Authors: Edna Buchanan
Tags: #"BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/Editors, Journalists, Publishers"
She was neglected, she said. Lance was “never home,” because of business. She added that she saw nothing unusual about Russell's drinking habits, although he once crawled into the backseat of a car and fell asleep after they left a restaurant.
Hirschhorn asked about Russell's former wife, Judy, who had called Kathi before the divorce, pleading to save her marriage.
He asked Kathi if she felt the slightest “moral concern for that woman's feelings about her marriage.” Kathi asked him to repeat the question. Twice she said she did not understand it.
That, the lawyer said, was his answer.
Kathi did once consult a lawyer about her rights if she divorced Lance, she said. “I was concerned about what would legally be mine.”
“You are now suing Mr. Russell for every penny he has?” Hirschhorn asked.
“Correct,” the widow said crisply.
Gerald Russell took the stand in his own defense.
“Did you shoot Lance Anderson?” Hirschhorn asked.
Struggling to speak, Russell began to weep. “Yes,” he whispered.
“Why did you shoot him?”
“I don't know,” Russell said, shoulders shaking as he began to sob.
“How do you feel about Kathi Anderson today?”
“In my head, I feel like I was used,” he said, tears streaming. “But when I saw her the other day, my heart said I still feel the same way. I had some very, very strong feelings when she walked in here.”
The eyes of five female jurors were swimming. One, a divorcee, wiped away tears.
The day Kathi testified against Russell was the first time he had seen her since the day of the murder. She had come to his home the morning of the murder, he said, and they had made love.
He went to her home that night and made her a widow.
It all began when he invited her for a drink, he said. He was nervous. “I had never asked a flight attendant out before.” Eventually he neglected his contracting business, divorced his wife and built his life around Kathi.
They kept the secret from their spouses. They spent even more time together after Kathi and Lance separated. But then Lance, a success with four thriving firms, moved back into his home.
“Our relationship took a step backward,” Russell testified. “We had to work out a schedule around when he was there.”
He waited, he said, frustrated and unhappy. “Kathi said she was protecting family finances. She was very concerned about getting her share of the money, what was due her from her marriage.” She feared Lance might hide his assets. So when he was away on flights, the lovers regularly raided Lance's car in the Eastern employee parking lot, he said, searching for papers relating to Kathi or her husband's money. They found Lance's .38-caliber revolver in the car, and Kathi seized it. “Here, take this, so we don't get shot,” she said, according to Russell. He took it.
Russell even knew the secret combination to Lance's locked briefcase: 7-2-7. The dead pilot's brother covered his eyes during that testimony. The combination was correct.
Russell wanted to get married, but Kathi insisted they wait until “the time was right.”
In evidence were stacks of greeting cards from Kathi, including her last one:
The two of us together â¦ All I want. Love on Valentine's Day and Always, Kathi
Russell read aloud a three-page memo he wrote himself nearly a year before the murder. Methodically listed were the facts of the tortured affair and his options. Murder was never an option. He choked with emotion as he read his feelings, “very much in love with her. Worship her.”
While he remembered watching Kathi and Lance ride arm-in-arm aboard an Eastern Airlines float during Miami's New Year's Eve Orange Bowl parade, he could not remember driving to their home the night of the murder. Only nightmarish snatches: “Headlights, shining on me. A really bad pain”â when he was shot. “I think I remember firing a gun three times.” Then, at the wheel of his pickup truck, saying aloud, “I'm passing out,” moments before the truck crashed into a pole.
He admitted feeling guilty about the affair and about Lisa. From age four she had shared their secrets. “Kathi would tell her not to tell her father. I thought it was bad for her to learn whatever she was learning from this double life.”
Harold Russell trembled at his son's testimony. “She put the gun in his hand and the idea in his mind. She killed Lance Anderson even though she didn't pull the trigger. I'm bitter. I never met Lance Anderson, but I understand he was a fine man. If there is any way I can sue her for every penny she has, I will, for the children. She has destroyed so many lives.”
Outside the courtroom Wendy Russell sobbed in the arms of a friend. “I tried not to cry,” she said, “but he started to cry â¦ and he's my dad.”
Several jurors wept during closing arguments for the defense. “He was addicted to Kathi Anderson,” Hirschhom told them. “He might as well have been mainlining heroin.”
