Road Kill

Craig Lassig

Last summer one of your worst nightmares came true, twice. On the first and last days of August, random shooters were roaming metro-area freeways looking to blast anyone they could get a bead on. Twenty-two-year-old Laura MacPhee was riding in the passenger seat of a car on I-94 near the Marion Street exit in the early morning hours of August 1 when James Lundquist, a 16-year-old from Minneapolis, shot her in the head with a laser-sighted pistol. She died on the way to the hospital a few minutes later.

Dale Westvig was luckier. On August 31 William M. Anderson, 18, a choirboy and born-again Christian from Roseville, pulled alongside Westvig's vehicle on I-35W and began firing at him with a rifle. The bullets missed him by inches.

Neither of the young men had ever laid eyes on their victims. Both chose the no man's land of the freeway as the venue for their actions, and both were arrested shortly after the shootings. But the resemblance ends there.

Raised in poverty by a mentally ill mother, Lundquist was no choirboy. According to Dinkytowners who observed him at the sandwich counter where he worked, he made a studied effort to appear satanic. Looking like an artist's conception of a goateed devil was one of the few things at which he succeeded.

In custody after the shooting, Lundquist was utterly remorseless and unable to even feign contrition. He lied about his involvement in MacPhee's death until he was backed into a corner, then made a pathetic attempt to "play crazy." No one but his mom had a good word to say about him in court, and his extensive rap sheet spoke for itself. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Anderson, by contrast, grew up in a stable, suburban, middle-class home. A skilled networker and a glib, self-assured speaker, he led musical church services for young people at North Heights Lutheran Church in Roseville and volunteered with several organizations, one of which addresses juvenile-crime issues.

All that and more was pointed out to the court on Anderson's behalf. Leaders of his church organized an outpouring of support. Elected officials wrote letters to the judge. And a Roseville police report that might have made a crucial difference in the way Anderson was charged was never brought to the attention of prosecutors.

Anderson ultimately admitted his crime, but fudged his responsibility with two key evasions that were accepted uncritically. He made an eloquent plea for mercy in the courtroom and received a slap on the wrist. He is serving two years in prison with a year's probation when he's released.

Anyone who had the misfortune to be locked up in the Ramsey County jail last September would have been treated to a pretty bizarre show even by the standards of that venue. Lundquist, known in prison as "I-94," was laboring under the delusion that if he acted crazy he would serve a mere five years in a psych ward. He told his cellmate that the psych ward is a pretty cool place. "I can do what I want there," the cellmate said he told him, "and my girlfriend can bring me weed."

By day, when the two-man cells of the Adult Detention Center were open, Lundquist put on his act. His concept of insanity was apparently modeled on the behavior of monkeys in a zoo. He hopped on tables and climbed the cell bars, jabbering unintelligibly. Sometimes he paced back and forth, muttering to himself.

But when he was locked up the show was over, and Lundquist's true pathology emerged. "I'm the one who shot that bitch on the freeway," he allegedly bragged to his cellmate. He recounted the killing in vivid detail, relating how he and his friends were "all riled up and rolling down the highway shooting at people." His cellmate relayed the conversation to police, who placed a transcript of his account in Lundquist's court record.

"We got into it with this guy," the cellmate says Lundquist explained. "We'd speed up when he speeded up, and slow down when he did." "This guy" was a Latin Kings gangster, Lundquist claimed, someone he'd "gotten into it with before." (According to Eric Johnson, the assistant Ramsey County attorney who prosecuted Lundquist, there is no evidence that Laurens Matton, the driver of the car in which MacPhee was riding, has any gang affiliation or had ever crossed paths with Lundquist.)

The cellmate said Lundquist told him he could hit anything he wanted with the pistol, because he had "a beam on his nine." He said he had the laser dot on the guy at one point, but the guy moved. "So I killed the bitch, which is the next best thing."  

The other man, who had been involved in a shooting himself a few years earlier, was incredulous. "You just shot her?" he said. "Why'd you do that?"

"Fuck 'em," was Lundquist's reply. "If I was in my own country I wouldn't go to jail or nothing because killing a bitch is legal there." His cellmate inquired as to the whereabouts of that country, but Lundquist couldn't provide any specifics. It was a land ruled by sheiks, that's all he knew.

Lundquist may be a pathological liar, but he came by his pathology honestly. "James has always had a hard life," his mother, Robin Lynn, told the judge when he was sentenced. "I have a diagnosed mental illness and he's had to live with me. He's endured more than you can imagine."

Lynn told of occasions when she hallucinated monsters in the house, and stabbed at them with a butcher knife while James huddled in a corner weeping. "He had a friend bring a knife to the house and he hid it under the bed, he was so scared," said Lynn.

She claimed she begged Hennepin County to remove James from her home, but was turned down. She arranged to have him stay with a family in rural Becker, but the deal broke down because Hennepin County wouldn't pay for foster care. She took him back home when the county promised there would be further care for him.

According to Lynn, the effort was pathetically inadequate. "They sent a man over one hour a week to take him out for dinner while his mom [was] going crazy," she said.

