By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In July 2008, the sides arranged their first face-to-face sit-down. Buckmaster, along with two Craigslist attorneys, made the cross-country trek to Rye, New York, just beyond the Connecticut border, halfway between Hartford and New York City. They met Blumenthal and a few of his subordinates in a coffee shop and, over the course of a few hours, hashed out an agreement.
Under the accord, Craigslist began asking advertisers to provide valid identification, in addition to charging Erotic Services advertisers a nominal credit-card fee ($5 to $10) per ad, enabling the company to confirm users’ identities and establish a digital fingerprint. Craigslist also vowed to donate all profits from the sex category to various charities, particularly those that address child exploitation and human trafficking.
The agreement, honed and refined throughout fall 2008, was made public in November. A total of 40 attorneys general endorsed the deal, including those from Tennessee, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona (notable exceptions include Florida, Texas, California, Missouri, Minnesota and New York).
Craigslist CEO Buckmaster says the company is doing its best to comply with the attorney general’s concerns.
“There are far more — and far more graphic — images on all of the general-purpose Internet portals and general-purpose search engines than anyone is ever going to find on Craigslist,” says Buckmaster. “That said, we aren’t comfortable with any pornographic images being posted on Craigslist, and we’re committed to eliminating that.”
Inside the Scott County courtroom, the parents of Katherine Olson sat across the aisle from the parents of Michael Anderson as though they were in a wedding they never wanted. Surrounding them were more Olson family members, friends, parishioners from Rolf’s church, and law enforcement personnel involved with the case. The 40-seat gallery was filled to capacity.
Michael Anderson entered the courtroom in a blue suit and kept to himself as his attorney, Alan Margoles, detailed his sex life.
“Remember,” said Margoles, “Michael Anderson was a dumb kid. He had no girlfriend, never dated, never went to a high school dance, and never held a girl’s hand.”
Margoles wanted to show that his client lured Katherine to the home in Savage for sex, and not, as prosecutors put forth, with the intention to kill.
The opening day saw Nancy Olson take the stand to tell the jury about the final time she saw her daughter. It was when Katherine was singing in church choir.
Prosecutors asked when she saw her daughter next.
“The next time I saw her she was in a casket at Morris Nilsen Funeral Home,” Nancy said. “And she was cold and smelled like chemicals.”
The next day, Barbara Anderson took the stand to talk about her son. The soft-spoken mother wore her hair parted in the center, and politely detailed how, on the day of the murder, Michael had come home from work just like any other day. “That’s just Michael,” Barbara would say later. “He never really talked unless he had a fun time off-roading in his truck.”
Prior to the hearing, Craigslist had helped law enforcement by assembling a 127-page dossier on Michael Anderson’s use of the Web site. The company also dispatched Clint Powell to take the stand. The customer-service manager was familiar with the technical workings of Craigslist.
Powell told the courtroom how Anderson first used Craigslist as a way to find ice-fishing gear, truck parts and collectible plates with misspelled words like “Star Terk.” This pattern changed in October, as Anderson started trolling for women. Powell read various postings made by Anderson. One said, “Looks and size don’t mean a lot to me. I’m not little man, but I’m not huge either.” Another read, “Looking for fresh faces for a new video and Web site...new talent only. Also need 18-plus virgin willing to be in a video.”
The entire time, Anderson sat motionless, staring straight ahead.
“I don’t think he made eye contact with a single person the entire trial,” says Margoles. “He was the quietest defendant I’ve ever had.”
On day five of the trial, Anderson’s former cellmate, Gregory Wikan, took the stand. He told the jury how Anderson had boasted about being known as the “Craigslist Killer.”
Again, Anderson stared straight ahead, refusing to make eye contact.
The final day of testimony saw Detective Laura Kvasnicka take the stand as the last witness. She detailed the life Anderson led online, including multiple attempts to lure women to his home. He looked for no-strings-attached hook-ups, posting one such advertisement just hours before killing Katherine.