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Bail has been set at $1 million in the case of Michael John Anderson, a 19-year-old man from Savage, who has been charged with second degree murder in the killing of a woman while she was answering an ad for a nanny on Craigslist.org.

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Bail has been set at $1 million in the case of Michael John Anderson, a 19-year-old man from Savage, who has been charged with second degree murder in the killing of a woman while she was answering an ad for a nanny on Craigslist.org.

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Tuesday: Police know how, can't explain why

  • Article by: Jim Adams, Chao Xiong and Curt Brown
  • Star Tribune
  • October 31, 2007 - 4:40 PM

Despite an uneasy feeling in her gut about the person she was about to meet, Katherine Ann Olson showed up for her new baby-sitting job at a dilapidated house in Savage.

She was there to watch a child between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday after being hired by "Amy" through an ad posted on the popular Craigslist website. Before heading out, she mentioned to her roommate that her new employer "seemed kind of strange."

She placed her last cell phone call to Amy's phone just before 9 a.m. A short time later, authorities say, she was met at the house by 19-year-old Michael John Anderson, a paintball fanatic who dropped out of an alternative high school and was shy around women.

Authorities say Anderson lured Olson, 24, to his family's split-level house, somehow got her upstairs to his bedroom, where he shot her in the back with a .357 handgun, dragged her downstairs and tied her ankles in red twine.

The new details in the Craigslist killing emerged Tuesday as Anderson was charged in Scott County District Court with second-degree intentional murder. At one point, he told police that another person had killed her and that a friend "thought it would be funny."

Authorities, however, say that evidence points to Anderson acting alone.

They say he stuffed Olson's body in a sleeping bag in her trunk and drove five blocks away before ditching the car at Kraemer Nature Preserve in Burnsville.

He wrapped her crushed cell phone in a blood-smeared towel -- that had his name written on it with a black marker -- and stuffed it in nearby trash can, authorities said.

His motive bewildered authorities and Anderson's friends. After first denying the cell phone contact with Olson, Anderson later told police he witnessed another person kill her.

A friend "thought it would be funny," he told police, according to the complaint.

Authorities said there was no sign of a sexual assault. They found the handgun and a shell casing in his blood-spattered bedroom. A trail of Olson's blood showed her body had been dragged down the stairs. The steps had been cleaned but not the risers, according to authorities, who declined to speculate on a motive.

"The only person who knows that right now is the defendant," Scott County Attorney Patrick Ciliberto said. "There is certainly no sense in her death. She was a talented, bright young woman and her life is gone and there's no explanation for it."

At Olson's visitation on Tuesday at Richfield Lutheran Church, her mother, Nancy Olson, flashed a bright smile as she stood by her daughter's casket and watched a video of her daughter portraying Maria in a church community theater's production of "The Sound of Music."

Neither of Olson's parents talked about the case Tuesday, choosing instead to celebrate their daughter's life as shown through dozens of photographs. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today in Edina for Olson, a St. Olaf College graduate whose family described her as "a joy."

In an earlier e-mailed statement, her father, the Rev. Rolf Olson, a pastor at Richfield Lutheran Church, said that Katherine "believed in the essential goodness of humanity, sometimes naively so."

On Facebook.com, a social networking site, more than 1,200 people had signed up to pay respects.

Bail set at $1 million

Anderson, handcuffed and gazing blankly from beneath black bangs, was held on $1 million bail. He could face first-degree murder charges once a grand jury is convened.

It's believed to be the first homicide connected to Craigslist, where people trade merchandise and hunt for jobs.

A warning appeared on the site Tuesday in the section of "Education" jobs, which includes a number of ads seeking nannies and baby-sitters. Under the heading, "Warning -- for those who don't watch the news," the ad read: "Someone who answered a Craigslist ad for a nanny job ended up dead. Be careful out there."

A Craigslist veteran

Tony Dotson, 19, is one of Anderson's closest friends and a former neighbor. He recalled how Anderson introduced him to Craiglist about a year ago when the pair went to Minnetonka to get a motor for a go-cart they were building.

"I'm still so confused on why," Dotson said. "I don't even know what I'd say to him. I'm just blank."

Anderson loved rebuilding engines, shooting paintballs and archery arrows at targets in a nearby park, according to Dotson and Jake Von Bank, another longtime friend and neighbor. They'd often hold Halo parties, hooking up TVs and playing video games.

They insist Anderson was never violent and seldom showed interest in women.

"He would never raise a fist to anybody," Dotson said. "He was always shy around girls. That's what baffles me."

Anderson studied auto mechanics, according to his friends, but dropped out last fall from Cedar Alternative High School in Eagan. After working in auto parts warehouses, he landed a jet-fueling job at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport a few months ago.

He was working nights at the airport, where police arrested him Friday.

He lived at his family's two-story home with his parents. His father drives a truck after being laid off as a Northwest Airlines mechanic. Michael is the youngest of Steven and Barbara Anderson's three children.

His parents attended Tuesday's brief bail hearing, held in a glassed-in jail courtroom in Shakopee.

"Let's all let the judicial process take its course," said defense attorney Robert M. Speeter.

Dotson and Von Bank said the last time they saw Anderson, in September, they noticed he had cut his longtime mullet haircut. They'd often tease him about his hair and the turquoise color of his house, which they called "Aquafresh toothpaste." Anderson always chuckled at the playful ribbing.

"He said he had to get back into the routine of sleeping" after working nights at the airport, Dotson said. "He seemed fine. Just fine. This whole thing gets you thinking hard. It's like a bad dream."

curt.brown@startribune.com • 612-673-4767 cxiong@startribune.com • 612-673-4391 jadams@startribune.com • 612-673-7658

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