Prosecutor Kahn remained unemotional. “Nowhere in this country is adultery or love a defense for first-degree murder. You may have a license to fly, but you don't have a license to kill.” Kathi Anderson, he acknowledged, “is not a nice lady,” but, he pointed out, she was not on trial. “Kathi Anderson, the adulteressâlet's make her out to be the worst person in the world, but she had nothing to do with the murder.” He instructed jurors to “catch yourselves” if overwhelmed by emotion.
They listened. After six hours of often loud and angry deliberation they returned with more tears and a verdict: guilty of murder in the first degree.
Russell stood stoic, facing life, which means a twenty-five-year mandatory term. He will be old enough for Social Security by the time he is eligible for parole.
“It was a nightmare to me,” said juror Juanita Wilson. “He is so sorry it happened, but he can't undo it. I did what I had to do.”
“Some of the jurors really cried,” said juror Bertha Mustafa. “We had to quiet each other down. Going by the letter of the law is a very hard thing. We constantly had to remind ourselves to put emotion aside. Everybody wanted to make the right decision.”
“The men took it a little better than the women,” said foreman Howard Dorfeld. “There were only three men and we sort of had to stabilize the women.”
“When there's premeditation, there's premeditation,” said juror Robert Matthewman. “He's not a criminal. The woman had a lot to do with it, but he did premeditate it. A couple of women were very adamant for second degree, but their reasons were illogical. We made them see they had to go by the law.”
Matthewman, the younger brother of two policemen, was as sympathetic as any juror could have been. He had been involved in a similar love triangle. He buried his face in his hands when they delivered the verdict. “My heart started racing. I was hyperventilating and my stomach was churning. I know how he felt about her. I know what a woman can do to you.”
Matthewman's own love triangle ended without violence.
All swore they would never sit on a jury again.
Sentencing was a formality. There were no options. Hirschhorn called it a death sentence. “It will be 2007 when he is paroled. Chances are minimal that he will survive those twenty-five horrible years. His life has come to an end.”
Throughout the trial, the families of both pilots had occupied opposite sides of the high-ceilinged courtroom. First they avoided each other's eyes. By midweek, they exchanged hesitant words. By the time it was over, they had joined forces.
“We are working on a plan of action,” the elder Russell said. “The Andersons are fine people. We will work together to make sure the children are taken care of, that Lisa is taken care of.”
The Andersons hired private detectives to investigate the widow.
Before he was sent to state prison, I visited Jerry Russell in the county jail. He tried to joke, but could not smile. He felt like Rodney Dangerfield, he said. “I get no respect.” When he told them he was a killer and demanded some space, his cellmates jeered. Guards did not even take the trouble to strip-search him after visiting hours.
Even the woman he loved showed no respect.
Kathi agreed to talk to me, after refusing for months. “I hope no man ever loves me like that again,” she pouted.
Both still asked themselves why.
“If Jerry Russell had not been wounded and had not been caught, there is no way I ever would have been convinced that he did it,” she said. “You have no idea the nights I have paced my living-room floor, trying to figure out what Jerry planned that night. I really do not think that love had anything to do with it. It was one of two things: greed or revenge.”
Jerry too seemed in the dark. “I killed a man I didn't know. If I had planned it and blown it, going to prison would be easier to accept. But I don't know why I did it. I stepped out of my life and all the things I believe in and did a monstrous thingâand I don't know why.”
He hoped to talk to Kathi one last time. The affair was over “but I would like to clean up the loose ends and wrap it up.”
“He did a super job of wrapping things up himself,” Kathi blurted. “I am scared to death of him. If I saw him a mile away, I would head for the nearest police station. The thought of him ever being out on the street terrifies me.”
The twenty-five-year-minimum mandatory is not harsh enough, she said. He deserves death. “It was a cold-blooded, brutal murder. You have no idea how I miss Lance,” she said, voice quavering.
The lovers each accused the other of lying.
“Why did he say I was in bed with him that day?” She insisted that all they shared the day of the murder was a lunch date and wine. She heard Russell's kiss-and-tell testimony during an evening newscast. “You have no idea what a crazy person I was. I was throwing things at the TV.”
Both disliked the news coverage. It made their “gentle and loving” affair seem sordid, he complained.
Kathi accused reporters of making her appear unsympathetic. She was angry at Hirschhorn for saying she hated Lance. They were happy, she said, and she loved him. I asked if she thought their marriage would have endured forever. “What's forever?” she answered. “I have lost a lot of faith in forever. I can't even bring myself to date. How could I ever trust another man? You don't know how many times in the heat of the day, with the mosquitoes, I have sat by my husband's grave.”
