HENNEPIN — The prosecution's desire to have recordings of phone calls made from jail by Clifford A. Andersen Jr. to his wife, son, a truck stop waitress, and a Veterans Administration social worker were a major element of his final pretrial hearing on Thursday.
Andersen, 68, of Standard, is charged with killing his sister-in-law, Deborah Dewey, and concealing her body. Dewey, 62, of Ladd was reported missing in August 2016. Her body was found on Sept. 12, 2016, in a shallow grave in a yard of a Standard home for which Andersen was caretaker.
Assistant Illinois Attorney General Bill Elward argued Andersen knew each call was being recorded because he referred to it repeatedly.
"He knew he was being recorded and used those calls to try and establish his evolving story," Elward said.
The calls pertained to, among other things, whether manure was found at the grave site, his purchase of the manure, his changing story of what it was to be used for, a carpet cleaner, and financial matters.
"We have, in his own words, the defendant saying he carried the carpet cleaner into the home where her body was found. This is the carpet cleaner on which the state found Dewey's blood in its wheel well," Elward said.
The prosecution also stated it has video evidence of Andersen buying 12 40-pound bags of manure at a Walmart. In the phone calls, Elward said Andersen explained to his wife that it was for a large garden at the home for which he was caretaker, and then changed the reason to that it was to fill sinkholes at another property.
Elward said the call from Andersen to his wife pertaining to financial matters illustrates how little she knew of his deteriorating financial situation and the "onerous debts with several payday loan companies." Andersen also allegedly told his wife during the call that the loans were taken out to build his credit rating.
Another recorded call was to a truck stop waitress in regard to the witness, a friend of Andersen's, who drove him to the Morris location where Dewey's car was recovered. During this phone call, Elward said Andersen was angry his friend was speaking with the police and told the waitress to tell him to "keep his mouth shut." The judge denied the admissibility of this call.
The prosecution has previously stated the friend initially misled investigators at Andersen's request, but then recanted his statement and admitted to driving Andersen to the truck stop on the day in question.
The defense argued the statements made by Andersen during the phone calls are being taken out of context and being "grossly over-interpreted."
"They're speculation and magnify a prejudice," Attorney Rob Parker said.
Parker also said without a written waiver, regardless of jailhouse signs and Andersen's own acknowledgement of being recorded, that the calls are inadmissible. He added the call with the VA social worker was to ensure his medical needs were being met, and regardless of Andersen going off topic and discussing other issues about the case, didn't nullify their privilege of confidentiality.
Elward argued they show how Andersen was trying to build his story because, as Andersen's wife had stated in a call, her husband didn't have any answers for what was going to be asked about his actions and whereabouts in reference to Dewey's disappearance.
"He knew he needed to have an explanation because he knew he may have been seen at the grave site," Elward said.
The judge is reserving the right to make certain calls admissible, but also discussed the use of them and other evidence during opening arguments.
Autopsy photos and X-rays
Attorney Mary Claire Nicholson argued for the prosecution to have the photos and X-rays from Dewey's autopsy made admissible.
Nicholson said the photos, which she admitted were "gruesome," would help to explain the extent of the five blunt force trauma wounds to her head and that there were no defense wounds on her hands or arms.
Defense attorney Drew Parker said to show jurors the photos of Dewey's substantially decayed body would be "beyond prejudicial" and that doing so would "inflame the jury and make them angry."
"They're horrific, and their use would be an attempt to shock the conscience of the jury," Parker said.
Nicholson said the use of the autopsy photos would strengthen and explain what the state needs in order to prove to the charge of concealment.
The defense conceded the cause of death and had no objection to the admission of the X-rays. Judge Stephen Kouri will rule prior to the beginning of the trial on Monday.