A Tahlequah family says their loved one died under suspicious circumstances more than a year ago and they still don't have answers. Donnie Anderson's family had horses sketched on his tombstone because training and racing horses were his first love. Those memories are marred by the bizarre way Anderson died last year.
Two men say he was taking methamphetamine when he ran deep into the woods outside of town. Police believe he climbed up a tree, fell and died. He had a broken neck, ribs and pelvis. "Physically, he wasn't able to climb a tree," said Anderson's mother Margie Anderson. "He'd been in a car accident and broke his back and in November 1998. He had open heart surgery and had a mitral valve implanted in his chest."
The family wants to know how Anderson suffered all of those injuries from a 15-foot fall. Why was his body found on the opposite side of the tree from the broken limbs? And why did the autopsy show a small amount of meth in his system when the men claim he had ingested a large amount? "The question I would have first and foremost is the position of the body," said Anderson's sister, Lorrita Petereit. "He had his socks on and they were not torn up. One of his shoes was found later. One is still missing and his legs were crossed."
The family says it just wants the truth, whatever the truth really is. "We would much rather it be an accident than think he was murdered," said Petereit. "But, we need to know."
The Cherokee County undersheriff declined our request for an on-camera interview. But he did tell the News on Six that the sheriff's investigator, the district attorney's investigator and O-S-B-I were all at the crime scene and all agreed that Anderson either jumped or fell from the tree because of the drugs in his system. The autopsy doesn't list his death as an accident, homicide or suicide, but simply unknown.
Authorities also say both the men with Anderson passed polygraph tests. His family members say they will never have even a little peace until they get some answers. The sheriff, district attorney, medical examiner, and toxicologist will try to answer some of those questions at a meeting with the family in two weeks. The prosecutor told the News on Six that sometimes there are never answers enough to ease a family's grief.