By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Inside the Scott County courtroom, the parents of Katherine Olson sat across the aisle from the parents of Michael Anderson as though they were in a wedding they never wanted. Surrounding them were more Olson family members, friends, parishioners from Rolf's church, and law enforcement personnel involved with the case. The 40-seat gallery was filled to capacity.
Michael Anderson entered the courtroom in a blue suit and sat silently as his attorney, Alan Margoles, detailed his sex life. "Remember, Michael Anderson was a dumb kid," Margoles said. "He had no girlfriend, never dated, never went to a high school dance, and never held a girl's hand."
Margoles wanted to show that his client lured Katherine to the home in Savage for sex, and not, as prosecutors put forth, with the intent to kill.
The opening day of the trial saw Nancy Olson take the stand to tell the jury about the last time she saw her daughter. It was when Katherine was singing in the church choir. Prosecutors asked when she saw her daughter next.
"The next time I saw her, she was in a casket at Morris Nilsen Funeral Home," Nancy said. "And she was cold and smelled like chemicals."
The next day, Barbara Anderson took the stand. The soft-spoken mother wore her hair parted in the center, and politely detailed how, on the day of the murder, Michael had come home from work, just like any other day. "That's just Michael," she would say later. "He never really talked unless he had a fun time off-roading in his truck." Prior to the hearing, Craigslist had helped law enforcement by assembling a 127-page dossier on Michael Anderson's use of the Web site.
(It's not unusual for Craigslist to cooperate with law enforcement and supply information about users suspected of committing crimes to authorities. Last December, the California Highway Patrol served a search warrant on Craigslist to obtain the computer IP address of someone who was encouraging a mass suicide jump from an unspecified Bay Area bridge.)
The company dispatched Clint Powell to take the stand. The customer-service manager was familiar with the technical workings of Craigslist.
Powell told the courtroom how Anderson had first used Craigslist as a way to find ice-fishing gear, truck parts, and collectible plates with misspelled words like "Star Terk." This pattern had changed in October 2007, as he started trolling for women. Powell read various postings made by Anderson. One said, "looks and size don't mean a lot to me. I'm not little man, but I'm not huge either." Another read, "Looking for fresh faces for a new video and Web site ... new talent only. Also need 18 plus virgin willing to be in a video."
The entire time, Anderson sat motionless, staring straight ahead. "I don't think he made eye contact with a single person the entire trial," Margoles says. "He was the quietest defendant I've ever had."
On day five of the trial, Anderson's former cellmate, Gregory Wikan, took the stand. He told the jury how Anderson had boasted about being known as the "Craigslist Killer." Again, Anderson stared ahead, refusing to make eye contact.
The final day of testimony saw Detective Laura Kvasnicka take the stand as the last witness. She detailed the life Anderson led online, including multiple attempts to lure women to his home. He looked for no-strings-attached hook-ups, posting one such advertisement just hours before killing Katherine.
It took five hours for the jury to return its verdict. The Olson family held one another as the 12-member jury announced the news: Michael Anderson was guilty of first- and second-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.
The following morning, Judge Mary Theisen addressed the family with watering eyes. She told them that Katherine's life had touched the entire courtroom.
That sympathy turned to disgust as her gaze fell on Michael Anderson. "You're a callous, cruel, and unjust human being," Theisen said, sentencing him to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole.
On an unseasonably snowy March 20 in New York City, George Weber — a passionate, affable 47-year-old radio newsman for WABC who had worked at KGO in San Francisco in the early '90s — posted a Craigslist ad looking for rough sex. His solicitation was answered promptly by 16-year-old John Katehis, a self-described sadomasochist and Satanist who lived with his separated parents in the East Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens. "I can smother somebody for $60," he wrote to Weber. In the context of what was to be a sadomasochistic romp, Katehis' aggressive reply failed to raise red flags.
The two met in Brooklyn and made their way to Weber's first-floor brownstone apartment in Carroll Gardens. There, Katehis allegedly stabbed him some 50 times in the neck and torso. The teen stripped off his bloodied clothes, put on a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt purloined from Weber's wardrobe, and hopped the G train back to Queens. When police arrested Katehis a few days later at a friend's house in upstate New York, he was still wearing Weber's clothes.
About three weeks later, on April 14, Philip Markoff — a tall, blond, 23-year-old med student at Boston University — read an Erotic Services ad on Craigslist posted by 26-year-old Bronx-based call girl Julissa Brisman. Markoff sent her an e-mail and the two arranged a tryst at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel in Boston's upscale Back Bay district. Seconds after entering the room, Markoff allegedly pounced on Brisman, who, according to a medical examiner, fought back tenaciously. He stands accused of shooting Brisman three times — twice in the torso, once in the hip — killing her.