Accused Craigslist killer's mom: 'He's quiet'

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 24, 2009 - 11:23 PM

Michael Anderson's mother testified that he showed no unusual emotion the day of the slaying and asked her to wash his jacket.

Michael Anderson

Photo: Scott County Sherif,

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The accused Craigslist killer was so emotionally vacant growing up that his mother can't remember ever seeing him cry, she testified Tuesday on the second day of his murder trial.

Barbara Anderson's testimony provided jurors with additional insight into the mind of her son, Michael Anderson, characterized by his own attorneys as someone prone to strange behavior and actions -- including using Craigslist in 2007 to deceptively lure Katherine Ann Olson to his family's home in Savage by promising a phony baby-sitting job, then fatally shooting her.

The defense claims Anderson clumsily lured Olson, 24, of south Minneapolis only for sex or romance and that the shooting was accidental, but prosecutors told jurors they intend to prove that Anderson is guilty of premeditated murder in a case that attracted widespread attention because of its Craigslist connection.

"He's quiet. He really doesn't talk much," Barbara Anderson said under questioning from Chief Deputy Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar. She said he little to say, "same as always," when he returned home from work at the airport hours after allegedly killing Olson and nonchalantly asked her to wash his jacket, saying he had spilled jet fuel on it.

Jurors also heard of his sometimes odd behavior after his arrest: He wrote to his mother that he would respond to friends' letters only if they sent specific questions and how he requested a photo of his truck.

The descriptions of Anderson as emotionally flat match his appearance throughout the first two days of his first-degree murder trial. The 20-year-old, dressed in a suit and tie, has shown little reaction and sat still throughout the proceedings.

Letters from jail

Prosecutors say Anderson, of Savage, posed as a woman named Amy who had moved recently from California and needed someone to sit for her children.

In a series of 14 e-mail exchanges Olson, of south Minneapolis, e-mailed her qualifications, and 'Amy' told her that she was hired and asked her to drive to the address where Anderson lived in Savage.

"It's a date! Will do!" Olson responded in one e-mail.

The next day, workers found Olson's purse in a trash can at a park in Savage, her family was notified, and a missing person's investigation began. Her body was found in the trunk of her car, which had been left in a Burnsville park.

Questioning Barbara Anderson, lead defense attorney Alan Margoles also provided insight into why Anderson may have used the website to lure women by posting advertisements requesting nannies, actresses or models to audition at the Savage address: His sister had met her now-husband on the Internet, and a brother also met his girlfriend online.

Prosecutors also introduced a letter Anderson sent to his father, Steven Anderson, from jail in which he asked for $30,000 to offer as a reward have the "real shooter" come forward. Barbara Anderson said she and her husband largely ignored the letter.

On a day in which several witnesses took the stand, members of law enforcement again led the jury through the hours when they were called to investigate a missing person's report to the moment they discovered Olson's body in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville nature preserve. Detective Sgt. Phillip Nawrocki of the Scott County Sheriff's Office was there as the trunk was opened.

"What first came to your mind?" Hocevar asked Nawrocki.

"I had one or two statements that came to my mind," Nawrocki responded.

"Pleasant ones?" Hocevar asked.

"They were not." Nawrocki said.

Strange explanation

It was afterward that Nawrocki and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent Gary Swanson interviewed Anderson. The videotape gave jurors the first glimpse of Anderson's response when confronted by authorities about Olson's death.

"What's this about? I'd like to know exactly what's going on. Am I under arrest? Nobody's told me anything," Anderson told authorities. When repeatedly pressed with evidence including his phone number and e-mail address used in the Craigslist ad, he eventually relented.

"Are you a witness to this?" Nawrocki asked.

"Yep." Anderson responded, tossing his hat onto the table. "A friend of mine thought it would be funny."

District Judge Mary Theisen briefly sent the jury out of the room Tuesday morning and announced that she had seen Olson's father, Rolf Olson, holding up a photograph of his daughter for jurors to see.

"You cannot do that,'" Theisen said. "It's improper to reveal anything other than evidence in the case."

She then instructed prosecutors to remove the photo and four other framed photographs of Olson her family had brought into the courtroom.

Testimony from Barbara Anderson was scheduled to resume this morning.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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