Murder in Alaska: The Newman Family Slaughter Sept 14, 2019 19:40:12 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Sept 14, 2019 19:40:12 GMT -5
Nancy Newman was a 32-year-old waitress with two young daughters – Melissa, 8, and Angela, 3, – both blue-eyed strawberry blondes. Nancy was a petite slender blonde, a quiet woman who seldom socialized with her co-workers at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant, a popular eatery that specialized in home cooking and all-day breakfasts. The one exception was her sister, Cheryl Chapman, also a waitress at the Spenard neighborhood restaurant.
Nancy was a very reliable employee who rarely took time off, so when she didn’t show up for work on Saturday, March 14, 1987, everyone at Gwennie’s was worried. She wasn’t answering her phone and the following day, a concerned co-worker called her sister. Cheryl and her husband, Paul, drove to Nancy’s apartment on Eide Street and rang the doorbell. No one answered and by this time, Cheryl, convinced something was terribly wrong, was shaking so badly she couldn’t get the key in the lock and her husband had open the door to Nancy’s apartment.
As soon as they opened the door, both could see the small feet of a child, deathly white and still. Each took a deep breath before stepping into what authorities later described as one of the most horrific murders ever reported in Anchorage. Cheryl stood stark still as her husband walked through her sister’s home. When he returned, he told her everyone was dead and Cheryl’s anguished screams can be heard in the background on the tape of Paul Chapman’s call to the police.
Three-year-old Angie was lying on the bedroom floor with her throat slashed from ear-to-ear, the cut so deep the little girl’s head was almost separated from her small body. There was also a deep gash on one of her hands, likely a defensive wound as the toddler attempted to protect herself. There was blood all over her with the exception of an area extending from her chest to her pubic region, where it appeared someone had wiped the blood away with a washcloth.
Melissa lay on the floor of her bedroom, her nightgown pulled up to her chest, exposing her smooth, hairless crotch. A fair of girl’s panties lay nearby. A pillowcase was knotted around her neck, indicating she had been strangled, and a second pillowcase was tied around one of her wrists. Both her legs were bent at the knee and spread apart and there was blood between her legs. Later, it would be determined she had been raped with a blunt object.
In the master bedroom, Nancy Newman lay on her bed with a blue pillowcase knotted around her neck. Her face was bruised and it appeared she had been struck several times. Her nightshirt was pulled up around her neck, exposing her breasts and vaginal area. Cheryl was devastated and her husband was so shaken he could barely speak. Even veteran police officers were sickened by what they saw in the apartment that Sunday.
“Because of the ages of the children and the nature of the crime itself, I think it is one of the worst homicides I’ve investigated,” Sgt. George Novacky of the Anchorage police said at the time.
John Newman, Nancy’s husband, was in California, where he was being retrained to become a locksmith and security technician. He had been working as an airline equipment operator, but had suffered an on-the-job injury and was no longer physically capable of performing the job. Nancy and John, both of Twin Falls, Idaho, had married right after their high school graduation. They had a good marriage and both were very proud of their daughters.
At the end of their shift on Friday, March 13, Nancy and Cheryl had a drink together to celebrate John’s pending return from his three-month training program, and Nancy was planning to take a week off for their reunion. Another waitress commented later that Nancy was “just so excited about Johnny coming home.”
But John’s return was anything but happy. As soon as he got to Anchorage, he talked with police, then commenced making funeral arrangements for his family, who would be buried in Twin Falls, all three in an oversized coffin, with Nancy lying between her two daughters.
Anchorage police were determined to identify and arrest the killer. A task force consisting of a dozen detectives and patrol officers was assembled to work full-time on the case. It was one of the most intensive murder investigations in Alaska history. The team spent two weeks taking samples of blood, hair, fluids, clothing, fingerprints and footprints, carpet and other materials in the apartment. Among the items collected was a washcloth in the bathroom sink stained with blood and feces and believed to have been used by the killer to clean himself. The floors were vacuumed and every surface was checked for fingerprints. Hundreds of photographs and measurements were taken and the entire scene was videotaped with the bodies in place. Officers roved the neighborhood asking residents if they had noticed anything suspicious or seen any strangers.
