NBC’s ‘True Crime Story: Citizen Detective: Lisa’ features Nina Anderson’s murder in late February 1973 in a remote cabin in Fort Collins, Colorado. While the authorities initially ruled the death as “an accident,” Nina’s daughter picked up the investigation over two decades later. She doggedly pursued her probe until she forced the police to reconsider their stance and eventually apprehend the killer three decades after the heinous crime. The episode features an in-depth interview with Lisa and how she solved the murder around 30 years later.
How Did Nina Anderson Die?
Carmina “Nina” Ilch Anderson was born in Berkeley in Alameda County, California, on August 14, 1930. Her daughter, Lisa Cappeli Coppel, recounted how Nina “always searched for love but never quite found the right person. She had several marriages, resulting in seven kids, but eventually, it was just her and her two daughters — Lisa and Paula Capelli. According to the show, Nina moved into an eight-foot-wide by twenty-four-foot-long mobile home in Stratton Park, Colorado. Lisa recalled, “Where we lived was rural, rustic, and off the grid.”
In 1972, Nina spotted a pickup truck across a field and noticed a man named Charles “Chuck” LeRoy Anderson. Nina and Chuck had a whirlwind romance before tying the knot on February 12, 1973. They were only married for nine days, but Lisa claimed he was a bad influence on her mother. She recalled, “They drank a lot during the week, the weekends, and nothing else mattered.” On February 21, the Andersons returned to the cabin “pretty drunk” and started arguing bitterly. Lisa, then 10, recounted hearing the heated fight as she lay in her bunk.
The daughter recalled falling asleep when things seemed quiet in her parents’ room. She was awakened by some neighbors a little while later as they hurriedly rushed her and her late sister outside. She remembered seeing a body covered in a white sheet inside the hallway, which she later discovered belonged to her mother. While being rushed to the hospital with an injured Chuck beside, Lisa recounted hearing about a 42-year-old woman being shot in the head over the radio. When she and her sister arrived, they learned their mom was the victim.
Who Killed Nina Anderson?
Police reports later showed Chuck had suffered a non-fatal .22-caliber bullet wound to his right hand. According to him, she and Nina were showing their .22-caliber H&R revolver when she got startled, flipped the gun in the air, and accidentally shot herself in the head. Lisa recalled Chuck telling her at the funeral that he did not kill her mother, claiming it was an accident. Nina’s death was ruled an accident, and her belongings, including her livestock, were taken to probate. Lisa and Paula became orphans and wards of the court.
However, Lisa could not forget the incident that changed her life, and she took up the case after receiving a letter from her biological father questioning the manner of Nina’s death. She garnered copies of the 1973 Sheriff’s report in December 1994. She studied a list of all witnesses, investigative officers, sheriff’s deputies, the medical examiner, and others involved in the probe over two decades ago. The first discrepancy she noted was the coroner had done two autopsies, with the second autopsy’s finding being vastly different than the first one.
She went through the records to find the coroner in the first autopsy had stated the angle at which the bullet pierced through the skull made it highly improbable that Nina had shot herself, albeit accidentally. However, a board of experts ruled the angle was not necessary to determine the death’s outcome in the second autopsy. With it being the final nail in the coffin, the authorities closed the investigation, terming it as an accident. It would have remained the same until Lisa came around looking over two decades later.
To look further into the autopsy discrepancies, Lisa visited the coroner’s office but could not find any further records. Suspecting a cover-up, the luckless daughter stopped at the Old Chicago bar for a drink and stumbled across Dianne Fairma, the retired Chief Coroner of Larimer County. She worked as a bartender and offered to help Lisa after hearing about her investigation. Based on her recommendation, the erstwhile Larimer County Chief Coroner contacted Lisa and presented her with the reports of her mother’s second autopsy.
Based on the details of the second autopsy, Lisa contacted a medical investigator who drew the bullet’s probable pathway and helped her find more discrepancies. She recalled on the show how the investigators pointed her to the powder burns on Nina’s scalp, which proved the weapon was fired within two inches of her head. This discovery ruled out the possibility of a suicide. Lisa eventually found other disparities, including the severed phone cord and inconclusive trace results on her mom.
Lisa’s dogged investigation ultimately proved successful when the erstwhile Larimer County coroner changed the official cause of Nina’s death from “accidental” to “suspicious for homicide” in 1996. Even after that, she alleged how the authorities showed no interest until a 2002 newspaper report regarding her determination to find her mom’s killer forced the Sheriff’s Office to re-open the investigation. One of the investigators, Captain Robert Coleman, added, “The firearm had since been destroyed because it was ruled an accident.”
He stated, “There was no DNA, just reports of what the deputy saw. There was a drawing of the crime scene that wasn’t to scale.” However, the detectives had a significant breakthrough when they stumbled upon Chuck’s medical records of his treatment for the gunshot wound on his hand in 1973. The documents mentioned traces of powder burns, thus contradicting his claims that he was six feet away when Nina fired the gun. The deputies felt confident they had gathered enough evidence to interview Chuck in early 2003.
Where is Charles Anderson Now?
When confronted with the inconsistencies in his testimony, Chuck eventually confessed. He claimed he had proved the gun from Nina’s hand before putting it to her head and firing from a close range. According to his confession, he shot his wife because “he couldn’t live with a woman he couldn’t trust.” Chuck, then 65, was arrested from The Villa Living Center’s assisted living home in Greeley on March 5, 2003. Reports cited he had married twice since Nina’s death. He was charged with Nina’s murder nearly three decades after he killed her.
However, he chalked a plea argument with the prosecutors and was charged with manslaughter. Chuck was sentenced to one year owing to the statute of limitations in August 2003. Andrew Josey, a retired sergeant with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department, explained, “You have to charge under the state statutes applicable when the crime happened.”And in 1973, manslaughter had a range of one year to 10 years.” Between his arrest, plea bargain, and eventual release, he served a little over eight months. He spent most of it in the Larimer County Detention Center. He served only five weeks at the Colorado Department of Corrections Four Mile Correctional facility. He, 85, presumably resides in Arvada, Colorado after being released in March 2004.
Read More: Did Lisa Cappeli Solve Her Mother’s Three-Decade-Old Murder Mystery?