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Deadly Consequences
Another Domestic Violence Homicide Rocks California's North Coast

On July 17, 1999, Jackie Anderson was at home with her two-year old son when her estranged husband, David, showed up. David Anderson was under court orders to stay away from her -- court orders he'd violated only the night before. At that time sheriff's deputies had ignored their last chance to make a lifesaving arrest.

Police say Jackie called 911 around 11:00 on Saturday morning to report that her husband was again at the house and was making threats. Soon after that 911 call, David Anderson began to beat Jackie, then dragged her downstairs into the basement where he shot and killed her.

At some point Mendocino Co. Sheriff's deputies arrived but they didn't enter the house for some seven hours. By that time, Jackie Anderson was dead.

The Predictable Homicide
I read the initial news reports with a sinking feeling, haunted by the faces of other women in our community now dead at the hands of their violent partners. Marķa Teresa Macias ... Mina Arevalo ... Heather Moore ... Marķa Ramos ... Melissa Tarantino ... Nancy Lynch ... Patty Fansler ... Gina Barnett ... Liz Toleson & her daughter Lisa ... Carol Madeira ... Loretta Whalen ... Patricia Gustafson ... Brenda Martini ... Patrice Dodson ... Jewelle Emerald Weatherspoon ... Paulette Moore ... the list is sickeningly long.

Jackie Anderson
Jackie Anderson

How much longer will it get — how many more women will have to die — before police, district attorneys and the courts begin to respond effectively to stop the killing?

Law enforcement knows from experience that the key to preventing these murders is relatively simple: aggressive prosecution at the misdemeanor level, strict enforcement of restraining orders, and thorough investigation of the incidents so that prosecution is possible with or without the victim's participation. (For expert witness analysis of law enforcement's failure in the Teresa Macias case, download the document, Macias Expert Testimony 57.5 kb)

Yet behind almost every domestic violence homicide lies a long history of escalating violence repeatedly reported to law enforcement, usually with little or no intervention by the criminal justice system. Again and again these women have turned to police and district attorneys to save their lives. Again and again law enforcement has failed them utterly.

Jackie Anderson was no exception. What follows comes from our investigation of Jackie's many prior contacts with law enforcement, based on court documents, press accounts, Jackie's own chronology, and interviews with her friends and family. It is a close-up look at the road to domestic violence homicide; a road paved with law enforcement failure at every turn.

A Record of Reckless Disregard

"I stated that David had knocked me down, kicked me and drug me out of the house by my feet and that I wanted to press charges and have him arrested and taken to mental health. The officers response to me was that would be a hassle."

— from Jackie Anderson's chronology

Arrest records on David Anderson go back to 1992, when he was arrested and charged with four misdemeanors, including assaulting Jackie with a deadly weapon and obstructing or resisting police. He ultimately pled to DUI and resisting arrest; he was just put on probation.

This was the first of many encounters where police were called because of David's violence against Jackie but, in the final criminal charges, those crimes were nowhere to be found. Where there should be convictions for repeated spousal abuse, Anderson's record instead shows reckless driving and probation violations.

In one 1996 incident, David's rage-filled violence went on all day, ranged over four locations, and involved multiple victims besides Jackie and her family. He endangered children, trashed houses, ripped phones out of the wall, assaulted Jackie and her mom, and tried to run down a neighbor who stepped in to protect her.

Law enforcement — both Ukiah Police and the sheriff's department — had multiple opportunities to stop the rampage. Time and again they walked away, despite Jackie's insistence that she wanted David arrested. According to her chronology found in the court files, "The officers response to me was that would be a hassle." Only after David attacked and threatened to kill sheriff's deputies with a baseball bat was he finally arrested.

Anderson was later charged with five felonies and four misdemeanors for his violence against the sheriff. For his crimes against Jackie, her mother, her sisters and neighbors and the endangerment of her children, only one misdemeanor battery charge was filed.

David (who remember, was already on probation) was allowed to plead no contest to brandishing a weapon. All the remaining charges were dismissed. His sentence? No additional jail time, and two more years of probation.

The Violence Escalates
In her restraining order declaration, Jackie describes several other violent incidents leading up to her death. But the assault that most assuredly handed law enforcement the opportunity to save Jackie Anderson's life took place on June 29, 1999, just 18 days before she died. In her restraining order declaration, Jackie described the attack:

The incident was witnessed by Jackie's eight year-old daughter. Her 16 year-old son called 911. Sheriff's deputies arrested David and gave Jackie an emergency protective order that night ordering David to stay away from her, the children, and their home.

At this point, according to family members, Jackie felt safe for the first time. David was on two different probations, had a long documented history of violence and was at last arrested on three felony charges. Certain that he would be in jail for at least a year or two, she began her preparations to leave the area and start a new life for herself and her children.

The Last Chance
This was a critical moment for Jackie Anderson, one which literally could have made the difference between life and death. But law enforcement's deadly disdain for her family's safety wasn't over yet.

Despite the fact that sheriff's deputies recommended felony charges of spousal abuse, false imprisonment and terrorist threats, Mendocino Co. District Attorney Norm Vroman refused to file charges on any of the crimes against Jackie. He had in his hands all he needed to charge David with the three felonies — police documentation of the injury, corroborating witnesses and Jackie's documented willingness to prosecute.

But the district attorney cavalierly ignored the evidence, the law, and the family's desperate need for protection. He filed only on David's one crime against the court: yet another probation violation. That day, Norm Vroman signed Jackie Anderson's death warrant.

The Inevitable Result
At Anderson's arraignment hearing on June 30, the Probation Department argued adamantly for David to remain in custody. The prosecutor remained silent. (*Footnote) Judge Brown (the same judge who now presides over the murder case) granted bail. Two days later, for little more than $250, David Anderson bailed.

On July 14, Jackie got a restraining order. Her sworn declaration detailed a level of violence that was escalating and that included threats to kill the entire family. Anyone familiar with domestic violence reading her declaration would have seen lethality written all over it.

Two days later, sheriff's deputies were called to the Anderson home on a restraining order violation. They did not enforce David's violation of the terms of either of his two probations; they didn't enforce the court's stayaway order, or Jackie's restraining order. In fact, no arrest was made.

The next morning, Jackie Anderson again called police to report David was at the house in violation of court orders and that he was again making threats. By the time deputies entered the house, after waiting seven hours because of their own fear of David Anderson, Jackie was dead.

( * Footnote). We know this because DA Vroman gave us the transcript of that arraignment hearing when community members met with him about his handling of the case. Early in the meeting Vroman stated that his prosecutor had, "Argued adamantly for no bail." When we pointed out that the transcript puts the lie to that statement, Vroman bellowed, "I never said that!" All eight people in the room sat stunned, witnesses to the bald-faced lie from the county's most powerful law enforcement official. (Back)

Honor Jackie Anderson & the struggle of all
domestic violence victims
* Write the Mendocino Co. Board of Supervisors at 501 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482. Demand they conduct a death review of the three recent domestic violence homicides: Jackie Anderson, Marķa Ramos and Patty Fansler.

* Copy this article and send to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, PO Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. We need a solution to this deadly district attorney impunity.
© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
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