Many of the samples collected were sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, and Anchorage police conferred with the FBI’s behavioral science unit. The crime was compared to other similar crimes and a profile of the type person who might commit atrocities was developed. The FBI lab reported that pubic hairs on the bloody washcloth contained lice egg casings matching lice residue found on the bodies of Melissa and Angie. The washcloth also contained green fibers from a pair of gloves discovered near Nancy’s corpse. Missing from the apartment were the contents of a metal cookie jar where Nancy kept up to $200 in tips, some of it in coin rolls. Also gone were Nancy’s purse, a checkbook, wallet, keys, jewelry and a camera.
Michael Propst, M.D., performed autopsies on the three bodies and collected evidence that would prove crucial at trial. Using a laser, he located four foreign hairs, as well as bodily fluids left by the killer. Three of the hairs were found on the bodies of Nancy and her daughters and the fourth was on the washcloth.
The investigation was thorough and professional, a result of the Anchorage police department’s having become one of the best in the nation. Where it had once mishandled the investigation of serial killer Robert Hansen, almost certainly enabling him to continue killing women, it was now a highly effective team of investigators. At is core was the Homicide Response Team, organized three years earlier by Sergeant Mike Grimes, one of the best investigators in Alaska. The team included five officers, several technical specialists, a lawyer, a video team and a still photographer.
An FBI agent at the agency’s behavioral science unit reviewed the mounting evidence and concluded the murders were probably committed by someone who had been in the Newman home at some point, someone who felt comfortable in the neighborhood early in the morning, someone neighbors wouldn’t even notice because he had a reason to be there. He believed the killer was likely a man able to control himself when things were going his way, but fantasized rapes and murders and had probably assaulted young girls in the past. It would not be unusual, he said, for such a person to commit a sex murder and seem normal an hour later.
From the very beginning, suspicion fell on Kirby D. Anthoney, John Newman’s 23-year-old nephew, who had lived with the Newman family briefly in 1985. Anthoney and his girlfriend left Twin Falls for Alaska after he became the prime suspect in the rape and near-fatal beating of a 12-year-old girl left for dead in a campground. Although she partially recovered, the girl was left blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and unable to recall anything concerning the attack. Idaho police declined to pursue charges because the victim couldn’t identify her assailant. Additionally, Anthoney allegedly killed an American Indian transvestite for reasons that may or may not have been sexual in nature and the Anchorage police believed he also murdered an American Indian girl.
Although he denied involvement in the Newman murders, he had confessed to a 1982 armed robbery in which he sprayed an elderly wheelchair-bound woman with Mace. He claimed he sprayed her with the disabling agent to keep her from screaming. He later recanted his confession and the case was dismissed. Despite his earlier statement concerning the use of Mace, he was never convicted of the assault. He had also been arrested three times for burglary, three times for larceny and once for disorderly conduct. Most of the charges were dismissed and he served no time in jail.
It is doubtful John and Nancy Newman were aware of Anthoney’s criminal history and he and his girlfriend lived with the family until they found jobs on a Dutch Harbor fishing boat. Two months later, however, Anthoney returned to Anchorage after being fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend, who had grown tired of his mistreatment. It seems the girlfriend had complained to the production manager and requested Anthoney be kept away from her. The skipper obliged by ordering Anthoney off the vessel. He had beaten, stalked and terrified at least three girlfriends and one of them testified for the prosecution at his trial.
Back in Anchorage, Anthoney asked Nancy if he could stay with her and John again and she agreed, not wanting to turn away a member of her husband’s family. Not long thereafter, Anthoney’s father and stepmother visited Anthoney and father and son got into a fistfight in the Newman home. John had to intervene and break up the altercation by which time Anthoney was in tears. “All I ever wanted was for you to love and respect me,” he shouted at his father, “and you never would.”
