Police didn't catch up with Anderson for another two months: They found him hiding under a blanket at his girlfriend's apartment. Anderson told detectives his car was stolen and filled out a four-page statement asserting that. But once he returned to the interrogation, the cops threatened to charge his girlfriend with hindering their investigation. Anderson crumbled.

"I was there when the robbery took place," he wrote in a new statement. "There was a BB gun being used that was provided by Jay Harris."

He told police that they were tooling around St. Charles in Anderson's car when Harris noticed bank customers making night deposits. Anderson insisted it was Harris' idea to pull over and rob a man they saw about to drop off his cash. Anderson said Harris pointed the BB gun. When the Burger King manager moved like he was going into his car for a weapon, Anderson says, he pointed his hand at him as if it were a gun and pulled his Rams sweatshirt up over his face. After they drove off, he ditched the car and called his girlfriend to come pick them up.

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Illustration by Kelly Brother
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"I take full responsibility for my actions and my involvement in this crime," he wrote.

In the months that followed, though, Anderson began having second thoughts about his confession.

Anderson's father, Cornealious Anderson II, admits that his son was a rebellious teenager: "He did get into some trouble."

Anderson's parents split up when he was still quite young. As a teen in the late '90s, Anderson moved in with his father in California and began testing boundaries. He hated homework and rejected the notion of going to college, though he did show an aptitude for working with his hands, especially on old cars.

Young Cornealious also developed a taste for partying. One night of heavy drinking ended with Anderson and a group of buddies stealing a car. That earned him a trip to a boot-camp-style school in Nevada as one of the terms of his juvenile probation.

"After he came out of that I thought he'd turn it all around," says Anderson's father.

It was also during this time that Cornealious became close with Laron Harris, his father's girlfriend's son from a previous relationship. The boys were only three years apart and developed a friendship that lasted even after Cornealious' father and Harris' mother broke up. Although they were not related by blood, the two referred to each other as "brother." Family friends would later tell police they thought Harris was a "bad influence."

After he graduated high school in 1998, Cornealious moved back to the St. Louis area to live with his mother and stepfather in Valley Park. He worked at an AT&T call center and eventually moved into his own apartment in Maplewood. In the summer of 1999 friends recalled that Anderson was excited because his "brother" was coming from San Diego to visit.

Harris never admitted his role in the robbery the two committed that summer. Instead he chose to plead out and was sentenced to ten years in prison. (Attempts to locate Harris were unsuccessful.)

Anderson took another tack. He believed that by cooperating with the investigation he would get a year or two of probation. But as his attorney moved toward a plea deal, it became clear he would receive a minimum of ten years. In February 2000, Anderson called the lead St. Charles detective who handled the investigation.

"Anderson stated he was upset because his attorney told him that he and the prosecutor said that if he kept his mouth shut and played stupid like his brother is doing now, he wouldn't be where he is today," wrote the detective in a subsequent report. "Anderson stated he got caught up in the wrong place, the wrong time, with the wrong person."

Against the advice of the private attorney he hired, Anderson went ahead with a jury trial in March 2000. From the start, it was a disaster for him. While searching the Maplewood apartment Anderson occupied at the time of the robbery, police found a letter-size, glossy advertisement for Beretta semiautomatic pistols. St. Charles prosecutor James Gregory used the gun brochure as evidence that Anderson owned and used a gun in the robbery, even though police never recovered any weapons. When Anderson testified in his own defense, Gregory hammered him.

Gregory: Did you think Laron was going to shoot you?

Anderson: No, I did not think he was going to shoot me, sir.

Gregory: You all planned this robbery, didn't you?

Anderson: No, sir.

Gregory: You came all the way over from...St. Louis because you knew that area... you knew about, that they make night deposits, and that's a common thing that happens in California is robbing night deposits, isn't it?

Anderson: No.

In Gregory's closing argument, he called Anderson a gang member.

"You can't sleep, walk down the street without being mugged, or something? It's people like him out there," he told the jury. "He would rather party than work. And how do people live like that that don't have enough ambition to keep a job and work like we do? They get it by stealing."

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