Two Harbors man gets 40 years in woman’s stabbing deathMegan Anderson’s family, opposed to the second-degree murder deal, made emotional statements about the crime’s devastation on their lives.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
VIRGINIA — Jesaiah Lee Carlson received a 40-year prison sentence Wednesday after admitting to murdering Megan Ashley Anderson while she worked as a graphic designer at an Eveleth business in the middle of the day in 2007.
But that punishment was no solace for the family of the 20-year-old Bear River-Cook area woman whom Carlson stabbed 27 times and claimed to have no memory of attacking.
“My family has been given a life sentence and that’s exactly what the defendant deserves,” Robyn Anderson, mother of the victim, told the court during her victim impact statement. “This is not justice by any means. … The defendant has stolen our dreams for the future and has caused our nightmares.”
The Anderson family was upset that Carlson, of Two Harbors, was able to plead guilty to second-degree murder when a St. Louis County grand jury had indicted him on a charge of first-degree premeditated murder. If convicted of that crime, Carlson would have spent life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Now with credit for 1,326 days already spent behind bars and if he follows prison rules, the 32-year-old Carlson will be released from prison after serving about 23½ years, his defense attorney said.
Carlson was able to enter a “Goulet plea” to the lesser charge at a hearing last month. That plea allows a defendant to say he has no independent recollection of what happened, but concedes that police have gathered enough evidence for a jury to convict him. Carlson provided no explanation as to why he couldn’t remember what he did or why he did it.
St. Louis County prosecutor Gordon Coldagelli told the court and those assembled in the packed courtroom that it was his decision to enter the plea agreement. Coldagelli offered condolences to the victim’s family, but said his decision was in the best interest of public safety. He said he weighed the possible gains and losses of the case going to trial and decided that he didn’t want to take a chance on Carlson walking out of the courtroom a free man.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Gary Pagliaccetti asked Carlson if he had anything he wanted to say before being sentenced. Carlson said he did not.
Pagliaccetti accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Carlson to 480 months in prison, the statutory maximum penalty for second-degree murder. Carlson was also ordered to pay $33,778.28 restitution and provide a DNA sample.
K. Scott Belfry, a member of the state public defender’s trial team specializing in high-profile cases that involve forensic evidence, including DNA, represented Carlson.
“Our position was that forensically it was an extremely weak case with the evidence pointing more toward innocence as opposed to guilt,” Belfry said in an interview after the sentencing. “It’s my personal opinion that the motivating factor for this plea was the failure of the court to change venue. If venue had been changed, this case would have been tried. But I believe that the client felt that he could not under any circumstance get a fair trial in the Virginia area.”
The defense commissioned two jury surveys in which consultants opined that Carlson couldn’t get a fair trial in the Virginia area.
Keith Harvey, director of finances and facilities at Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, told the court of the impact Anderson’s murder had on the college, which has campuses in Virginia and Eveleth.
The victim studied graphic arts and was a member of the school’s student senate. Harvey said Anderson was “very popular, very well liked and wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He said the crime terrorized the college and deeply affected students and staff. He said it has left a permanent scar on the college and the school has spent thousands of dollars to improve its security and to make students feel safer. The murder scene was across the street from the Eveleth campus.
Anderson’s mother read from a pamphlet that was labeled, “The life of Megan Anderson.” She read the first part of her presentation as if her daughter were the one speaking, telling someone how proud she was of her mother, father, two brothers and herself. The mother then spoke in her own voice, which contained notes of love, sadness and anger. She said her family was adamantly opposed to the plea agreement.
Robyn Anderson said she and her husband, James, couldn’t celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary last Aug. 30 because the date is “the day after the most horrific day of your life.” Megan Anderson was murdered on Aug. 29, 2007.
Both of the victim’s brothers, Jesse and Brett Anderson, read emotional statements relating how their sister’s death has affected their lives. Jesse Anderson said his sister had big dreams. She planned to be a famous graphic artist. She wanted to race cars with her dad. Brett Anderson said his sister was a Minnesota Twins fan and joked that she was going to marry catcher Joe Mauer.
“I still question to this day how anyone could ever hurt Megan,” Jesse Anderson said.