Anthoney’s mother contacted Nancy and claimed her son was talking of suicide. Nancy, afraid he would harm himself in front of her daughters, asked him to leave. He was furious, but left nonetheless and moved in with Dan Grant, an acquaintance.
The morning the bodies were found, two police officers appeared at Grant’s apartment and asked to speak with Anthoney (above). They wasted no time telling him Nancy and her children were dead and he was a suspect. Anthoney’s roommate later testified that after the police left, Anthoney called his mother and said: “Sit down, Mom. ... Nancy and the girls are dead. Settle down, Mom. ... They won’t tell me what happened to them, if they were raped or not. ... But, Mom, they think I did it.”
When he was formally interviewed, Anthoney denied having a key to the Newman apartment – though police knew he had one – and he was caught lying about his whereabouts between 8:30 and 10:30 Saturday morning, the time investigators believed the murders occurred. The apartment door had not been forced, indicating that either the door was unlocked or the intruder had a key.
Anthoney said he had spent Friday night drinking and snorting cocaine at a dice-playing party across the street from where he was living. He told them he stayed up all night and when he got home, Grant was getting ready to go to work and left around 8;30 a.m. Police could not find anyone who saw Anthoney again until after the time the murders took place. Anthoney gave police the clothing and shoes he claimed he was wearing Saturday morning and the clothes seemed fairly clean, but there was a small, bright red spot on the shoos that looked like blood. The shoe and a stained shirt were forwarded to the FBI.
The people of Anchorage were terrified by the murders and people were locking their doors, staying in after dark and purchasing guns. Although the police were fairly certain Anthoney was their man, they couldn’t bring him in without additional evidence. Accordingly, they ignored the pressure to make an arrest and informed the news media they had followed in excess of 500 leads, but none had led to a specific suspect. Tips continued to pour into police headquarters, many of them forwarded by Crimestoppers, and one was written on a postcard addressed to Mayor Tony Knowles. The team of investigators refused to discuss any of the tips publicly.
During their questioning of Dan Grant, officers suggested he let them know if Anthoney did anything unusual. An order was issued within the department that no unknown details of the murders were to be released to the public because investigators wanted such information kept between themselves and the killer.
While the crime lab at Quantico ran tests, the task force in Anchorage decided to run a few tests of its own: psychological tests. It was decided officers would “mess with” the suspect’s mind and see what happened. Anthoney was tailed through town and those following him made sure he knew they were there. The tail was then removed, then resumed, in order to keep him guessing. Two investigators talked to him frequently, one playing the role of a friendly “good cop” and the other an antagonistic “bad cop.”
It had been five days since Nancy Newman and her daughters were slaughtered and Anthoney stopped for a drink at Chilkoot Charlie’s, a popular Anchorage tavern. He struck up a conversation with a female lighting consultant, telling the woman about the murders and that he was a suspect. “The worst thing was that the mom had to watch” the murder of her daughters, he told her. While he was talking, she said Anthoney was writing weird poems on napkins and handing them to other patrons.
On April 13, Anthoney called the friendly cop to check on the status of the investigation. The officer asked to meet with him the following day, saying he wanted to discuss hair and fiber evidence that had just come back from Quantico. The morning of the meeting, Anthoney left a message claiming he had to help a friend with a truck and wouldn’t be able to keep the appointment. Two days later, Dan Grant called the police and said Anthoney had climbed into his blue Ford truck that morning and was headed for the Canadian border. He told the officer Anthoney had asked him “to play dumb” when questioned by police and “say he was not at home, that I didn’t know where he was at.”
Anchorage authorities notified U.S. Customs and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the Tok border crossing, approximately 320 miles northeast of Anchorage. Anthoney attempted to cross into Canada around midnight, but was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license. He was transported to the Fairbanks Correctional Center and held until additional charges could be filed.
