Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda: The End’ depicts one of the final cases of celebrated homicide detective Joe Kenda as he recalled one of his most challenging cases — a triple murder scene in a Colorado Spring trailer park in August 1989. The investigators were eventually shocked when they discovered the bizarre reason for which Scott Anderson shot his wife and infant son. If you’re interested in finding out more about the case, here’s what we know.
How Did Cynthia and Scotty Anderson Die?
On August 30, 1989, the Colorado Police Department received a call from the Shangri-la Mobile Home Park, a pleasant and well-kept trailer park. When the officers entered the apartment, they found the trailer was hot and stuffy, with flies all over the place attracted to blood. They found a woman in her 30s sitting on the floor in the kitchen. She was wearing a halter top and a pair of shorts, and judging by her rigor mortis looked like she had been dead for more than 12 hours. The investigators discovered a driving license on her and identified her as Cynthia Anderson.
Cynthia, 32, was propped up against the fridge in an awkward position, indicating she did not expect to be shot or see her killer. The detectives entered the bedroom to find a Caucasian male in his mid-30s lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to his right temple. He had a Jennings .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol by his side. The weapon was cocked and looked ready to fire. He was identified as Cynthia’s 34-year-old husband, Scott Anderson. However, the most tragic discovery was her 5-year-old son lying dead on the bed, clutching a stuffed animal.
Scotty Anderson had two entry/exit gunshot wounds to the side of his head and had bled out because of the angle of the bed. He was still in his pajamas. The investigators surveyed the trailer for more clues to discover it seemed bare, with nothing except for a Bible, some dirty cutlery in the kitchen sink, and Cynthia’s purse lying on the kitchen counter. The emergency respondents reported to the homicide detectives they had gone through the drawers and cupboards to find only a wallet without any cash or valuables.
Based on the evidence, the investigators initially thought it was a burglary or home invasion gone awry. However, they could not find evidence of a break-in or forced entry, and all the doors and windows seemed secure. The forensics team at the crime scene positively identified the Jennings .22 caliber as the murder weapon used in the three shootouts. According to the episode, the detectives began operating on the initial hypothesis that Scott had flipped and turned on his family, shooting his wife and child dead, before turning the gun on himself.
Why Did Scott Anderson Kill His Family?
The detectives interviewed Mark Brown, the trailer’s owner, who had reported the crime to the authorities. Based on the distressed individual’s testimony, he and his wife, Jenny, were close with the Anderson family. The tenants were supposed to move out the following day, and the landlord couple had gone over to help them pack boxes for the move. Despite repeated knocks, the Browns got no answer until Mark turned the doorknob to find it was open. He entered the trailer to find Cynthia lying dead on the kitchen floor.
The panicked landlord rushed to a neighbor’s residence and called 911 before sending his devasted wife home. However, the police’s initial hypothesis of a murder-suicide hit a roadblock when one of the neighbors, Cheryl Wright, reported hearing the gunshots around 11:00 pm followed by the sound of a car driving off. Her testimony jeopardized the murder-suicide solution by placing another individual — possibly the perpetrator — at the crime scene. The police looked into the deceased couple’s background to learn they had family all over Wisconsin.
While running a background check on the Andersons, the investigators discovered they owned a home together on Manitoba Drive, about a 30 to 40-mile drive from the Shangri-la Mobile Home Park. The officers interviewed John Howell, a business partner of Scott Anderson. He owned a commercial window-washing business and told the officers the Andersons were devout Christians who went to church every Sunday. John painted Scott as a righteous and religious family man who loved his wife and son.
John recalled Scott met Cynthia in Wisconsin, with the latter far along in her pregnancy. Scotty’s biological father had deserted Cynthia, and Scott raised the infant and even named the baby after him. He and Cynthia married and moved to Colorado Springs in the mid-1980s. However, John provided them with critical information when he told the officers Scott did not reside with Cynthia and the baby in the trailer home. Scott had allegedly told him she moved away after a fight, but the situation was under control, and she was ready to move back in.
John told the officers he did not know anything about Scott having any extramarital affair and defended his partner by mentioning his good Christian values. The episode also stated how Scott had convinced his estranged wife and child to move back with him and had been renovating the Manitoba Drive house for them. However, the detectives felt John did not have a clear picture or much inside information about Anderson’s marriage. They scheduled an interview with a critical witness – the landlord’s wife, Jenny Brown.
The investigators interviewed Jenny to learn the Browns had met the Andersons in a cult-like church group. She claimed she and her husband found the teaching to be too unorthodox, and they left the church. However, Scott was allegedly so devoted to the group that he began donating all money to the congregation to the point where his family struggled to make ends meet. Over time, Scott became more of a religious fanatic and began abusing Cynthia and their infant son, using the Bible as an excuse.
Jenny told the officers how Scott had allegedly hit Cynthia once so hard that he knocked some teeth out. She finally decided to leave him and moved into the Browns’ trailer. However, Scott tracked her down and forced her to return to him with their child. The officers also went through the Bible retrieved from the trailer to find a threatening note stuck inside between some pages. Eventually, the medical examiner ruled the crime as a double murder-suicide with one tragic twist — Cynthia was pregnant at the time of her slaying.