used to shoot Olsen.

  • A fired cartridge found in Anderson's room underneath a pillow also came from the revolver.

  • Anderson's next door neighbor identified Olsen's car as the one she saw parked in Anderson's driveway for two hours on October 25, 2007.

Computer Evidence

Also found on Anderson's computer were 67 postings on Craigslist from November 2006 to October 2007. Those posting included requests for female models and actresses, nude photos, a sexual encounter, babysitters, and car parts.

Anderson posted an ad on October 22, 2007, requesting a babysitter for a 5-year-old girl. When Olson responded to the ad, Anderson replied posing as "Amy" and stated "she" needed someone to babysit her daughter. There were additional email exchanges between the two in reference to the job.

Phone records showed that Olson called Anderson's cell phone at 8:57 a.m. on October 25, and Anderson listened to the voice mail at 8:59 a.m.

Anderson was charged with first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder.

Autopsy

An autopsy revealed a gunshot wound to Olson's back, and injuries to Olson's knees, nose, and forehead. The medical examiner said Olson bled to death within 15 minutes from the time she was shot. There was no evidence of sexual assault.

Asperger's Disorder

Anderson pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness, claiming to suffer from Asperger's disorder. The defense hired a psychologist and a psychiatrist who backed up the claim.

Those suffering from Asperger's disorder have difficulties in social interaction, show few emotions, limited ability to feel empathy and are often clumsy.

The court ordered a mental examination of Anderson by a forensic psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist, both who said that Anderson did not have Asperger's and was not mentally ill or mentally deficient.

Scott County District Judge Mary Theisen ruled that expert testimony to the jury regarding Asperger's would not be allowed.

Anderson later changed his plea to not guilty.

The Trial

The Defense

During Anderson's trial, defense attorney Alan Margoles depicted a lonely, socially inept young man who lived with his parents and never dated. He referred to the 19-year-old as a "bizarre kid with no social skills" who lived in an unreal world.

Margoles went on to suggest that when Olsen turned Anderson down and tried to leave, he responded the way he did when he was playing video games -- by pulling a gun on her which went off by mistake.

He said the shooting was an accident caused by "sympathic response," which is when one hand flinches in response to the other hand. Margoles said he could have accidentally squeezed the trigger when he reached for his dog with his other hand.

Margoles said Anderson was guilty only of second-degree manslaughter. That murder with premeditation or intent was never proven.

Anderson did not testify at the trial.

The Prosecution

Chief Deputy County Attorney Ron Hocevar told the jury that Anderson shot Olson in the back because he was curious about death and what it would feel like to kill someone.

Testimony was also given from inmates that said Anderson admitted to killing Olsen because he wanted to know what it felt like and that he did not plead insanity, "because then I would have to pretend that I'm sorry."

Hocevar pointed out that Anderson never told the police that the shooting was an accident, or that he tripped over his dog, or that he just wanted a girl to come over to his house.

Verdict

The jury deliberated for five hours before returning the verdict. Anderson was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, second-degree intentional murder, and second-degree manslaughter-culpable negligence.

Anderson showed no reaction or emotion when the verdict was read.

Victim-Impact Statements

During the "victim-impact statements" the parents of Katherine Olson, Nancy and the Reverend Rolf Olson, read from a journal that Katherine kept as a child. In it she wrote about her dreams of one day winning an Oscar, of marrying a tall man with dark eyes and of having four children.

Nancy Olson spoke of a reoccurring dream that she had been having since her daughter was found dead.

"She appeared to me as a 24-year-old, naked, with a bullet hole in her back and crawled into my lap," Nancy Olson said. "I cradled her for a long time trying to protect her from the cruel world."

Sentencing

Michael Anderson declined to speak to the court. His attorney spoke for him saying Anderson had the "deepest regrets for his actions."

Directing her comments directly to Anderson, judge Mary Theisen said that she believed Olson was "running for her life" when Anderson shot Olson and that it was an act of cowardice.

She made reference to Anderson stuffing Olsen in the car trunk and leaving her to die as a brutal, incomprehensible act.

"You have shown no remorse, no empathy, and I have no sympathy for you."

She then handed down her sentence of life in prison without parole.

"Last Act of Parenting"

After the trial Reverend Rolf Olson said the family was thankful for the outcome, but added, "I’m just so sad we had to be here at all. We felt this was the last act of parenting for our daughter."
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