Russell worried about his future parole. “I don't know what I'm going to be like when I'm sixty-four. I don't know what kind of job I can get I don't want to depend on my sister or my kids when I get out.”
Kathi worried about “trying to make a life for a little girl. I don't know how I'm going to fly, run my husband's business, keep house and be a mother.” Because she had received threats, she said, she spent each night of the trial with different friends. A surprise awaited her on the day the defense accused her of “dangling her body in front of Jerry Russell like a carrot before a rabbit.”
“You need this more than I do,” that evening's hostess declared, presenting Kathi with a huge stuffed carrot that had decorated her kitchen.
“It was funny,” Kathi said. “You have to admit, it was funny.”
Eight years later, in 1990, I looked up and saw a familiar face at a library fundraiser on Florida's Gulf Coast. Erika Anderson, still elegant and stately. I asked how she was. “Angry,” she said.
All the legal efforts have accomplished nothing. Erika Anderson has not seen her granddaughter, Lisa, for years.
Lance is dead.
Jerry is behind bars.
But for those left behind, it is never really over.
The middle ground between light and shadow
â¦ it is an area we call the Twilight Zone
Into the daily life of reporters and cops seeking only the facts come occasional events that defy rational explanation. They are more chilling than a man with a gun.
How do you explain the premonitions, the dreams, the ironies and otherworldly occurrences? Specifically, how do you explain them to an editor, in his brightly lit and high-tech tower? His eyes invariably narrow as you report that the story you are writing involves a voodoo curse come true or a dead man apparently returned from the grave.
Mamie Higgs opened her door and screamed. The visitor was Alex Monroe, her father. The last time she saw him he lay in a coffin. He had been murdered four months earlier, and she had identified the corpse. She had paid for his funeral. The entire family had attended the open-coffin services. Now he was alive at her door.
Even as they embraced, she looked to see “if there was any graveyard dust on him.” The man in her father's grave was somebody else.
The man in her father's grave was Alex Monroeâthe
There were two Alex Monroesâboth sixty-two years old, both five feet nine inches tall, both 140 pounds. Each Alex Monroe had a scar on the left side of his face. They lived six blocks apart in Miami.
They had never met.
Mrs. Higgs had identified the Alex Monroe shot dead during a fight in a grubby downtown neighborhood as her father. “The scar was in the same place, from the temple to the cheek. He had the same small ears, the same salt-and-pepper hair.”
Now her father had returned months later from a stay in North Carolina. As he strolled down a Miami street a passing friend slammed on her brakes, shrieking, “You're dead!”
He denied it. “I'm not dead,” he said. “I just came from North Carolina.”
Mamie Higgs had borrowed from her credit union to bury her father. Now that he wasn't dead, she wanted her money back.
Made sense to me.
I tried to mediate, calling the funeral home in her behalf. The director was adamant. “We simply carried out a service.”
A compromise of sorts was finally worked out. Mrs. Higgs was promised free services when her father really does die.
People do not come back from the dead, but if they don't, how do you explain Earl Allen?
Earl Allen did not feel well. He had suffered dizzy spells for two weeks and had a severe headache, but not severe enough to make him stay home instead of going night fishing with Charlie Fletcher and two other chums. They took Charlie's twenty-two-foot boat into the Intracoastal Waterway.
Allen complained about his terrible headache, suddenly stood up and pitched overboard, headfirst. His companions were not sure whether he fell or dove into the water.
They saw him come up swimming, against the tide, toward the shore, but suddenly he disappeared about thirty feet from some mangroves. That's when they began yelling for help.
A security guard at a nearby high-rise heard their cries and called police. It was 12:49
. Metro-Dade Officer Bart Cohen and his partner arrived one minute later. They radioed for the Coast Guard. An Indian Creek Village police boat arrived first, sweeping the area where Earl Allen was last seen. The dark water, lit only by their searchlight and a three-quarter moon, yielded nothing.
“There was nobody swimming, no calls for help,” Officer Cohen said. A Coast Guard eighteen-footer arrived an hour and a half later. Cohen climbed aboard, and close to where he was last seen, they spotted Earl Allen, fifty-nine, floating facedown beneath the surface, 150 feet away. Cohen radioed that they were about to recover the victim's body. As the Coast Guard boat came alongside, the “body” appeared to lurch toward the boat. The policeman assumed it was the movement of the water. A Coast Guardsman snagged the back of Earl Allen's shirt and maneuvered him to where Officer Cohen could grab his arms and pull him into the boat. He did, and then the “dead man” began to move.
