OSCODA - The Sanford woman who planted bones and other evidence at suspected crime scenes was sentenced Sept. 28 in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Judge Patrick J. Duggan told Sandra Marie Anderson, 44, she will spend 21 months in prison and must pay more than $14,500 in restitution to some of the law enforcement agencies she misled. Upon her release, she must also serve three years on probation.
Anderson pleaded guilty earlier in the year to two counts of falsifying material facts and making false representations; one count of obstruction of justice; and two counts of making false statements and representations.
The plea was pursuant to a 29-page pact she struck with the prosecution in exchange for the dismissal of five additional counts and the government's agreement not to bring further charges related to Anderson's activities on or before the March pact.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also agreed to discourage agencies from bringing state or local charges against Anderson.
During the term of probation, Anderson will be required to report any activity in which she looks for missing persons, the remains of missing persons, or historical remains.
She is also forever barred from personally profiting from any activities which took place prior to signing the plea agreement. Any income she receives for her story must be turned over to the justice department.
The sentence falls within federal guidelines and the prosecution's recommendation of 18-24 months behind bars.
According to the Associated Press, Anderson apologized for her actions and told the judge she had let down the law enforcement officials she had wanted to help. "I lost track of why I was offering my services."
The case against Anderson followed a nearly two-year national investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
The wide reaching probe began in the Huron National Forest in AuSable Township.
Anderson was brought to the Oscoda area in 2001 by the FBI and Oscoda Township Police Department (OTPD) in hopes she and her cadaver dog, Eagle, could find the remains of Cherita Thomas, a young black mother believed to have been murdered in 1980.
Two searches were conducted in 2001, during each of which law enforcement personnel found human bones and other potential evidence which Eagle sniffed it out.
Authorities were excited. Everyone was singing the praises of Anderson and her dog.
When winter closed the site, the FBI turned to testing the bones. None matched the missing woman's DNA. In fact, the tests showed the bones belonged to three different people.
Authorities wondered if they had stumbled upon the dumping ground of a serial killer.
So it was with great anticipation that the search resumed on April 17, 2002, led by Anderson and Eagle.
But by the end of the first day, three of those involved had lost their enthusiasm.
As reported earlier, Michigan State Police Crime Lab Technicians Jenny Stites and John Lucey, along with OTPD Officer Mark David, were troubled.
Independently, each suspected Anderson was planting the bones.
David spent a sleepless night but was hesitant to accuse Anderson without definitive proof. He said he had observed Anderson reach down as though to tuck her pant leg into her boot near or at the location where bones were subsequently found. He wondered if she was taking bones from her boots.
The forensic techs had similar qualms. The second day, the trio shared their suspicions with each other. Between them, they agreed they would say nothing to the others, but would watch Anderson's every move.
Mid-afternoon Anderson kneeled down at a small stream which had been thoroughly searched earlier in the day, insisting Eagle had scented remains. Her hand went from her boot toward the stream. Jenny quickly reached down and grabbed Anderson's closed hand. The two women struggled.
When Anderson's hand was opened it contained a bone.
The two technicians and David then revealed their suspicions. A search of Anderson's vehicle found a bag of bones. That night, the FBI executed a search warrant on Anderson's home, turning up more bones.
The revelations shook the law enforcement and forensic community. As reported by news media around the world, authorities wondered if anything Anderson and Eagle had found at other search sites were genuine.
She had gotten around in the 10 years prior to being unmasked. Anderson and Eagle had searched the World Trade Center rubble. They had allegedly found mass graves in Panama and Bosnia. Communities erected plaques in their honor after they allegedly pinpointed the location of lost cemeteries and Native American burial grounds around the country.
And at least two people were imprisoned partially as the result of Eagle's finds, among them a Plymouth man who has since won a motion for a new trial based on Anderson's conviction.
In the course of the FBI and DOJ investigation, it was forensic evidence which proved to be Anderson's ultimate undoing.
Tests were conducted on blood found on a saw blade which Eagle pointed in the basement of the Plymouth murder suspect's home. It turned out to be Anderson's own body fluid, according to the indictment handed down last year by a federal grand jury.
Bloody coins found in a Monroe County field and gauze from an Ohio trailer also revealed Anderson's DNA.
A human toe which Eagle turned up in an Ohio creek turned out to be from a Louisiana corpse donated to science, allegedly provided to Anderson by a Baton Rouge fire department dog trainer.
The fiber evidence which so excited local authorities when it was found in the Huron National Forest turned out to exactly match the carpeting in Anderson's home, as well as fibers which were collected from the pocket of her trousers at the time of her arrest.
As for Eagle, the Doberman-German Shorthaired mix who was the unwitting accomplice of Anderson's hoax, Oscoda police were notified several months ago that the dog died.
Anderson will report to authorities to begin her sentence in November.