Cornealious "Mike" Anderson: An Epilogue to the RFT Story Featured On This American Life
While putting together our original story, the fact that the crime happened so long ago presented certain reporting challenges. Although the St. Charles Police Department records and investigative notes about the robbery in 1999 are public, none of the contact information for anyone interviewed was current. It was important to us to try to contact the victim of the robbery, but we were unsuccessful.
Instead, the victim found us.
Two days after the story published, we received an e-mail with the subject line, "man that robbed the burger king man." "Just to let you know that I was that victim. Why don't you talk to me and I will tell you how bad it screwed up my life," it read.
His name is Dennis -- we've agreed to use only his first name.
"I got cigarettes and picked up the Riverfront Times...and I was sitting there back at work eating my lunch and reading this magazine," he says. "About halfway through I realized they were talking about me. The guy was a Burger King manager on a night shift, and he got robbed in St. Charles, and that's when I was like, 'Damn, that's the same thing that happened to me.'"
After the robbery in 1999, Dennis quit his job at Burger King and became increasingly paranoid that the men who'd held him up would find him and try to prevent him from testifying. He had a wife and small children, and he says he made them move more than once. But that didn't seem to calm his nerves.
"Once this happened, I shut everything out around me. Didn't care," he says. "I didn't want to be involved in anything. Stayed away from home, stayed away from the kids or the old lady. Would not even come home. Go get shitfaced, pretty much."
Eventually, after his marriage broke up, Dennis moved to Florida to be near his brother. About six years ago, he decided to come back so his now-teenage daughter could be closer to his ex. He says he mostly forgot about the robbery -- until he read about it in the RFT. Naturally, he'd just assumed that after the trial, Anderson went to prison.
"There are so many cracks he fell through -- how could that be possible?" Dennis asks.
In our first conversation with Dennis, he seemed angry at Anderson. But by the time we met him in person, he had a new, more surprising reaction.
"I think what really pissed me off is how our government dropped the ball. They didn't do what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to make sure he went to jail," he says. "[Mike] screwed up and he was supposed to pay for it. Our government screwed up. Who's paying for that? Does he have to pay for that again? Doesn't seem right."
Dennis shared another surprising anecdote -- his daughter read the story in a high school class, not knowing that her dad was the victim of the robbery. When she came home and started talking about it, Dennis let her tell him her conclusion -- that Anderson should get to go home -- before he revealed he was the Burger King manager.
"She sat down at her bed and was like, 'No way.' And I said, 'Read it,'" says Dennis. "Then she asked me my opinion and I told her pretty much.... 'They should let him go.'"
Dennis told Riverfront Times that although he has no interest in meeting Anderson or corresponding with him, he would be open to filing a letter with the courts stating that he believes Anderson should go home.
Tune in this weekend to 90.7 St. Louis Public Radio to hear Anderson and Dennis tell the story themselves. This American Life airs locally at 1 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. on Sunday.
After the jump, read Anderson's petition for release.