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Katherine Olson Trial

Katherine Olson TrialCraigslist killer sentenced to life in prison for murder of Katherine Olson.

Michael John Anderson was convicted on Tuesday, then sentenced on Wednesday, for the premeditated murder of Katherine Olson.

The Associated Press is reporting that Michael John Anderson, who, in the fall of 2007, was arrested on charges of placing a phony Craigslist ad for the sole purpose of murdering its respondent, has been sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree premeditated murder of Katherine Olson.

Olson was a recent college graduate of St. Olaf College (the alma mater of this writer) at the time of her death.

Additionally, the judge in the trial ordered Anderson to pay Katherine Olson’s family $6,500 from his prison wages to reimburse her funeral expenses.

Anderson, now 20, has no possibility of parole for his role in the shooting death of Olson, 24.

In the media, Anderson was dubbed the “Craigslist Killer,” due to his using the popular free classifieds service as a means to commit his crime.

During Anderson’s trial for Olson’s murder, the duration of which was a week, prosecutors argued that Anderson deliberately placed the ad, posing as a couple who recently relocated to the Twin Cities seeking a nanny, in order to experience what it might feel like to commit homicide.

By contrast, the defense argued that the shooting was accidental in nature. Anderson’s attorneys now plan to appeal his sentencing, due to allegedly not being allowed to present evidence that Anderson has Asperger’s syndrome.

Attorneys on Anderson’s behalf additionally argued that that the disorder led Anderson to place the ad to seek romance, and then to accidentally shooting Olson when his plans went awry.

Prosecutors ridiculed this assertion by countering that Anderson himself never offered this explanation of the events, and pointing to the testimony of Anderson’s jail inmate, who stated that Anderson told him that he wanted to feel what it was like to kill.

In October 2007, Anderson was arrested for the murder of Olson after police found her body in the back of her car. In addition to finding Olson’s purse in a trash can in Savage, MN, where Anderson resided at the time, police also found a trash bag with a blood-soaked towel inside.

From there, those clues were able to lead police to Anderson.

After the verdict was read, Olson’s family immediately embraced one another. Though they gave no immediate comment to papers--including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune--after the verdict was read, Olson’s father, a Lutheran minister told The Today Show on Thursday that the trial constituted a “last of of parenting,” and that the tenet of forgiveness was helping him cope with the trial and his daughter Katherine’s death.

Olson told the Today Show that “In the New Testament the word ‘forgive’ means to cut loose or release. That’s what we’re trying to do with Mr. Anderson and his influence on our family. He’s had such a negative power in our lives, that we’re attempting to cut that free, to let it go, to release it so we can get on with the vital, loving lives that we want.”

A benefit concert for Katherine Olson will be held at St. Olaf College on May 3rd.

Our Take

It’s easy to condemn the media for focusing on sensationalistic stories--particularly when it comes to Craigslist, which is having some kind of run of bad publicity this month.

Furthermore, Katherine Olson’s father said that she had used Craigslist before to successfully find nanny jobs--in Turkey, no less.

And that’s part of what makes this case so utterly senseless.

This could have been any one of us, as we all used Craigslist for a wide variety of (hopefully) legal reasons. Just this past week, my fiancee and I picked up a new desk through the service.

Additionally, Olson attended St. Olaf College around the same time that I did. She was in the St. Olaf Choir around the same time I was in the Orchestra, and she was there for the tour that both ensembles took of Norway (though I never met Katherine).

That connection makes this case feel all the more surreal.

For better or worse, St. Olaf College preaches community as a value, and practices it by being a tight-knit Liberal arts school. Katherine’s death sent a shockwave through that community, even for those who never had met Olson.

With the sentencing of Anderson, one can only hope that the Olson family can start their long healing process, and that St. Olaf college will be there to help.

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