A King County jury got an up-close look on Monday at the re-created living room where four of six members of the Anderson family were fatally shot on Christmas Eve 2007. The state is expected to rest its aggravated-murder case against Michele Anderson on Tuesday.
In a vacant office on the first floor of the King County Courthouse, afghan blankets were draped Monday along the backs of a pale-blue sofa and love seat, with mismatched throw pillows propped against the floral-patterned cushions.
A large TV, with a bullet hole in the screen, sat in one corner of the cramped living space that was re-created with furniture and accessories from the rural Carnation home where six members of the Anderson family were killed on Christmas Eve 2007.
With the state expected to rest its case Tuesday against Michele Anderson, jurors spent much of Monday morning in the office-space-turned-temporary-courtroom to hear testimony from Ross Gardner, a Georgia-based crime-scene reconstructionist.
Anderson, who is charged with six counts of aggravated first-degree murder, is standing trial for the shooting deaths of her parents, brother, sister-in-law and young niece and nephew. Her former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe was convicted of the same crimes last year and is serving six life terms.
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Anderson, now 37, sat hunched over with her head in her hands throughout Gardner’s testimony Monday. She is not facing a potential death penalty but if convicted as charged, she will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.
Her defense team has not provided advance notice to the state that they plan to call any witnesses, but attorney Colleen O’Connor left open the possibility that Anderson could testify. A decision is expected Tuesday.
If Anderson decides not to take the stand, the state and defense could begin closing arguments as early as Tuesday afternoon after about five weeks of testimony in a case that took more than eight years to get to trial.
Gardner told jurors Monday that King County prosecutors and sheriff’s detectives decided not to re-create the dining room where Wayne Anderson, 60, was fatally shot, or the kitchen where his wife Judy, 61, died from a gunshot to the head. That’s because their bodies were dragged from the house and their blood was mopped up with towels, making it difficult to re-create events and determine the positions of their bodies when they died, he said.
Still, Gardner told jurors a pool of Judy Anderson’s blood was later found underneath the refrigerator, and he estimated the elder Andersons were killed a couple of hours before their son and his family arrived for Christmas Eve dinner.
A roast was cooking in the oven, but cans of green beans and nuts sat untouched on the kitchen counter, indicating Judy Anderson hadn’t had time to prepare her side dishes or set the table before she was killed, Gardner said.
The living-room scene, however, was re-created to help jurors visualize how events unfolded when Scott Anderson and his wife, Erica, both 32, and their two children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan, were killed.
While the dark-brown blood stains on the curtains and love seat were real, those on the floor were re-created from crime-scene photos using ink on a 12- by 14-foot piece of canvas, the jury heard.
Gardner used autopsy reports, crime-scene photos, bullet trajectories, blood spatter and other physical evidence to reach his conclusions.
Gardner explained he couldn’t put weapons in the hands of any one individual but instead referred to the movements of the “.357 shooter,” who stood in between a window and a recliner, and the “9 mm shooter,” who started out behind the sofa but eventually moved to a spot between the sofa and coffee table.
Jurors have heard in previous testimony that Anderson fired a 9 mm at her father but missed, and when her gun jammed, McEnroe shot Wayne Anderson twice and Judy Anderson once with a .357-caliber revolver.
After the younger couple and their children arrived, Scott and Olivia were each shot twice, Erica six times, and Nathan, who was nestled against his mother’s chest, died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to earlier testimony.
In just the living room, Gardner said Monday, he counted seven gunshots from a .357-caliber revolver and four shots from a 9-mm handgun.
Based on the number of total shots fired, Gardner said the .357 had been reloaded twice, with a number of shell casings later recovered from beneath the recliner.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole asked a question about a gunshot wound to the back of Olivia’s head, and Gardner paused to compose himself, apologizing to the jury for his brief flash of emotion:
“My job is to put my humanity away. It sometimes grabs you by the neck, so my apologies,” he said.