After five weeks of testimony, prosecution and defense attorneys gave their closing arguments in Michele Anderson’s aggravated-murder trial. She is accused of killing six family members at her parents’ rural Carnation home on Christmas Eve 2007.
Michele Anderson was paranoid and in a “crazy, delusional state of mind” when she and her boyfriend fatally shot three generations of her family — but she isn’t guilty of premeditated murder, defense attorney Colleen O’Connor said during her closing argument Wednesday afternoon.
After five weeks of testimony, it was the first time a King County jury heard directly from Anderson’s defense in her aggravated first-degree murder trial for the deaths of her parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew on Christmas Eve 2007.
The crimes weren’t motivated by money, as prosecutors alleged, O’Connor said, noting that Anderson and former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe had nearly $20,000 in the bank. Instead, the lawyer urged jurors to consider Anderson’s mental state at the time of the shootings, claiming she was suffering from depression and anxiety and was unable to hold down a job.
At most, she said, Anderson is guilty of second-degree murder for the deaths of her father, brother and sister-in-law, but not guilty for the deaths of her mother, niece and nephew.
Anderson began crying and loudly blowing her nose about 25 minutes into O’Connor’s closing.
Anderson, 37, is accused of killing her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson, ages 60 and 61, respectively, at their Carnation-area home as they prepared for a holiday gathering.
About an hour later, Anderson’s brother, Scott Anderson; his wife, Erica; and their two children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan, arrived at the house and were then shot by Anderson and McEnroe, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole.
The bodies were discovered two days later, shortly before Anderson and McEnroe drove up to her parents’ home.
They initially told King County sheriff’s detectives they had driven to Las Vegas to get married, but got lost and returned home.
The pair then changed their stories and gave detectives lengthy, tape-recorded confessions.
However, according to O’Connor, Anderson and McEnroe returned to her parents’ home because they felt remorseful and wanted to turn themselves in.
O’Toole said on rebuttal that Anderson was self-centered and narcissistic, but was never diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
Anderson filled her pickup with gas, then went to the bank to make a car payment 35 minutes before she and McEnroe returned to her parents’ house, O’Toole said.
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That act shows they never intended to confess but instead had planned “to stumble onto a murder scene,” not knowing detectives and crime-investigators had already been summoned to the property, he said.
“There’s no descent into madness here,” O’Toole said.
Anderson blurted out that the deaths were all her fault, but only after “she was caught in lie after lie after lie” during a nearly hourlong conversation with detectives, who quickly became suspicious when neither Anderson or McEnroe asked about the large police and media presence at her parents’ home.
McEnroe was convicted last year of six counts of aggravated first-degree murder, the same charges the Anderson jury is now tasked with deciding.
Though Anderson initially faced the possibility of a death sentence, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg reversed his decision in July.
After two alternates were randomly selected Wednesday, a panel of seven women and five men returned to the jury room to begin deliberations just before 3 p.m. They will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday.
During trial, Anderson’s confession was played for the jury. O’Toole reminded jurors Wednesday that she told detectives her brother owed her $40,000. She was also upset at her parents, who she said sided with her brother and had recently demanded she start paying for her car insurance and rent on the mobile home where she and McEnroe had been living, on the same rural property as the elder Andersons’ house.
O’Toole said there was overwhelming evidence of premeditation, starting with the selection of a Christmas Eve family gathering, “the one day she knew everybody would be in the same location.”
O’Connor, however, said none of the deaths was premeditated and urged the jury to find Anderson not guilty.
In addition to six counts of first-degree murder, the state has alleged two aggravators: that the deaths were all part of a common scheme or plan, and that Anderson’s sister-in law, Erica, and her niece and nephew were killed to eliminate witnesses.
Should the jury find her guilty as charged, Anderson’s only possible sentence is life in prison without the possibility of release.
However, the jury was instructed that if they don’t unanimously agree the state has proved first-degree murder, they may consider the lesser, included crime of second-degree murder for each of the six counts, which is an intentional but not premeditated death.