“He's alive!” gasped the disbelieving cop, his own pulse pounding. “Nobody could believe it,” said Cohen, a six-year police veteran and a former lifeguard. “It totally amazed me. He had definitely been underwater, facedown.”
Earl Allen spit up water “like a fountain.”
When they delivered him to waiting paramedics, Earl Allen sat upright on the stretcher to look around him. “It's unbelievable,” Police Sergeant John Cini said. “Nobody can stay underwater an hour and a half and live.”
His theory was that Earl Allen had been drinking and perhaps that's what saved him. He could have been so intoxicated that “he went into a coma and didn't require the same amount of oxygen.”
Made no sense to me. Police regularly blame drownings on victims who were drinking.
Hospital officials declined to advance any theories. “Generally speaking,” said assistant Dade County medical examiner Dr. Erik Mitchell, “for a person underwater, it's just a matter of a few minutes until brain damage and death.”
Examined at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Earl Allen had suffered no apparent ill effects and was released twelve hours later. He had no other means of transportation, so I drove him home. We talked on the way.
Earl Allen was not brain damaged, though he did seem sort of loose and happy-go-lucky. He said he had stood up in the boat, caught his foot in the carpeting and tripped. He remembered “hitting the water.” His next recollection was the policeman dragging him into a boat as he wondered, “Where am I?” He vaguely recalled being treated by the paramedics.
Earl Allen denied being drunk. He only had about eight cans of Old Milwaukee, he said, during the entire outing, which had begun in late afternoon. “It takes more than that to get me drunk,” he said. He had experienced no long tunnels or bright white lights, nor did he seem surprised by his own survival. A World War II veteran of the navy, he had survived thirteen major battles, including a “torpedo coming right for the shipâit went under the bow” and kamikaze attacks. “When the Japs start diving into your ship, now
nerve wracking,” he said matter-of-factly.
We were exiting the expressway at that moment and my car suddenly went dead on the ramp. When it wouldn't start, we hiked to a nearby house to call for help. While we waited, I tried it again. This time the engine started, and I took my passenger on home. Standing in the afternoon sunlight, slightly stooped and grinning, he waved a casual goodbye as though all that had happened was nothing unusual.
Just another day in the life of Earl Allen.
And what about the precognitive dreams? Like the young policeman's nightmare that quickly became reality.
Rick Trado, twice honored as Miami Beach's most outstanding cop, was cited as a hero for freeing the unconscious driver of an overturned truck that gushed gasoline.
The dream came eighteen months later.
“I woke up in a cold sweat,” he told fellow officer Thomas Moran as they carpooled to headquarters that Sunday morning at dawn. “I had a dream. I stopped a car, and the guy got out and shot me.” Nearly an hour later, Trado stopped a car.
The guy got out and shot him.
Officer Trado had stopped a speeder on the Julia Tuttle Causeway stretching between Miami and Miami Beach. The motorist routinely stepped out, then charged the patrol car, firing a .357 Magnum. As Trado reached for his service revolver, a bullet hit his right hand, shattered the wooden stock of his gun and slammed into his biceps. The gunman shot out the front tires of the patrol car and fled.
Simultaneously, the wounded officer's radio began to broadcast reports of a robbery that had just occurred and a description of the suspect. Officers were warned to use caution, the robber was armed.
Trado already knew that.
Pandemonium broke out, as it always does when a cop is shot. The shooter had escaped. A huge manhunt was under way. I raced out to the scene, then to the hospital emergency room. The atmosphere was one of relief. The wound was not life threatening. Hit in the hand, Trado was about to go to surgery, but everybody considered him lucky, all things considered.
I found Rick Trado lying on a table in the emergency room, pale and in pain, his right arm swathed in blood-soaked bandages. It is always shocking when a cop is shot, more so when it is a cop you know, a cop with a toddler son and a pregnant wife.
“I felt so helpless,” he said. “When the bullet hit me, I couldn't control my fingers.” He lowered his voice. “Edna, you won't believe this. I dreamed this this morning. I dreamed I stopped a car and the guy shot me.”
