Michigan cadaver dog handler pleads guilty to federal charges
The handler of cadaver dogs who searched a Lincoln site for Native remains pleaded guilty to federal charges that she planted bones and evidence in other cases she worked.
Sandra M. Anderson, 43, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that included obstruction of justice and making false statements.
The charges carry up to 30 years in prison, but under federal sentencing guidelines Anderson likely will receive between 18 months and two years in prison. No sentencing date was set.
Anderson brought her dog, Eagle, to Lincoln in October 2001 to look for Native bones thought to have been discarded after being used for research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She said she and her dog found bone fragment remains on the East Campus.
However, "None of us really believed it," Judi Morgan gaiashkibos, executive director of Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, said last year after news reports of Anderson's arrest in the federal case. "It was too convenient. It was done to get media headlines."
Federal prosecutors said Anderson faked evidence in several cases in Michigan and Ohio. They said she planted bones in search areas and used her own body fluids to stain a saw blade, coins and a piece of cloth.
"The defendant's actions seriously undermined the ability of dedicated law enforcement officials to investigate crimes and bring those responsible to justice," prosecutor R. Alexander Acosta said in a statement.
Anderson's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment. Anderson's home telephone has been disconnected.
No one answered the phone at the Sanford-based Great Lakes Search and Rescue of Michigan K-9 Unit, the organization founded by Anderson.
Anderson and Eagle, a Doberman-German shorthair pointer mix, were invited to Panama and Bosnia to look for victims of political repression and to ground zero in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
They also were featured on TV's "Unsolved Mysteries" after helping convict Azizul Islam, 51, of murdering and dismembering his wife. Islam, a Plymouth, Mich., biochemist, filed an appeal last month, citing the Anderson charges.
Much of the evidence against Anderson stemmed from her participation in the more than 20-year-old case of a missing black woman, Cherita Thomas, believed to have been murdered in a racially motivated attack in northern Michigan.
In April 2002, Anderson reported finding bone fragments from areas of the Huron National Forest that already had been searched, and police became suspicious.
The next day, a lab technician reported seeing Anderson remove a bone from her boot and place it in the water.
She was arrested.