An oversight allowed a convicted man to walk free for thirteen years. Now the justice system wants to restart the clock.

An oversight allowed a convicted man to walk free for thirteen years. Now the justice system wants to restart the clock.
Courtesy LaQonna Anderson
Cornealious “Mike” Anderson on his wedding day in 2008, six years after he was supposed to have retuned to prison.

UPDATE: After a series of motions filed by his new legal team, a Mississippi County judge freed Cornealious Michael Anderson III on May 5, 2014. The judge counted the thirteen years Anderson was improperly free as "time served" and released him immediately. The Riverfront Times reported in February 2014 that the victim in the 1999 robbery forgave Anderson, a fact that was shared with the court. Anderson and his wife LaQonna walked out of the courthouse together and returned to their home in Webster Groves to be reunited with his children. This story was also turned into a segment for This American Life in February 2014.

Just after dawn on July 25, a phalanx of vehicles parked and blocked traffic on a quiet residential street in Webster Groves. Moments later a team of U.S. marshals piled out, pounded on the door of an unremarkable-looking suburban home and rousted Cornealious "Mike" Anderson from inside.

"You've got the wrong guy," blurted the 36-year-old contractor as the marshals, outfitted in tactical gear and helmets, swept his two-story home. The only person inside was two-year-old Nevaeh, Anderson's youngest daughter, asleep in her crib in the master bedroom. A marshal lifted her out, confused and crying, and carried her downstairs.

By now Anderson — still dressed in his pajamas and handcuffed on the front porch — was in a cold sweat. He warned one of the officers he might pass out. With no one else inside to take the little girl, the marshals allowed Anderson to dial his mother-in-law who lived just down the block. She arrived minutes later with Anderson's six-year-old son, Jorden, who had just awoken from a sleepover with his cousins.

The marshals handed over Nevaeh to her grandmother, and Jorden watched the marshals lead his tearful father away.

As officials were still sorting out where to take Anderson, one of the marshal's cell phones began ringing repeatedly. It was Anderson's wife, LaQonna, who'd been alerted of the arrest while away on a business trip in Oklahoma City. The marshal allowed Anderson a few moments to fill her in.

"Baby, I'm sorry," he told her. "This is something from thirteen years ago. I thought that this was over."

A few hours later Anderson arrived at Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center, a facility 100 miles west of St. Louis that accepts new inmates and sorts them for their eventual permanent homes within the Missouri Department of Corrections. He's been there ever since.

As he sits in the prison's linoleum-floored visitors center, Anderson chokes up recalling what his children saw that morning seven weeks ago.

"I just tell 'em, 'I just got some business to take care of. I'll be home soon,'" he says. "I had to talk to my son. Once they arrested me, his eyes, the look of hatred. Kids don't know what hate is, but if a kid knew what hate was, he knew what it was that day."

For more than a decade, Anderson was supposed to have been in a Missouri prison cell. Instead, through some kind of massive procedural screwup, he was out walking among us. Finding him would have been a trivially easy task for police: He was possibly the worst fugitive of all time. He didn't change his name. He didn't leave town. In fact, his address is just two blocks away from the last one the court system had for him. It is where he built his house from the ground up — the home with the granite countertops and the trampoline out back. He registered his contracting business with the secretary of state to that address.

See also: Cornealious Anderson: How Did Missouri Let Convicted Man Walk Free for 13 Years?

But until this summer the Missouri criminal-justice system seems to have simply forgotten about him, thirteen years after he was sentenced for his role in an armed robbery in St. Charles. Since that time Anderson has not gotten so much as a speeding ticket.

"Wow. That's insane," says St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar when he first hears the story. Asked if he has ever heard of anything like it, he says, "Never."

Regardless of the mistake, the DOC now says Anderson still owes time. To his friends and family, Anderson is an ideal father, church member and football coach, and he bears no resemblance to the 22-year-old who was convicted so many years ago. They say he belongs at home.

No one, not Anderson's attorneys nor several legal experts contacted by the Riverfront Times, is quite sure what Anderson's options are, or even if he has any.

"I don't have any clue what happens now," says Michael Wolff, dean of the Saint Louis University School of Law and former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. "I can see that a person wouldn't want to call up and say, 'Remember me? I owe you thirteen years.' And then the real question is: Should we take into account the fact that he apparently has been a good citizen?"


LaQonna Anderson says she knew very little about her husband's past crime until now. A soft-spoken 29-year-old with high cheekbones, she could pass for an even younger woman were the skin under her eyes not ringed with worry. She's not been sleeping or eating properly and has begun to lose weight. Little wonder: She's a suddenly single mother of four with a full-time job as a hotel manager during the day.

