Two years have passed since that hot August evening when the police came to speak with Jody Wright’s daughter, but the details remain vivid. About three in the afternoon Linda, the oldest of Wright’s three daughters, called from a phone booth at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant near Sixty-third Street and El Cajon Boulevard.
"She wasn’t crying, but I could tell she was really upset,” Wright recalls. Linda told her mother she had gone to buy some food at Kentucky Fried Chicken and was headed back to the nearby Hitching Post Motel on El Cajon when she saw police officers putting her husband David and his younger brother into the back of a squad car.
"Linda kept saying to me that they hadn’t done anything, that she was scared and didn’t know what to do and wanted to come home.” Jody Wright picked up her daughter and drove back to the family’s three-bedroom home on Waterloo Avenue in El Cajon.
Once home, Linda spent most of the afternoon calling the San Diego Police station and juvenile hall to find out what charges had been brought against her nineteen-year-old husband and sixteen-year-old brother-in-law. Each time she called, she used a phony name; her mother learned later the different names were aliases Linda and David had used during their eight-month marriage.
In the late afternoon, neighbors a few blocks away, where the Wrights had lived before moving to Waterloo Avenue, called Jody and said two police officers had been knocking on doors in the neighborhood; they wanted to know where the Wrights had moved. Five minutes later a patrol car stopped at the curb in front of the Wrights’ home and two El Cajon police officers approached the door. "They started to ask if I was Mrs. Paul Wright but then they saw Linda standing right behind me and asked if she was Linda Anderson and could they speak to her for a minute.” Linda talked to the police on the front steps, then came back inside to get her shoes, identification, and cigarettes. "She said she had to go to the El Cajon police station and talk to the detectives about a stolen car,” Jody Wright says. "I looked at my daughter and her eyes were big as saucers. I said, ‘Linda, is there anything you want to tell me before you leave?’ And she said no, that she and David hadn’t done anything and that everything would be all right. I asked her about some furniture they had in a van they drove back from Ohio and parked in the driveway but she said, ‘No, the furniture is ours, it wasn’t stolen.’ ” The police officers promised to bring Linda right back after questioning. Three hours later the police did return to the Wright house, but without Linda and this time with a tow truck and a release form signed by Linda that authorized a limited search of the van. As Jody Wright watched the officers go about their business. Lieutenant Jerry Earp stepped to the front porch and took her aside. “You know we are holding your daughter,” Earp said, more as a statement of fact than as a question.
”I said yes I did. that I was here when the police officer took her away,” Wright recalls. The two then stepped off the porch and walked in the darkness to the driveway, where the tow truck was backed up to the van. Wright’s two youngest daughters, Janice and Karen, tried to follow but their mother ordered them to stay in the house. “Lieutenant Earp asked how strong a woman I was and I said, ‘Well, how strong do I have to be?’ He then just looked at me and said. ‘Your daughter has been charged with first-degree murder.’ I just stood there for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe it. I just kept saying over and over again, ‘I can’t believe it! This isn't happening to my daughter.’ And then I started crying.”
The next afternoon Jody Wright was questioned by El Cajon police investigators, who wanted to know about Linda’s background, who her friends were, what Linda had been doing for the past month, and particularly what was known about Linda’s husband. David. The officers told Wright that her daughter and son-in-law had been driving a car stolen in Los Angeles and that the car had been linked to a man, as yet unidentified, who had been murdered three weeks earlier in an El Cajon motel room. Linda had made a five-page written confession in which she admitted taking part in the murder and later disposing of the corpse in a culvert off Interstate 8 between College Avenue and Waring Road. “I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing." Wright says today. “They asked me what Linda was like and all I could think of was how protective she was. Linda was the type to take strays under her wing."
Jody Wright recalled how Linda came home from high school one day years before and said her girlfriend Pati had had an argument with her mother and had left home. “Linda said she wanted Pati to live with us until Pati straightened things up at home. Linda just begged us, saying we had to help Pati. that it was really important, until we finally gave in. Pati eventually ended up staying three months in our house. When Pati left, she married a man she met while living with us and we gave the wedding in Lakeside. My husband Paul ended up giving away the bride.
