HENNEPIN – Gambling debts and "onerous" payday loans lead a Standard man to murder his sister-in-law, fracture her skull, and bury her in a shallow grave, a prosecutor told the jury Wednesday in opening arguments in Putnam County Court.
Clifford A. Andersen Jr., 68, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death, accused of killing Deborah Dewey, 62, of Ladd. He's being held on $1.5 million bond and faces 20 to 60 years or more in prison, with no possibility of parole.
Dewey was reported missing Aug. 23, 2016; her body was found that Sept. 12 in the yard of a home where Andersen was the caretaker.
The evidence he will present "shows the defendant killed Deborah Dewey, concealed her body and then repeatedly lied about it," Assistant Illinois Attorney General Bill Elward told the nine-man, three-woman jury.
Among that evidence: Video of Andersen entering a store to buy manure found at the grave, and of him at the truck stop where Dewey's car was found. Photos of her blood on the door, carpet and the floor beneath the carpet of the home where investigators say she was killed, and her blood on the wheel of a carpet cleaner a witness saw him carrying into the home.
Dewey had a history of withdrawals of several thousand dollars in the years before her death, money, Elward said, that was given to Andersen to pay his increasing gambling debts and "onerous payday loans."
Andersen is represented by Drew and Rob Parker, of Parker and Parker Law Firm in Peoria, who argue that there's not enough evidence to prove Andersen killed Dewey.
The only DNA evidence linking him to the crime was what was found in the carpet cleaner, which was left when she spent a few days at Andersen's home in 2015, recovering from surgery to her leg, Rob Parker said.
As for those payday loans, Andersen may have been "a poor money manager," but it was simply how he did things, taking out short-term loans with interest rates of 35 percent to 70 percent then quickly paying them off before repeating the process, he said.
"You need to ask yourselves, 'Does this prove a murder?' There might be enough for a concealment, but not murder,'" Parker told the jurors.
The trial resumes Thursday before Circuit Court Judge Stephen A. Kouri. It's estimated it will take about 2 weeks.