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39 comments
Xfacto
Xfacto

I feel sorry for his family but not for this POS. While he was on the lamb, did he bother to check on his victims to see how they were handling the fact that he was hiding from justice? Maybe I miss that part.

hubbabubba8890
hubbabubba8890

Prison was never intended to be a punishment. It was intended to keep dangerous criminals off of the streets until they were no longer a danger to society. This man clearly has proved that he is no longer a danger to society. Therefore, there is no need to put him in prison.

Careers123
Careers123

This was the Justice system's fault.  This man has turned his life around.   He was young and stupid.  Even the victim said to let him go.  Give him a second chance! 

kravers13
kravers13

Yet HSB and its managers and CEOs, which laundered money for drug cartels, is too big to prosecute for its known crimes. It's a fool who looks for justice in these cynical times.

Thornquist
Thornquist

If the point of our judicial system is to serve "justice," then the only way to serve that interest in this case is to allow this man to return to his life, his family, his work, and everything else that defines his existence now, 13 years after he erred.  If this sets a new precedent, so be it.  That would be a good precedent to set, since it would set a standard for what constitutes gross negligence on the part of the government versus what harm would result from a clearly obscene level of nonsensical retribution for a crime.  An opinion can be written to establish the bounds of this standard, but certainly any other result in this case would not be "justice".

Larry
Larry

JerQuan?  What is a JerQuan, a hero from the Pre-Civil War era?   Perhaps an amalgamation of different words words describing his father's gangster behavior?  This kid is almost destined to be in the Womens' bathroom at Meramec College in a couple of years........

warlordsworld
warlordsworld

If he's looking for "sympathy..". he will find it in the dictionary about half way between "shit" and "syphilis..."

carol.gilster
carol.gilster

The system can break down and allow the individual not be be persued.  So he leads a normal and honest life.  Then, when the break down is discovered, it takes him back to when the incident occurred.  As if he lived in limbo all that time.   But, he did not.  He lived an honest, god fearing, loving family life with an established business he ran in a dedicated way.

When will it be allowed that REASON can be introduced into the system?  Why break up the life of this man and his family?  His business, income, family and community will suffer if that happens.  Should taxpayers now support him for years and diminish the lives of his family and him?  Surely many community members will vouch for him.  Why not parole him to the community for a few years and let him continue to support his family?  What is the point of incarceration?  We say it is to make people behave better but it seems to be purely vindictive if a person in this man's situation is sent to prison.  ???????????

rrruby7
rrruby7

Nixon should do the right thing and let him out. He belongs with his family, not in prison. He had some inept lawyers. He was not properly represented. I am also a resident of Webster Groves. I am glad to have a neighbor like him.

Tim Garner
Tim Garner

Yes he did the crime Idc if the govt screwed up a CRIMINAL should not b allowed to walk free bc of it

Kevin Rotellini
Kevin Rotellini

re-sentence him give him 20 years probation with 13 year sentence to be imposed if he violates probation. It's a win-win for everyone let him be with his family and gives state piece of mind in case he does screw up

Jacinda Santora
Jacinda Santora

Sounds like 13 years of living an honest life have done more for rehabilitation than the prison system would have.

Brian Brown
Brian Brown

Once they let you out , that's it . Your mistake

ted148
ted148

@warlordsworld You are a typical brain-dead teabagger/troll -without a shred decency or common sense - how does depriving his wife and family  of a taxpaying, law-abiding father, at the cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars serve the greater good?  Now mind you dumb dumb, that the man who was robbed has forgiven him, yet somehow you sitting in your easy chair, passing judgement and stuffing your fat-ass face with potato chips, think he needs to rot for 13 years.  You sir, are a douche of magnificent proportions.


imastar7
imastar7

@carol.gilster Because you will set an example if the system screws up or you remain at large and live a FORCED good life then somehow you get a free pass

suetoo
suetoo

Better call Saul

Thornquist
Thornquist

The victim is on record saying he believes the man ought to be free.  So that ends that, since no once else has the right to speak for the victim.

mplo
mplo

Quite frankly, if I'd heard that a neighbor of mine had been charged with armed robbery , no matter how long ago that was, and then not put into prison due to a clerical error or technicality, I would more than likely not trust  him, because  there's  no telling what else a guy like that might do somewhere  along the line, no matter what kind of an honest life he was living.

gwpurdy
gwpurdy

@ted148 Google his "sympathy" quote and you'll see he can't even come up with his own saying but one from "Major Pain." which others have used from the count I get. I guess this moron wants to spend $32,000 for the next 13 years on a person who did MORE for himself that the judicial and prison system ever would! Please pull the cash out of your arse and make those payments for the rest of us warofhatever!