Back out on the street, an army of 150 police from at least eleven agencies sealed off an eight-block area, using dogs and helicopters to track the suspect. During the confusion I spotted Tommy Moran. His first words: “Edna, you won't believe this. On the way in, Rick told me he woke up this morning in a cold sweat. He dreamed he pulled over a car and the guy shot him.”
The bullet wound was more serious than it first appeared. Hundreds of tiny fragments, splinters from the shattered wood, were embedded in the nerves, bones and muscles of his hand, causing massive infection and complications. He nearly lost the hand. Extensive surgery never restored its full use.
The injury ended his career prematurely, a loss to us all. The man who shot him was captured, declared insane, hospitalized, “cured” and released.
Dreams do come true. Unfortunately many of them are terrifying.
Connie Thomas, troubled by bad dreams in the night, pleaded with her husband, Meldren, not to take the blue boat he had named
out the next morning. He reassured her, even delayed his departure long enough to fix her a hot breakfast. Then he and his brother-in-law, W. L. Gavins, set out for a day of fishing. It was Saturday, the day before Easter. Their wives knew something was wrong when the men did not return at dusk. Gavins was to sing “When the Gates Swing Open, I'll Walk Right In” at sunrise services in the morning.
His worried wife drove to the Crandon Park boat ramp and found her husband's old pickup truck still parked there. She called police, who took the report, assuring her that it would be forwarded to the Coast Guard. The sisters prayed through the night. At five
., with still no word, they called the Coast Guard. Their call was the first notice rescuers had of a missing boat. The policeman had left the report on his desk to be reviewed by a sergeant the following Monday morning. If approved, it would then have been forwarded, through proper channels, to the Coast Guard. Petty officials had struck again, blinded by their own bureaucratic routine and red tape. Always frustrating, this time they were deadly. Now it was too late.
Easter Sunday afternoon the crew of a fishing vessel spotted Gavins, floating facedown. The second corpse was found hours later. The men had taken life jackets, but neither wore one. Whatever happened to them happened fast, like something out of a bad dream.
Some dreams, if heeded, are providential.
Henry Sims, seventy-two and many times a grandfather, slept in his Miami home, dreaming of a fire twenty-five years earlier in Live Oak, Florida.
His brother-in-law had been at work in a field. His wife joined him to pick peas. When she looked back, the house was burning. A wood stove had ignited the wall. Other men had to hold back Henry Sims's brother-in-law as the blazing house caved in. The oldest boy and the baby perished inside.
This night in Miami twenty-five years later, Henry Sims saw it all again in his dreams. “I was dreaming about them. I never dreamed nothing like that before.” The dream so moved him that he awoke, a sob in his throat.
He opened his eyes and could still smell the smoke. It was 4:20
. He sat up in bed and realized that the smoke was real.
He jumped up, thinking first of the children. He opened a door and saw nothing but black smoke. His hand clamped over his mouth and nose, he made his way to their room. He led his handicapped daughter Marie, forty-five, and granddaughters Sheila, thirteen, Kim, twelve, and Jaklin, sixteen, to safety. His shouts awoke his grandsons, Nathaniel Williams, twenty-two, and Anthony Sims, fourteen, and a visitor, Bobby McGredy, twenty-two, in another bedroom. Williams needs braces and crutches to walk. His teenage cousin Anthony snatched him up and carried him outside.
Henry Sims's wife was still away, at the hospital where he had also spent the evening with an eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Louise, a dialysis patient. At ten
. he had decided to go home for the night. Their home and possessions were lost, but had Sims not been there the loss would have been far greater.
Sometimes the warning is far less explicit, but no less ominous.
Three young women and a teenage boy died in a bloody wreck on U.S. 27. Two other boys were critically hurt. Two of the dead women were elementary school teachers. The third had joined the weekend outing, to an Optimist League football game in Tampa, at the last minute, to replace Maria Zarabozo, twenty-six, who had suddenly refused to go. She had had a premonition.
A school secretary and close friend of the two teachers, Zarabozo had accompanied them on many vacations. All three wore identical silver rings, souvenirs from a trip to Peru. But this time, she told me, a dream the night before had changed her plans. The identical dream had come in the past, always signaling death and tragedy. In the dream, she walks down a path and encounters a strange small boy in white. “Every time he comes into my dreams I know that something bad is about to happen, either to me or to somebody close to me.”
She told her friends. They insisted she accompany them. She refused.
“Don't pay attention to premonitions,” one of them scoffed. “If something is going to happen, it'll happen.”