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.

Craigslist creator Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster are weathering a storm of criticism.
Gene X. Hwang
Craigslist creator Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster are weathering a storm of criticism.
Katherine Olson was killed after responding to a babysitting ad on Craigslist.
Courtesy of the Olson Family
Katherine Olson was killed after responding to a babysitting ad on Craigslist.

"Remember," Margoles said. "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."

Before 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.

It took five hours for the jury to return its verdict. The Olson family held one another as the 12-member jury announced the news: Michael Anderson was guilty of first- and second-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

The following morning, Judge Mary Theisen addressed the Olson family with watering eyes. She told them that Katherine's life had touched the entire courtroom.

The sympathy turned to rage as her gaze fell on Michael Anderson. "You're a callous, cruel, and unjust human being," Theisen said, sentencing Anderson to a mandatory term of life in prison without parole.


On an unseasonably snowy March 20 in New York City, George Weber—a passionate, affable 47-year-old radio newsman for WABC—posted a Craigslist ad looking for rough sex.

His solicitation was answered promptly by 16-year-old John Katehis, a self-described sadomasochist and Satanist who lived with his separated parents in the East Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens. "I can smother somebody for $60," he wrote to Weber. In the context of what was to be a sadomasochistic romp, Katehis' aggressive reply failed to raise red flags.

The two met in Brooklyn and made their way to Weber's first-floor brownstone apartment in Carroll Gardens. There, Katehis allegedly stabbed Weber some 50 times in the neck and torso. The teen stripped off his bloodied clothes, put on a clean pair of jeans and T-shirt purloined from Weber's wardrobe, and hopped the G train back to Queens. When police arrested Katehis at a friend's house in upstate New York, he was still wearing Weber's clothes.

About three weeks later, on April 14, Philip Markoff—a tall, blond, 23-year-old med student at Boston University—came across an Erotic Services ad on Craigslist posted by 26-year-old Bronx-based call girl Julissa Brisman. Markoff sent her an e-mail and the two arranged a soirée at the Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston's upscale Back Bay district. Seconds after entering the room, Markoff allegedly pounced on Brisman, who, according to a medical examiner, fought back tenaciously. Markoff stands accused of shooting Brisman three times—twice in the torso, once in the hip—killing her.

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1 comments
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Jane
Jane

What a great, thought-provoking article on Craigslist! And polarizing, to boot!

I have some things to say and forgive me for speaking disrespectfully about the dead. Let me preface this by saying that I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I believe that the folks at Craigslist are being blamed for things that aren't their fault. In our world today, people need to remember "Caveat Emptor." If you answer an ad on Craigslist for rough sex, you might get rough sex, and you might get killed.If you're a prostitute, oh whoops, I mean massage therapist, and you advertise your services on Craigslist, you might get killed.

And, if you answer an ad for a babysitter, you might get killed. (And this is where I feel badly for speaking disrespectfully about Katherine Olson...)

Are you freakin' kiddin' me??!! What kind of a mother would run an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter for their 5 year old??!! And then hire someone sight-unseen??!! NO DECENT MOTHER. And that should have been a red-flag for Katherine. She should have seen red-flags everywhere all over that ad!

"Hi, I don't know you, I've never met you, but please come to my home where I'm going to leave my 5 year old alone with a TOTAL AND COMPLETE stranger." Totally unrealistic scenario.

Wouldn't you want to meet such an awful parent first to see what the deal was? What kind of environment the home is? Every cop in the world tells you that you don't go to a total stranger's home! You meet in a Starbucks first, or something like that...you don't just answer an ad & show up at a person's home. If you do, you might get killed.

I have no problem with organized religion...but here is where it failed Katherine Olson...the daughter of a Pastor, God is good, and God will save you, and people are good, and rainbows and butterflies are beautiful, and always believe the best in people...BLAH, BLAH, BLAH...how about, not all people are good, some are pyschos, and God didn't save the Pastor's daughter from a brutal death, because she was silly enough to beleive that it's all good...but it's not.

People need to take responsibility for their own actions and stop putting the blame on everyone else.

Caveat emptor...let the buyer beware.

 
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