“Linda was just like any other kid growing up,” her mother continued, trying as best she could to reconstruct the innocence of her daughter’s childhood. “She loved to ride bikes and play with the other kids.” She was also a Brownie Scout, spent five years learning to play the accordion, and took dance lessons during summer vacations from school. She became proficient at roller-skating, starting out on the driveway and street using a pair of clip-on metal skates and eventually getting good enough to step onto the floor of the Skyline Rollarena, nearby on Cardiff Street.
Along with her older brother and two younger sisters, Linda was raised in a modest three-bedroom stucco house on Joanna Drive in Encanto, then a racially mixed working-class neighborhood. The home of Paul and Jody Wright was often a gathering spot for kids in the neighborhood, who would come over to get Linda before leaving to play games or go exploring the nearby hills and ravines.
Like most of the neighborhood children. Linda attended O’Farrell Junior High and Morse High School; she earned mostly Cs. “I always felt that Linda could have done much better,” her mother says, “but she wasn’t really interested in school then, it just didn’t appeal to her.” Unlike most of her young friends, however, Linda suffered a trauma — she unexpectedly became pregnant. “When she was sixteen, she had an abortion,” her mother says. “She wanted to keep the baby but we insisted that she have the abortion. A year later she got pregnant again. At first she didn’t want to admit it, but later she made the decision to have another abortion. Years later, Linda said that she wished she had gone ahead and had the baby, that maybe her life would have been different and not turned out like it did. Maybe she’s right. Maybe if we had not insisted on her getting an abortion none of this would have happened. Maybe she would have gotten married and had 2.3 children, or whatever the national average is. That’s all I wanted for my daughter, that she get married and have a family and just live a normal life like anybody else.”
Linda graduated from Morse High in 1974 with a certificate in cosmetology and moved into an apartment in El Cajon with Elizabeth Miller, her childhood friend who had lived across the street from the Wrights on Joanna Drive. The two spent only a short time in El Cajon before moving together to an apartment on Del Monte Avenue, near Cable Street, in Ocean Beach just three blocks from the Ocean Beach Pier.
Linda got a job at the Sunshine Factory hair-cutting salon on Newport Avenue, but it didn’t last long. There soon were other jobs — at Frenchy’s Coiffures in North Park, the Nail Emporium in El Cajon, Kinney’s Shoes in La Mesa, and a La Jolla beauty parlor run by a cousin — but they, too, lasted only a month or so before Linda was let go. “She always had this time problem,” says her father, Paul. “She had no sense of time. She was always late. She would have a midnight curfew at home and then come in at 12:20 and say, ’Well, I left at midnight to come home.’ She could never understand that she had to leave at 11:40 so she would be home at midnight.
“I was brought up in the Depression, when jobs were hard to come by. If you wanted a job, then you showed upon time. If you have to be there at three o’clock, then be there at three o’ clock, and if you have any interest, be there ten minutes early. But Linda wasn’t like that. Linda came in late and gave an excuse that the alarm didn’t go off or something.”
While at the beach, Linda met a handsome nineteen-year-old sailor who lived in an apartment just a few blocks away. The two began dating and later, when Linda and her roommate Elizabeth Miller decided to give up the Del Monte apartment, Linda moved in with her new boyfriend. “Linda lived with him for a year,” Miller recalls. “She once told me that she had plans for marrying him, but they argued a lot and Linda would leave him for a couple of days before going back. She did that a couple of times before they broke up. I think Linda really wanted to find someone she loved and to get married. She told me once that she looked forward to marriage, and that was all she ever wanted. Linda never had any trouble getting dates, but she had a hard time keeping a relationship going.”
By late October of 1978. Linda was living alone in the apartment (her sailor boyfriend was at sea) when she and her two younger sisters, Janice and Karen, went roller-skating at the Aquarius Roll-A-Rena in La Mesa. They had been at the rink for less than an hour when Linda met a seventeen-year-old boy from Springfield. Ohio. His name was David Anderson.