Lets count them:
-Worked and paid taxes
-Coached or should I say like above VOLLENTEERED his time to coach, 

-Started a business EMPLOYING how many?? Wwhich BTW is MORE TAXES coming into the system because OF Mr. Anderson
-He PAID HIS OWN business taxes into the system
-Was very active in his church
What else do we NOT know which is really non of our busness!
What have YOU done War? Come on slick. You posted something copied from a movie which tells us you might be one of those welfare suckers on the system or completely oblivious to the cost to your wallet to put what many of us consider a completely REHABILITATED criminal by doing MORE than most of the whole paroled prisoners in America and you are posting crap from a movie? Go pay his taxes for him! He probably has done MORE in the past 13 years than you have!

And those are what we do know about Mr Anderson. You want to take away incoming taxes and PAY MORE OUT to feed him, clothe him, shelter him, pay for his ACA which a president forced down our throats and now criminals get it for FREE which is completely unnecessary as they get all that IN prison so why add costs to US?

Please think before posting War

Careers123
Careers123

Wow... Couldn't have said it better!

ted148
ted148

@imastar7 @carol.gilster   You are a typical brain-dead teabagger/troll -without a shred decency or common sense - how does depriving his wife and family  of a taxpaying, law-abiding father, at the cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars serve the greater good?  

Thornquist
Thornquist

@imastar7 @carol.gilster  No free pass argument is persuasive, given the 13 years of anguish this man must have been weighed down with, given the harm inflicted on his wife and children on watching this travesty unfold, given what will no doubt be his changed image in the community upon his release, all of which constitute a part of the "punishment" aspect of our judicial system.  As for the "rehabilitative" aspect of the system, the facts suggest they have been successfully achieved, and in a spectacular way (which is not likely a result the system would have even marginally achieved had this man served his sentence in prison, at great public cost).  The system needs to allow for some measure of common sense.

carol.gilster
carol.gilster

@imastar7 @carol.gilster Hi, I take positive results wherever I can find them.  Perhaps living a "forced" good life outside prison walls bears more positive weight than forced good living inside prison where one has little choice as to how one lives?

gwpurdy
gwpurdy

@ted148Google his "sympathy" quote and you'll see he can't even come up with his own saying but one from "Major Pain." which others have used from the count I get. I guess this moron wants to spend $32,000 for the next 13 years on a person who did MORE for himself than the judicial and prison system ever would! Please pull the cash out of your six and make those payments for the rest of us warofhatever!

Lets count them:
-Worked and paid taxes
-Coached or should I say like above VOLLENTEERED his time to coach.

-Started a business EMPLOYING how many?? Which BTW is MORE TAXES coming into the system because OF Mr. Anderson
-He PAID HIS OWN business taxes into the system
-Was very active in his church
-What else do we NOT know which is really non of our business!

What have YOU done War? Come on slick. You posted something copied from a movie which tells us you might be one of those welfare suckers on the system or completely oblivious to the cost to your wallet to put what many of us consider a completely REHABILITATED criminal by doing MORE than most of the whole paroled prisoners in America do, and you are posting crap from a movie?

Go pay his taxes for him! He probably has done MORE in the past 13 years than you have!

And those are what we do know about Mr Anderson. You want to take away incoming taxes, employed people in his area, and PAY MORE OUT to feed him, clothe him, shelter him, pay for his ACA which a president forced down our throats and now criminals get it for FREE which is completely unnecessary as they get all that IN prison so why add costs to US?

Please think before posting War

tdwilliams99999
tdwilliams99999

@imastar7 I agree with ted - thanks for making his point dumb dumb - enjoy your trailer park 

Careers123
Careers123

I agree.  Let the man be free.  he changed his whold life.  Give him credit for that.  He was young and stupid.  Even the victim said to let him go! 

carol.gilster
carol.gilster

@imastar7This man could have easily broken the law many times because he was not imprisoned.  He did not.  Had he been in prison, his opportunity to break the law would have been very limited.  Therefore, he has proven his ability to be a good, lawabiding citizen.
Is prison to make people behave better or to punish people?  He now behaves better already.  so the question becomes should he now be punished?  If so, also punished will be his family and we, the taxpayers, who will have to support him during his imprisonment.
And, it is not necessary to make demeaning comments in a discussion.  It tends to draw attention away from the actual discussion.

carol.gilster
carol.gilster

This man could have easily broken the law many times because he was not imprisoned.  He did not.  Had he been in prison, his opportunity to break the law would have been very limited.  Therefore, he has proven his ability to be a good, lawabiding citizen.

Is prison to make people behave better or to punish people?  He now behaves better already.  so the question becomes should he now be punished?  If so, also punished will be his family and we, the taxpayers, who will have to support him during his imprisonment.

And, it is not necessary to make demeaning comments in a discussion.  It tends to draw attention away from the actual discussion.

imastar7
imastar7

@carol.gilster @imastar7 When you wake up you may realize what you just said is prison on BOTH counts... AND NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CRIME....
 

 
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