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Archive for Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Killer’s partner to pursue parole

Tom Bird served less time for greater crime than Lorna Anderson, her attorney argues

May 26, 2004

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Thomas Bird, the former Emporia minister who killed his wife in 1983 and solicited the murder of Martin Anderson, the husband of his church secretary, was granted parole last week.

Lorna Anderson, who pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of helping Bird plot her husband's death, won't see the parole board for another 18 months.

That's not fair, said Anderson's attorney, Tom Haney of Topeka.

"I've not had a chance to talk to Lorna. I'll see her Thursday," Haney said Tuesday. "My recommendation is going to be that we file another application for review."

Lorna Anderson has been before the parole board in 1988, 1995, 1998 and 2000. Parole was denied. Her next appearance is scheduled for November 2005.

Haney said he asked the board to reconsider Anderson's case last year. That request, too, was denied.

"I don't begrudge Mr. Bird," Haney said. "He served 20 years, which is more than most folks in his situation serve. But Lorna has served just as long for a lesser offense, and she was a cooperating witness. My contention is she should be released now."

Parole board administrator Colleen Fischli said the board's decision to release Bird did not mean Anderson, too, would be set free.

"It's important to keep in mind that these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis," Fischli said. "I always caution offenders against assuming that what happens in someone else's case will affect their case. That's not how it works; each case in handled on its own merits."

Anderson, an inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility, was convicted of soliciting the first-degree murder of her husband and Bird's wife, Sandra.

She received two concurrent sentences of five to 18 years and was sentenced to an additional 15 years to life after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in her husband's death.

Bird was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985 for the death of his wife and was sentenced to life in prison.

Martin Anderson was shot to death in November 1983, four months after Sandra Bird was found dead in what initially appeared to be a car accident in the Cottonwood River southeast of Emporia.

Both deaths were tied to a plot by Lorna Anderson and Thomas Bird, who reportedly were having an affair, which became the subject of a 1987 television miniseries "Murder Ordained."

Though prison officials cited Anderson for sexual misconduct between 1988 and 1990, resulting in her spending 45 days in disciplinary segregation, Haney said her subsequent record had been exemplary.

"She's not had an infraction in almost 15 years," he said. "She's had every job you can have in prison. She's done everything she's been asked to do."

A mother of four children, Anderson is now a grandmother.

"The only things she wants to do is get out, get a job, spend time with her family and be a grandmother," Haney said.

Bird is expected to leave prison upon completion and review of his plan for release, a process expected to take between two weeks and a month. He'll be on parole the rest of his life.

Attempts to reach relatives of Anderson's slain husband were unsuccessful. Telephone calls to Rodney Symmonds, the former Lyon County Attorney who prosecuted Anderson, were not returned Tuesday.

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