“David was a really good-looking guy,“ recalls Janice. “He had this slender build and long hair and high cheeks, like a model. He looked different, too. Everyone else was wearing jeans but he had on Angel Flight pants and a silk shirt, i told Linda after she started dating him that I thought he was gay but she just laughed and said, ‘Well, you never know.’ ”
David Anderson was one of five children born to a Springfield. Ohio couple, and his childhood was not at all like Linda Wright's. There were several arrests, mostly for vandalism, shoplifting, and alcohol and drug abuse; and at age fourteen he left his family and was placed temporarily in a foster home. A year later he picked up a pistol, placed the barrel against his stomach, and pulled the trigger. The slug ripped a hole through his abdomen, doing extensive internal damage, but he survived. David spent two more years in Springfield before quitting high school in the eleventh grade and joining the Marine Corps at seventeen. He was sent to Camp Pendleton, but he lasted just three months before receiving a medical discharge, due in part to the gunshot injuries.
As soon as he got out of the Marine Corps, David grabbed a ride to San Diego, where he lived for several weeks in an apartment near the Goodbody's Mortuary Chapel in East San Diego. While there he met Jimmy Garrett, a blond-haired ex-Marine who had decided to stay in San Diego and embark on a career as a model rather than return to his native Texas.
The two were friends, then homosexual lovers, according to Garrett. “I knew David was gay the first time I met him. I could tell by the way he was standing and smiling and flirting with me — the way lovers react with one another."
The modeling business — if they actually attempted it at all — did not work out. and the two headed for downtown San Diego, where they frequented gay bars and strolled in front of the U.S. Grant, Executive, and San Diego hotels. “I taught David how to hustle," Garrett admits. “I taught him how to ask for money — how to work the street and ask for money so the cops couldn't bust you."
Anderson and Garrett lived in a series of flophouse hotels, including one in which, Garrett says. “You had to shoot the roaches with a pellet gun." By late October they had an apartment at Fortieth Street and Orange Avenue in East San Diego. Early one morning Garrett was walking home after spending the night out w hen he saw two men at the front door of the apartment, one of whom was Marck Lambros III, a pudgy twenty-nine-year-old man who had come to the apartment, according to Garrett, to get back some gold jewelry David had stolen from Lambros after the two had met in front of the Press Room bar at Third Avenue and Broadway. “Lambros was really hurt by David,” Garrett recalls. “He fell in love with David as fast as I did. Lambros said, ‘Why did you do it, David? I would have given you everything.* "
Lambros’s disappointment did not prevent him from becoming friends with the two ex-Marines and later offering to let them stay rent free in one of the rear apartments behind his large old home at Twenty-First Street and J Avenue in Golden Hill. Actually, the home belonged to Violet Beck, a ninety-five-year-old spinster who lived in an upstairs bedroom and was attended to by a full-time nurse. Miss Beck had been befriended by Lambros when she was purchasing another old Golden Hill home from an attorney Lambros allegedly worked for.
“Marck was such a dear man,” she recalls. “He would bring me my dinner and get me into bed early. He was like a grandson to me.” Her friendship with Lambros endured even after she learned that he had illegally tried to mortgage her house and other properties in San Diego and Ramona, and after she came to suspect that he had stolen large sums of money from her. “Marck was a very lovable person and I thought he was keeping track of my money,” Miss Beck says. “I don’t know how a person like that could become an embezzler.”
Marck’s new friends, David Anderson and Jimmy Garrett, took one of the apartments behind the Golden Hill home and quickly became part of the Beck household, a group of predominantly young men that Lambros met in Horton Plaza. Anderson soon became one of Violet Beck’s favorites. “David didn’t know what to call me,” she says today. “Miss Beck sounded too formal and Violet sounded too informal. I said, ‘Well, you can’t call me mother because I have never been one. but you can call me grandma because I can be a grandmother to anybody.’ ” The name stuck and for the rest of his stay at the Beck house Anderson always called her grandma. “When David came in or went out, he would give me a kiss and say, ‘Good-bye, grandma.’ He was affectionate that way because I was really interested in him.”
