Woman slain in Park Rapids murder-suicide: 'I am really afraid that he'll kill me'
In the last paragraph of a letter she wrote to a judge last fall, Dawn Marie Anderson penned a chilling warning in her petition for a court order barring her husband from contacting her.
"I am really afraid that he will kill me if he doesn't receive help right away," Anderson wrote, capping a letter recounting how her husband threatened to kill her multiple times before and after she told a court-mandated counselor that he was still drinking.
The protective order was granted Nov. 17, prohibiting her husband, Gregory Duane Anderson, 45, from coming within 500 feet of their home in Park Rapids, Minn., her family's nearby homes or the day care she founded in Park Rapids.
Despite the order, police say, the husband killed his 45-year-old wife with two shots from a high-powered rifle at their home Tuesday night, days after learning she planned to divorce him. He then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life on the front porch of their home with their 20-year-old son standing in the driveway.
Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said Thursday the question of what could have been done to prevent the murder-suicide is on a lot of people's minds in the city of about 3,600 located 85 miles east of Fargo in Hubbard County.
But the protective order, which made it illegal for Gregory Anderson to have any contact with his wife, can only go so far, he said.
"It's a piece of paper," he said. "Once a guy's on a mission to do this, it's going to happen no matter what you do."
The police chief said he had some word that the couple had communicated since the protective order, which was good through November 2012, but none of those reports could be solidified.
Eilers said investigators determined that Anderson, who had been ordered to stay at a Dilworth halfway house after violating his probation for a drunken-driving conviction, stole the rifle from a friend who was out of town on vacation.
"If he hadn't found a gun, he'd have found a knife," he said. "If he hadn't found a knife, he'd have found a bomb or something."
Though police couldn't confirm if formal papers had been filed, the friend he stole the rifle from was told by Gregory Anderson in text messages that Dawn Anderson was planning to divorce him, Eilers said.
Eilers also said their 20-year-old son, Jordan, had received texts from his dad Sunday, claiming about his family: "They're the ones to blame, and they're the problem."
Dawn Anderson's family on Thursday declined an interview request passed along by the funeral home handling her services.
"It's a tough deal," Eilers said, noting that a couple of his officers took their children to Dawn Anderson's day care. "It affects just a whole lot of people."
In her petition for the protective order, Anderson detailed how her husband became threatening and erratic after driving drunk to the son's hunting shack Oct. 31, prompting her to take his keys and alcohol.
A friend who drove the husband home told Dawn Anderson that her husband had said he wanted to kill her at least 11 times during the ride back. He also threatened to burn their wood pile, destroy their wood stove and burn down their house.
Three days later, the wife told Gregory Anderson's court-required substance-abuse counselor that he'd been drinking steadily since his DWI earlier that year, which was not allowed by his probation.
"He told me I was going to pay for this," she wrote in the petition. "He said there was no way I could make this up."
The husband had asked his wife to underplay his drinking when she was first asked about it as part of his treatment, she later told a probation agent.
The next day, Nov. 4, the husband burned the wood pile and continued to tell Dawn Anderson she'd pay for what she had done.
Two days after that, after demanding that she leave the night before, Anderson called his wife 23 times from 7 a.m. to 9:55 a.m., she said in a three-page, hand-written petition. The son also found him passed out on a gravel pile next to the hunting shack, dressed in orange and holding a rifle.
Later that day, Nov. 6, police were called because Anderson was striking the wood stove with a chainsaw. He was arrested, and his probation was revoked. In a Nov. 8 report, a probation agent, Shannon Haas, said she agreed with his wife's assessment.
"This agent has concerns that if the subject does not receive the help he needs with his alcohol use he will hurt or kill himself or others," Haas wrote.
Gregory Anderson had a history of alcohol-related crimes, including DWIs in 1988, 2007 and 2010.
Court records in the 2007 DWI conviction say he had driven a pickup onto the sidewalk outside the hockey arena in Park Rapids. An assault rifle found in his pickup was loaded and not in a case.
He pleaded guilty to both DWI and recklessly handling or using a dangerous weapon - a misdemeanor and a gross misdemeanor, respectively. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation.
Anderson's DWI in 2010 came after he backed into a parked car at 1:15 p.m. June 10, a Thursday. A preliminary breath test registered a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.98. He was ordered to serve 30 days in jail, with 335 days suspended and a four-year supervised probation term.
After his arrest following the chainsaw incident, he was sentenced to another 10 days in jail, according to court records. Eilers said he then attended in-patient treatment at a facility in Fargo before he was transferred to transitional housing in Dilworth.
The police chief said he didn't have access to the name of the halfway house on Thursday, and a Department of Corrections spokesman wouldn't identify it, either.
Residents can leave the facility as long as they sign in and out as they go, Eilers said. The shooting was shortly after 6 p.m. Anderson signed out at 5 a.m.
Police won't know if he was drinking until autopsy results are received, but there was a can of beer on the console of Anderson's truck, Eilers said.