Series of burglaries frustrates Dodson couple
Housewife, great grandmother winds up facing charges after burglar makes fifth attack

By Tom Kelly
Editor and Publisher

On a late afternoon in April, Dodson, Louisiana convenience storekeeper James (Andy) Anderson counted his receipts for the day, locked his cash register and placed the cash drawers, cash, credit card receipts, checks, in the bank bag and went home for the evening, locking the bag and cash drawers inside his Chevy pickup, which he parked in the covered carport at his home on Second Street, a block off U.S. Highway 167, around the corner from the Dodson Church of Christ. He would transport the bag to the bank in Winnfield, eleven miles away, in the morning for deposit. That was the routine at Dodson's Corner Quick Stop for almost 25 years.

His daily routine was to arise around 4 a.m., go to the store at 5 a.m. to serve the early-to-work loggers, truckers, and early birds with gasoline, lunch fixings, snacks, and coffee. He normally employed a clerk--more recently his grown and married son, Rodney--to come in at 9 a.m., after which Mr. Anderson would go to the post office, run any errands, then return home for a rest, possibly a nap, and return to the store around 4 p.m. to close up at 5:30 to 6 p.m. The small-town routine was fairly predictable and comfortable. Until.

Until the burglaries began. On that morning in April, when he realized his cash bag was not in its usual place in the truck, he told himself, Well, I left it at the store. Not so, however. And it took him awhile to discover that a person unknown had removed the glass from of the third door window at the rear of the truck cab, taken the cash bag, and replaced the glass intact. Pretty clever, and pretty efficient of the robber.

About a month later, a similar burglary occurred, but this time, the cash bag was not in the truck. This time, the window glass fell out, alerting Anderson to the fact he had been hit again.

\par }{\plain In due course, Anderson had notified Dodson police, who inspected the scene, and the truck, but in each case, found no actionable evidence.

Meanwhile, Anderson had a used car which he decided to sell. On May 25, the buyer came to the Anderson home, looked it over, and decided to buy. In view of more than one person in the area, Anderson accepted $3,000 in cash payment for the vehicle. He gave $1,000 to his wife, who stashed it in her purse. He kept $1,000 for himself and the business, and placed the balance in the bank.

That night, at around 1:30 in the morning, the Anderson were awakened by the home burglar alarm. Anderson, whose eyesight is failing, started up. Mrs. Anderson, also awake, making her way toward the living and dining area, reached in a drawer where she kept a weapon, a .38 caliber Rossi pistol. It was missing. Within a minute or less, the burglar alarm center called on the phone, telling Mrs. Anderson that the door from the dining room onto the covered back porch, was open. Meanwhile, within the few seconds or minutes that these events occurred, the burglar obviously entered the dining room, and taking approximately ten steps, navigating in the dark room between the dining room table and a narrow passage between two cabinets, and a step-up into the kitchen, grabbed the purse which was laying on a shelf, and retreated out the door to the back porch, and from there across the fenced yard to exit. When the Anderson made their way into the dining-kitchen area, she noticed that the porch swing was still swinging, where it obviously had been bumped by the person making a rapid exit.

The door had been forced open by a sharp object of some kind, possibly a crow bar, leaving an indention about an inch and a half wide in the metal door frame. The $1,000 in cash was gone.

Mr. Andy, as Anderson is known to friends (Bud to relatives and others from his earlier life in his native Jackson Parish), will turn 77 shortly. He is a retired Marine Corps sergeant who saw combat duty in Viet Nam, after enlisting at age 18 straight out of high school. He spent 22 years in the Corps, and upon his retirement, he returned to Louisiana, worked a few years at a Winnfield building supply store, then decided about 25 years ago to open the business in Dodson, which became the Corner Quick Stop and is now the only store in the Dodson community since the closure about a year ago of the long-running S.H. Gaar & Son grocery at the other end of the business district. He underwent heart surgery several years ago, and more recently began to lose eyesight, making it difficult for him to see after paperwork details at the store. He has negotiated a few times with prospective buyers, but deals were never concluded. He now says that unless a buyer or operator shows up soon, he may have to close, citing both health and the financial losses in cash and damages to property suffered in the series of burglaries.

Mrs. Anderson, a great grandmother, is 73, and wears a pacemaker for heart irregularities.

The Anderson live in a comfortable but not pretentious brick home on Second Street on the south side of Dodson, one block off U.S. 167. The American flag and Marine Corps banner fly continuously on separate flagpoles in the front yard, which is enclosed by chain link fence and lined with shade trees.

After the earlier vehicle burglaries and the break-in in May, Mrs. Anderson, whose .38 Rossi had gone missing, presumably in the burglary, borrowed a smaller .22 caliber pistol from her son, Toby Boyette, who lives in the same neighborhood.

And then came the final blow. On Saturday, September 3, sometime around 2 a.m., a night visitor opened Margaret's car, which she said was parked in the carport adjacent to the kitchen entrance, and probably not locked, she said. The visitor took a set of keys from the ash tray, containing car and house keys, and unlocked the door leading into the kitchen. This set off the burglar alarm once more, which caused the visitor to flee, apparently without taking anything, and set Margaret into outrage.

She went for the .22 caliber pistol, and charged outside, firing twice, and yelling at the would-be burglar in an uncharacteristically loud and direct manner, using words of one syllable not in her normal vocabulary. "I lost my temper, and all my religion," she said ruefully, during our interview at the Anderson home in mid-September. And who could fault the lady, after three vehicle and two home entries in five months more or less?

During the uproar, she went to the trailer house residence just outside the Anderson's yard fence, still carrying the gun, and raised questions about the whereabouts of the occupants. The Anderson own the trailer, and rented to the family, who have now moved elsewhere in Dodson.

Dodson Police Chief Ryan Baker was called, and based on complaints by occupants of the trailer home, was prepared to arrest and file charges against Margaret on the spot. By this time, the Boyettes were on the scene, and Mrs. Anderson's daughter-on-law, Alpha, convinced Baker not to arrest Margaret that night. Investigators from the Sheriff's Department showed up, and Baker handed off the situation to them. Baker took a warrant before District Judge Jacque Derr in Winnfield, who signed off on a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon--a serious offense if convicted--and early the next week, Jeremy Underwood, a deputy Sheriff and former Dodson Police Chief, called and told Mrs. Anderson to come in to the Parish Court House. She was read her rights, booked on charges, fingerprinted, and photographed.

At home during our interview, Margaret pounded her kitchen table with her fist and said, holding back tears, "I've lived my whole life with no trouble with the law. And now, this will be with me the rest of my life."

The investigation into the Dodson burglaries is continuing, according to Deputy Darrell Winder, Sr., who told The Piney Woods Journal that no arrest has been made for the burglaries, and the investigation is continuing. He asked that anyone having information that may lead to an arrest and conviction should come forward. "Someone out there knows something," he said. "People talk."

Winder is one of eleven candidates for Sheriff in the October 22 election.