The same intimacy was not shared by Jody or Paul Wright, Linda's parents, when Linda introduced them to her new boyfriend, David. Linda’s mother recalls, “For two weeks I heard about this new man in Linda’s life, what a good-looking man he was. And then Linda brings David to the house and he’s wearing rubber thongs and no shirt and those cutoffs that are cut off way up there. My father is in construction in San Diego but my family are farmers from southeastern Oklahoma and I was just shocked that this man who had come to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time would show up looking like that. I told Linda that I thought she could do better.”
Paul Wright’s assessment was even harsher. “I have had a hard time accepting long hair on men and David had his hair down to his shoulders. But it was more than just the hair. There are some people you accept right away and some you never accept. And I never accepted David. He was uncomfortable around us, he would never look you in the eye, and he would never say anything. I just had a feeling about him. I told Linda that he was a zero, that he’s going to get you in trouble someday that you are never going to get out of. But Linda just said, ‘Oh, Pop, just give him a chance.’ I tried to talk her into changing her mind, but I never could.” The few times David and Linda did visit the Wrights, David waited outside or would sit with Linda and her sisters on the back porch or in a separate room. “David was always guarded and uncomfortable around us," Jody Wright adds. “But when Linda and David were together, they were like little kids, always laughing and giggling. They made up this sort of baby language, in which they spoke to each other, and nobody else could understand. It was obvious they were really in love with each other.”
A few minutes before 2:00 a.m. on January 7, 1979 an elderly couple were taking a late-evening stroll down Prospect Street in La Jolla when two young men cut them off and demanded their money. The woman screamed and was thrown to the ground while her companion was stripped of his wallet containing eighteen hundred-dollar bills. The crime was not solved until six weeks later, when an anonymous tip led police to Jimmy Garrett and David Anderson. Though both matched the descriptions of the two muggers, only Garrett was tried and eventually sentenced to a six-month sentence in county jail. Charges against Anderson were dropped for lack of evidence.
About a month after the mugging, David moved out of the apartment he shared with Garrett at the rear of Violet Beck’s house and, with Linda, moved into a studio apartment on Juniper near Fifth Avenue, in Hillcrest. Less than sixty days later Linda called home to say that David had gone to Los Angeles and that she wanted to come home. Jody Wright at first thought her daughter meant David would be gone for only a few days, but once she arrived at the apartment to pick up her daughter, it appeared Linda had been abandoned. While moving things into the car, Linda admitted to her mother that David had been ordered out of the apartment after complaints of excessive noise, and that in anger David had kicked out the front door.
Several days after Linda moved in with her parents, she started getting phone calls from David. Some came from the Sherman Oaks and Canoga Park areas, but others were placed from apartments in Hollywood and West Hollywood. The calls came at all hours of the day and night, apparently with little regard that most people, including Paul and Jody Wright and their three children, were asleep at two or three in the morning. The early-morning calls were particularly irritating to Linda's father Paul, who had been hired as a pipefitter by the Bechtel Corporation to work at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. The job meant working ten- and twelve-hour days and getting up at four each morning to begin the seventy-mile commute to the construction site.
Paul told Linda he didn't want David calling in the late evening or early morning; David, however, didn’t get or chose to ignore the message. Then, one morning around 2:00 a.m., after being awakened again by the telephone, Linda’s father stalked out of his bedroom, grabbed the phone, and yanked it out of the jack. “I think that was the closest I ever came to having a heart attack,” Paul Wright says. “I was just terribly angry at both Linda and David that they could not show a little consideration.”
The next morning Jody told Linda, ” ‘You can’t keep fighting with your dad and destroying our family life.’ I wasn’t very happy with Linda then. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with herself and was just putting in time until she went back to David. I told Linda that I didn't want to see her when I got back that day and she said, 'Okay, I won’t be here.’ When I got back, she was gone.”
Linda joined David in Los Angeles, where they lived in a series of studio apartments and cheap residential motels in Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks, Hollywood and West Hollywood. Three or four months later Linda called home in tears, “saying David had beaten her after the two had had an argument and that she wanted to come home. “David had an explosive temper,” recalls Linda's sister Janice. “We had a party at the house one time when my parents were at Big Bear Lake and one of the guests, a guy named John, didn’t want to leave. I remember David jumped on John and dragged him out of the house into the bushes. John was too drunk to defend himself and every time he tried to get up, David would knock him down again. That was David. Once he got into a fight, he didn’t know how to stop.”