In the meantime, Quantico reported the fingerprints on Nancy Newman’s cookie jar matched those of Kirby Anthoney, as did the semen recovered from the bodies and washcloth. The Anchorage team found Nancy’s camera and accessories at Dan Grant’s apartment and witnesses reported Anthoney had been paying for meals with rolls of coins. Tests on the suspect’s shirt revealed feces from Nancy’s body and the leather coat and sneakers tested positive for human blood. Because of the fecal matter on the shirt and washcloth, some surmised he sexually assaulted Nancy Newman after she was dead.
Anthoney’s arrest and the lurid details of the murders incensed the public. One woman wrote a letter to The Anchorage Daily News longing for the days when such beasts were publicly stoned or hanged. Many lamented that Alaska did not have the death penalty and others said electrocution was too easy for men who committed such barbarous acts, especially on children.
Anthoney was quickly returned to Anchorage and charged with three counts of murder, two counts of rape and one count of kidnapping – the latter charge was based on the fact 8-year-old Melissa Newman’s hands were bound. The outrage expressed by members of the public necessitated precautions that included searching the bags of reporters and photographers attending the arraignment and patting down those who entered the courtroom.
By the time of his first court appearance, Anthoney looked more like a pleasant young man with neatly-trimmed hair and beard, than the lice-infested bum that he was. In fact, those who had never seen Anthoney would have difficulty discerning which man at the defense table was the defendant.
Needless to say, Anthoney wasn’t popular in jail. Kiven Collins, a fellow inmate who had been arrested for killing four people, assaulted Anthoney and it took six stitches to close one of his wounds. Collins, a cocaine dealer, had intended to kill only three people, but a 15-year-old girl just happened to be in the line of fire. “If I ever get another chance, he won’t need no trial,” Collins said of Anthoney. “There’s never no need to kill a woman and two little girls. I have a young daughter myself.”
The trial began in April 1988, with the prosecutor charging and the defense agreeing that on the morning of the murders, Anthony left an all-night party and arrived home before his roommate left for work around 8:30, and he had no alibi from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., the time of the Newman family massacre.
The prosecutor told the jury Anthoney sometimes wrote suggestive poetry and read the following:
Subjecting to his wild assault
Losing all the mind’s reason
Captured in an addictive vault
Twisting life’s dimensions.
Anthoney showed up every day in a sports jacked, starched shirt and tie. When word reached his legal team that several spectators and one juror were of the opinion the defendant’s eyes seemed evil, he began wearing glasses with blue-tinted lenses.
The trial was particularly difficult for John Newman, who had moved back to Twin Falls in an effort to start over after the loss of his family. He was allowed to sit in the courtroom during the week prior to his testimony and when he was called to the witness stand, he was no more than 10 feet from the man who slaughtered his wife and children. When asked a question about Nancy, John burst into convulsive sobs and had to leave the courtroom for a few minutes to compose himself. Some spectators cried while listening to the testimony of the grief-stricken husband and father.
The jury watched the videotape of the horrendous murder scene, showing the bodies in separate rooms with their legs splayed and genitals exposed. In the room where the almost-decapitated 3-year-old lay, there was blood spatter on the walls and furniture.
The prosecutor explained that Mrs. Newman’s sister had to use a key to enter the apartment, an indication the killer locked the door behind him when he left. He also cited the fact the house wasn’t ransacked, which meant the man who killed the mother and her two children and robbed the home knew where the money and other valuables were kept – something only someone familiar with the house would know.
Anthoney’s defense was that he was framed by police and he even took the stand, but in so doing, convinced the jury his eyes were, indeed, evil. It didn’t take the 12 men and women long to find Kirby Anthoney guilty on all charges and he was sentenced to 357 years, one of the of longest sentences ever imposed on a convicted criminal in the United States. He is incarcerated at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska’s only maximum security prison.
Sources: Murder at 40 Below by Tom Brennan; Murder in the Family by Burl Barer; and UPI, April 26, 1987.