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Saturday, December 18, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Anderson Is Guilty Of Murder In 2Nd Trial -- 4 Bellevue Slayings `Difficult To Believe'

Seattle Times Eastside Bureau

After nearly three months of trial, a jury took only six hours yesterday to find David Anderson guilty of all charges in the 1997 slayings of a Bellevue family of four.

The verdict, delivered to a tense, teary-eyed courtroom at the King County Courthouse, means Anderson, 20, faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.

Sentencing was to be set sometime next month, Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell said, but it's a formality. The judge has no choice in the matter.

"It's kind of difficult to believe human beings could do that to each other, but that's what happened," jury foreman Rodney White said as the other 11 jurors filed out of the courtroom in silence. "Most people say, `I can't believe that happened.' But it did happen."

It was Anderson's second trial on four counts of aggravated murder in the Jan. 3, 1997, slayings of William and Rose Wilson and their daughters, Kimberly and Julia. His first trial last winter ended in a hung jury.

His accomplice, Alex Baranyi, is serving a life sentence after being convicted of identical charges late last year.

"I think we put on a better case this time," Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Eakes said. "It's really an exhaustive case in terms of the evidence, but I think it was a fairly straightforward case for the jury to sort through it and reach a verdict."

Prosecutors said, in a nutshell, that Anderson masterminded the murders and enlisted Baranyi to help pull it off. The strongest evidence was a pair of blood-spattered boots found in Anderson's bedroom.

Anderson's lawyers tried to show he was innocent. And - this time - they tried to show that evidence suggested there were as many as two other accomplices who helped Baranyi, the real mastermind. They must have borrowed Anderson's boots, the defense suggested, and then returned them to his room.

In Anderson's first trial, his lawyers asserted Baranyi acted alone.

An appeal is certain, said lead attorney Peter Connick, whose aggressive defense was often blamed for bogging down the trial. The jury wasn't allowed to hear a lot of evidence, he said, that would have shown that two other young men had similar circumstantial evidence against them. Neither were ever seriously considered suspects.

"I'm obviously disappointed, because we had other witnesses we wanted to put on," Connick said. "I was put in a box, but it's not over. The road is just longer now."

As the news filtered through the courthouse that a verdict was in, Anderson's parents and family friends held hands and prayed. Bruce and Leslie Anderson have attended both trials.

As the first guilty verdict left the court clerk's lips, a single tear welled and rolled down Leslie Anderson's cheek.

Meanwhile, behind them, surviving members and friends of the Wilson family wept also, holding hands or wrapping arms around each other's shoulders.

The Anderson family hustled from the courthouse, declining to speak.

"It's a tough row to hoe," Connick said of the Andersons. "We prepared them because we thought this was probably a strong possibility."

Because Anderson was 17 at the time of the slayings, the death penalty wasn't an option.

Despite an appeal, the verdict yesterday also spells an end to a three-year saga that crumbled families as it opened the public to a world of teen angst and violence in a stable suburb - a story so twisted that it soon will be a true-crime paperback.

"The line between murder and genocide is a difficult one to define," Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird said after the verdict yesterday. "But in this case, that line may have been crossed."

Kimberly Wilson, a Bellevue High School grad who was home for the holidays from serving in AmeriCorps, was found strangled and beaten in the bushes at a park near her family home.

When police went to the home to notify the family, Bellevue police Detective Jeff Gomes stumbled on the carnage inside. William and Rose Wilson had been attacked and murdered in their bedroom, neither likely ever knowing what hit them, experts would later testify. Then the killers had set upon Julia, who suffered the worst of the violence as she struggled to live.

"It was a normal welfare check that went terribly wrong," Gomes recalled yesterday. "I think for all of us, (the verdict) is very gratifying."

It didn't take long for police to arrest Anderson and Baranyi, high-school dropouts who traveled in what would later be described as a "Goth" crowd of disaffected youth.

Baranyi was quick to confess, saying he killed the Wilsons because he "was in a rut" and was feeling "decadent." Friends would later tell police he actually thought he was a god in a world of role-playing games that he turned into his reality.

A jury last year didn't buy Baranyi's argument that he was too mentally ill to be responsible for the murders.

But Baranyi has never firmly implicated Anderson.

Anderson never confessed or avowed any knowledge of the crimes. But as the jury would learn, detectives were steered right to him by friends to whom he had often bragged that he would commit a major murder.

He grew up down the street from the Wilsons. And, until a falling out, he had been something of a little brother to Kimberly.

Prosecutors, though, presented Anderson as an egomaniac. He was fascinated by knives and killing, friends testified. And he wasn't afraid to tell people about it.

But Anderson consistently argued that he was but one of a number of teens who played fantasy games and idly talked crime and violence.

White, the jury foreman, said the "defense presentation went very well. But we felt the evidence did the talking for us."

And Anderson's bloody boots were the clincher, he said.

Meanwhile, the long-term effects of the Wilson murders may stay close to home in Woodridge, a once relatively innocent neighborhood that one night became the site of Bellevue's worst multiple murder.

"It's a shame," David Anderson calmly told a detective who questioned him days after the murders. "Woodridge used to be the kind of place where people didn't have to lock their doors."

Ian Ith's phone message number is 206-464-2109. His e-mail address is iith@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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