Jody Wright picked Linda up at the downtown San Diego Greyhound bus station and brought her back to El Cajon. The next day David telephoned to say he was sorry for losing his temper and by the time Linda hung up the receiver, she was already planning to return to Los Angeles.
In January of 1980 Linda called her parents and announced that she and David had been married and were going back to Springfield, Ohio to visit David’s parents. But four days after arriving in Springfield, David was picked up by police and booked into the Clark County jail on warrants issued in Los Angeles for bail jumping, bad-check writing, traffic tickets, and prostitution arrests in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Shortly after being incarcerated, David wrote his new bride: “Linda, baby, thank you over and over for waiting on me and giving me the moral support I need to pull through this. Chances are all the warrants won't show up, but then maybe they will. As long as I’m ready and can face them, what does it matter? I love you and I need you very badly. I’m so lonely that I’m about to wear out your pictures, kissing on them all the time. I need you Linda to help me hang on. That and a million other reasons I owe you my life.”
David made bail within a few weeks and soon he and Linda were back in Los Angeles continuing their old lifestyle of moving in and out of residential motels and one-room apartments. Linda told her mother in May that she was working in a Sambo’s restaurant in Van Nuys and that David had a job as a telephone solicitor. But Linda confided to her old friend Elizabeth Miller that she and David were supplementing their income working as prostitutes and occasionally operating a scam in which one of the Andersons lured the “trick” into the room while the other waited in the closet to rob him.
In the last week of May, Linda called home again and told her mother that David had beaten her once more and that she was coming home for good. When Jody Wright met her daughter at the downtown Greyhound bus station, she saw Linda’s eyes were blackened and the right side of her face was red and puffy. One of the scars Linda bore was a six-inch slash that ran the length of her left breast. “Linda insists to this day that she was slashed by a stranger while she was waiting for a bus in West Los Angeles, but I think David did it.”
The Wrights had moved since Linda's last visit; they were now in their current home on Waterloo Avenue, and Jody Wright insisted that her daughter not give out their address if David called. Linda’s father Paul had left on a fifteen-month-long construction job building the Ramon military airport facility in Israel and Jody was now in charge of the household. She says, “Linda was really scared of him this time, and I thought maybe she should get away and stay with her grandmother in Sonora. California. Her brother tried to convince her not to go back to David; so did her sister Janice, who told her, ‘Once a wife beater always a wife beater.’ But I think Linda felt that if she did something different this time, then David wouldn’t beat her again. She felt sorry for him. I think she really felt that she could change the way he was.” Linda lasted three days before telling her mother she was going back to be with her husband in Los Angeles.
Jody Wright didn’t see her daughter again until July 17, when Linda drove up to the house in a light-blue, late-model Volkswagen Bug. “She was about as happy as I have ever seen her,” Jody recalls. “She said. Mom, come on outside, I want to show you what David bought me!’ She was saying how clean it was, how there was not a speck on it.”
The next morning David and Linda picked up Janice and drove to La Jolla, where they spent the day at Black's Beach. When they returned to El Cajon late in the afternoon to drop off Janice at home, Linda promised that she and David would return around eight to take Janice to a drive-in movie, but the two never showed up. “It wasn't like Linda to make a promise like that and then just forget about it,” Janice says. “Even if she had had a fight with David or car trouble, she would have called.”
As Janice was waiting for her sister, a twenty-one-year-old unemployed waiter named Jeremiah Willis and his roommate Billy Fisher were finishing a drink at Bee Jay's bar on Sixth Avenue near Cedar. Then they began the short walk to Balboa Park, where Willis hoped to sell about two dozen Quaalude pills, prescribed to him by a doctor, in order to pay his portion of the rent that month. In the southwest corner of the park, near Marston Point, Willis met a potential buyer, a shirtless man with long auburn hair who was driving a light-blue Volkswagen.
“The person driving the VW seemed nice enough.” Fisher later recounted. “He was well dressed, wore black Angel Flight pants, his hair was well groomed, and he just looked like a college person. In fact he said he was a teacher on vacation.
“The driver said he knew a guy and a girl who would buy the pills for five or six dollars apiece,” according to Fisher, “but he could only take one person with him to the motel because they were paranoid-type of individuals. Jeremiah said he’d go to the motel and would call me.”
Fifteen hours later detectives and lab technicians were inspecting room number seven of the New Californian Motel, which is located on East Main Street near Interstate 8 in El Cajon. The police were called there at around noon by the motel’s managers, who had discovered blood stains in the room — on the carpet, on the bedding, ceiling, and walls. The managers, husband and wife, told police a young couple driving a light-blue Volkswagen had checked into the room the day before. Then the managers described the pair: The man. they said, was twenty to twenty-five years old, about five-feet-ten inches tall, and maybe weighed 140 pounds. He wore shoulder-length, reddish-brown hair, a scraggly beard, and brown-framed glasses. His wife was about the same age. had blond hair, and wore tinted sunglasses. She was several inches shorter than her husband but weighed about the same.
Lab technicians found the partial print of a tennis shoe outside the room entrance, a partial fingerprint on the door, and another print on the room registration card. The most gruesome discovery was a human tooth, which appeared to have been knocked out of the victim’s mouth with a chrome towel rack that had been ripped out of the bathroom wall and was found, bent and twisted, under the bed.
As the somber investigation proceeded at the New California’s room number seven. detectives were investigating a $1500 theft at the Penny lodge Motel, just a few blocks away on East Main Street. Sixty-seven-year-old Robert Allen, a retired construction foreman, had gone to the Pennylodge Motel that morning to buy a Volkswagen he had seen advertised in the San Diego Union. The light-blue, late-model Bug, which Allen planned to give his grandson as a birthday present, was in excellent condition, and the owner wanted only $1500, an unbelievably cheap price. Allen quickly agreed to buy it and went to his bank to withdraw the cash.
When Allen returned to the motel room where the owner was staying, he was introduced to a woman, whom he believed to be the owner’s wife. As the two men talked about the car, the woman left the room, saying she had to speak with the motel manager. Minutes later the owner took the $1500 in cash from Allen, but instead of handing over the ownership papers, he dashed out the front door and around the side of the motel, where his wife waited in the Volkswagen, engine running. The two disappeared down East Main Street.
Descriptions of the thieves provided by motel employees and Robert Allen matched the couple who had checked into room seven at the New Californian. El Cajon police immediately began a search for the couple in the light-blue Volkswagen, and as they did so. David and Linda Anderson were planning a surprise for Linda’s family: an invitation to her mother and sisters for dinner at Anthony’s Fish Grotto on Murray Drive in La Mesa.
David had another surprise in store for Linda’s family: over dessert and coffee that evening, he announced he and Linda were going back to Ohio to visit his family and pick up clothes and furniture that were stored at his parents’ home. The next morning Linda’s sister Janice drove the Andersons to Lindbergh Field for the flight back to Ohio. Linda told her sister that they would probably only stay long enough to pack up their possessions in a U-Haul and drive back to San Diego. Indeed, less than two weeks later David and Linda returned to San Diego driving a rented U-Haul van packed with their clothing and furniture. They parked the van in the driveway that runs alongside the Wrights’ home, then drove off in the Volkswagen they had left parked at the house.
Two days after David and Linda returned, another classified ad appeared in the Union offering a “like-new” Volkswagen Bug for $1500, with interested parties advised to contact the owner at the Hitching Post Motel on El Cajon Boulevard. That evening a Spring Valley man went to the motel to test-drive the car and became suspicious when the owner demanded to see the $1500 before displaying the title and registration to the car. The potential buyer made an excuse and left the motel. As he walked down El Cajon Boulevard he spotted a police cruiser and flagged it down. He told a San Diego patrol officer about the car deal and about his suspicions the Volkswagen might be stolen. The policeman drove into the Hitching Post Motel parking lot, ran a computer check on the Volkswagen, discovered that in fact the car was reported as stolen from Los Angeles, and promptly arrested the two occupants in the room — nineteen-year-old David Anderson and his sixteen-year-old brother Michael.
David and his brother were held for about two hours and then were transported from downtown San Diego to the El Cajon Police Department by Detective Geary McMurray, one of the officers who earlier had investigated room number seven at the New Californian Motel. David refused to admit to McMurray that he knew anything about the blood stains in the New Californian or the $1500 car scam at the Pennylodge Motel, but Michael admitted to the detective that his brother and sister-in-law had bragged about “selling” the Volkswagen half a dozen different times in the Los Angeles area.
At a few minutes after nine. Sergeant Richard Nasif, who had been with detectives at room seven, arrived at the police station and met Linda Anderson, who had been brought in a half hour earlier from her parents’ home. Nasif took Linda into one of the windowless interrogation rooms near the detective division’s office and questioned her about the stolen car. About an hour into his questioning, Nasif said he wanted to know about the man who had been murdered in room seven at the New Californian Motel. Linda said she didn’t know anything about a murder, but after Nasif said witnesses had placed her and her husband at the motel the night of the murder, Linda reached across the metal-top table that separated them, grabbed Nasif's hand, and cried, “Please help me.’’ Three hours later, after a pack of cigarettes and a half dozen readings of the Miranda Rights, Linda wrote out the following confession:
“Around 9:00 p.m. Thursday evening David said he was going to find someone to get some money off of. Before he left he told me to hide in the closet as soon as I knew he had returned. I did so. While I was in the closet, David and the guy [Jeremiah Willis] entered the room. They were both high on Quaaludcs. I knew that because David kept on saying how good the pills were and how high he was in just a short period of time.”
With Linda listening from the closet, the two men began to argue over the drugs. “David told the guy he had left his wallet and that he would be right back. When David returned, he brought in with him a pipe, like one you would find toilet paper rolls on in a bathroom at the beach. David threatened the guy with the pipe to get the Quaaludes off him. He refused and they started fighting.”
In the ensuing struggle, Linda said she heard David scream for help and she rushed from the closet. She said she saw David on the floor, pinned down by Willis. She struggled with Willis, took the pipe away from him, and gave it back to David.
“They wrestled and David started severely beating the guy. I started yelling please stop it. David, from then on, got very, very, violent and kept on hitting the guy repeatedly. I got freaked out. David finally stopped when the guy was beaten to the point he couldn't just get up and walk away.
“David told me he was going to shower and clean up and said if the guy moved to hit him. If I didn’t then I would get some of he same. The guy moved a little and David was watching and yelled to me to hit him. I didn’t want to, but David stepped out of the shower to make sure I hit him. I struck the guy a few times. 1 didn’t want to but I had to. David made me. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there watching the poor guy bleed so badly. When David came out of the bathroom I was shaking like a leaf, telling David to look, that the guy wasn’t moving.”
Instead of calling an ambulance or contacting the police, Linda wrote, she and David left the motel and went to Mission Beach to sell the Quaalude pills. “We tried to sell some for money and did sell about ten. At about 1:00 or 1:30 a.m. we went driving around some more and David decided to go back to the room and clean it up. I was so scared and nervous I almost got sick. We returned to the room and cleaned up the wall, mirror, etc. When through with that, David decided to get rid of the body. The body was stiff and immobile, unbending. David wrapped him up in the bedspread and put him in the back seat [of the Volkswagen]. The body was smelling awful by then. We left El Cajon and got on Interstate 8 west looking for a place to dump him and did so, halfway in between College and Waring Road. We drove around some more and checked into the Pennylodge Hotel down the street.” .
Early in November, a month before his scheduled trial, David was put in a padded jail cell after he was found wearing garbage bags and a mask made from a T-shirt. He had told other inmates he was convinced his brain was going to be given to the President. David also claimed that voices warned him the CIA wanted to perform a lobotomy on him and that his attorney was not his attorney. He did not appear for a sanity hearing, however, until he had built, out of his own excrement, a doll resembling the Mr. Bill character on the Saturday Night Live TV show and had told an astonished sheriffs deputy he needed “Mr. Bill” to protect him.
Deputy District Attorney Frank Brown, a former San Diego policeman who was prosecuting the case, didn’t think David was crazy and at the sanity hearing told Judge Donald Smith, “This behavior is carefully thought out. David would rather go to Patton State Hospital than face the murder charge against him.” Two court-appointed psychiatrists agreed with Brown, but three others didn’t, one of whom told the judge that “Mr. Anderson is a very disturbed young man, out of contact with reality and extremely angry and explosive.” David was sent to Patton, in San Bernardino, fora ninety-day psychiatric evaluation. But he was returned to San Diego after a jail inmate here came forward and told police he had advised David to act crazy in order to get a transfer out of the jail.
David Anderson’s trial began on July 7, 1981. His attorney argued that the district attorney’s office did not have enough evidence to convict his client of first-degree murder. Deputy District Attorney Brown’s narrative to the jury, much of it based on Linda’s confession, was more persuasive, however, and the jury seemed to reach a decision quickly.
Eleven of the jurors were adamant for conviction on the murder charge and conspiracy to commit robbery. But the twelfth juror, Benny Valdez, a public utility employee in his late twenties, refused to state any opinion about the case. According to jurors’ accounts published in the El Cajon Daily Californian, Valdez spent his time drawing pictures and launching paper airplanes in the jury room. “He made up his mind and his macho ego couldn’t let him back down,” the jury’s foreman told the Californian. Without a unanimous vote, no verdict could be delivered.
A second trial was scheduled to begin two months later, but in the interim David was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in an effort to save county taxpayers the estimated $30,000 it would cost for retrial.
Before Linda’s trial began, prosecutor Frank Brown had considered a deal: in exchange for her testimony against her husband, she would be allowed to plead guilty to a single charge of second-degree murder. “Linda had a clear record, and that was like money in the bank,” Brown said later. “The one I wanted was David. He had a long history of violence. I thought that Linda just got drawn in.” Linda, however, refused to testify against David and the district attorney’s plan was never formally considered. “I felt it was unfortunate,” Brown said, “that Linda was so in love with the guy that she would risk an extra ten years in prison. Even after what’s happened, I think she still loves him.”
Linda received assurances from her court-appointed attorney that she had an excellent chance of escaping the first-degree murder charge and that she would likely be convicted of manslaughter, which would bring as little as two to five years in prison. Her trial began with her attorney telling the jury that she would testify that her husband ordered her to help kill Jeremiah Willis. “She was under the threat of death herself and that’s why she did it,” Linda’s attorney said. “David Anderson is extremely dangerous, clever, and extremely manipulative. She loved him and is afraid of him. She’s the perfect pawn.”
But when Linda took the witness stand, she admitted that she had in fact hit Willis with the metal pipe (“only twice”) while helping her husband, and that she didn't honestly know whether David would have harmed her if she hadn’t cooperated. The jury took just four and a half hours before finding Linda guilty of first-degree murder. After the trial, the jury foreman said of Linda: “She never would say she was afraid for her life. It looked like she was still trying to protect David.”
By terms of the plea-bargaining agreement, David Anderson will spend twenty-two years to life in prison. His wife Linda was sentenced to twenty-seven years to life.
Jody Wright: “I couldn’t believe the jury found her guilty. I was sure she'd get manslaughter. For two weeks after that I couldn’t talk to anyone about Linda. I would start talking about the trial and just start to cry.”
Paul Wright: ”I was still in Israel when Linda was sentenced. I couldn’t talk to anyone about her. I couldn’t sleep more than three hours a night. I kept asking myself what the hell went wrong. I still wonder. I can’t say Linda shouldn’t be punished for what happened, but she didn’t deserve what she got. The judge said Linda’s size and weight made her the dominant one in the marriage, but that is just a bunch of bull. Linda could defend herself, but when she was scared, she was scared; and she was scared of David.”
Linda (from prison): “It took a long time for David to open up and talk to me. We could sit down for hours and talk, talk about little things, enjoy walks on the street or on the beach. David made me feel like I was in high school again — carefree, no worries.
“We used to go to a beach in Venice and horseplay in the ocean, splash around like kids. We watched the roller-skaters and these people who flew homemade kites. Sometimes we bought fresh fruit from this peddler or just sat on the beach and drank a cold beer. Then we would kick back and look at each other. We didn’t have to say anything. We knew we were both happy.” □