Lundquist's entire elementary education was spent in classes for the learning-disabled. He is virtually illiterate. At age 13 he was caught carrying a knife on a school field trip and threatened to stab the girl who told on him. A few months later he tried to extort some cash from a young woman at a University of Minnesota bus stop. When she refused, he threw a cup of his own urine at her. He received probation for that offense, violated it several times, was arrested for fifth-degree assault and criminal damage to property, and was finally sentenced to the County Home School. He broke out and ran away after assaulting a custodial officer.

"He went to live with a dope man," says his mother. "I told them where he was, but nobody seemed to want to pick him up. They finally got him after a week and he was a mess, all scratched up and dirty." Lundquist was committed to a treatment center in Iowa after that escapade, but was expelled a year later for possessing a knife. He came home in November 1996.

"When they told me about the knife," says Lynn, "I knew it was bad news. When James starts messing with drugs, then he starts having paranoia and that's when the weapons start coming in. I told [treatment center staff] I was still living in the same place and he'd be around the same people, and they said, 'Well this is our rules. He has to leave.'"

Lundquist and the buddies he hung out with after his return liked to steal cars and go on joyrides. They ranged as far as eastern Wisconsin, and up I-94 to Wright County.

On the evening of July 26, less than a week before MacPhee was killed, Lundquist, his friend Tony Nadeau, and a juvenile named Billy were driving on a rural highway near St. Michael when the car overheated. There was a house nearby, with two boys about their age standing in front. As they sat in the car waiting for the engine to cool off they took a notion to rob them. "It was like, you know, la-de-de-de-da, why not," Lundquist told Wright County investigators Robert Kammer and Gary Reitan in a transcribed interview.

The officers asked him whether he was high at the time of the robbery. "I smoked a blunt with some angel dust in it while we were driving around," he replied, "and some PCP, heroin, whatever. Billy done some drugs too. Tony was just drunk, though.

"Billy was like, wanna hold this place up? You know, mess with 'em because they're all vulnerable. I was like, it don't matter. We were just sitting there whispering about it, and they were standing in front, and Billy was like, 'C'mon, let's do it.' So we did."

The threesome approached the boys, Billy with his .22 pistol in hand and Lundquist brandishing his laser-sighted 9 mm. He put the dot on one of the kids' foreheads. "Don't get scared or nothing," he said.

They went inside. There was beer in the refrigerator and snacks on a table. The boys told them that a party was scheduled to start soon. Lundquist made a few wisecracks because he could see the victims were frightened. "I just joked with 'em," he told the investigators, "but Billy, he must've panicked or something because he shot off his gun into the ceiling."  

It was a liquid moment. The victims were scared and Billy was shaky and drugged up, but Lundquist managed to defuse the situation. He told one of the boys to find some speaker wire so he could tie their hands. They complied. The robbers helped themselves to some beer, gave their victims each a can, and loosened the wire so they could drink it.

Pretty soon they were talking like old buddies. The phone rang. Lundquist answered. It was a girl, wondering about the party. "Come on out," he told her. "Not right away or nothing. But soon."

While Lundquist guarded the boys and chatted with them, Tony and Billy prowled the house looking for items to steal. They found some jewelry, a shotgun, and more than $100 in cash. "Tony asked them if there was any handguns in the house," Lundquist explained, "and they were like, 'Yeah, look upstairs, under my dad's bed.' But they couldn't find it, and they were like mad. But I was just kickin'. There was no need to get outrageous, because they were about our age and stuff. So I just said, 'Forget it.'"

Detective Reitan confirms Lundquist's version of events. "It was a crime of opportunity," he says, "and pretty good-natured, most of the time. The one kid shot at the ceiling, and Lundquist did wave that laser-sighted pistol around. The victims remembered that."

Lundquist wasn't in such a casual mood the night MacPhee was killed. Omar Montez, 16, was with Lundquist and Nadeau as they drove around St. Paul. He told police Lundquist got enraged when he asked to get out of the car. "I'll kill you," Lundquist allegedly screamed as he wheeled around and leveled the pistol. Montez saw the red beam flash in his face. He thought Lundquist actually pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed.

A short time later the three spotted Samir Elkhoury, a Southeast Minneapolis restaurant owner, getting into his pickup in a Dinkytown parking lot. They tailed him down University with Lundquist at the wheel.

Lundquist pulled alongside Elkhoury, glaring, then dropped behind again, flashing his lights. As Elkhoury entered I-94 and proceeded eastbound Lundquist crowded him, sometimes swerving to within inches of the driver's side door. "I had a funny feeling," Elkhoury told police. "I did not know whether the driver was going to shoot me or not." Elkhoury had the presence of mind to get off the freeway in downtown St. Paul and drive straight to the police station. It was about 1:15 a.m. when he pulled up in front of the Public Safety Building.

Lundquist abandoned the chase and continued east on 11th Street, then looped back west on Seventh, where he encountered Laurens Matton and Laura MacPhee. He began playing the same game of road chicken with Matton, and a few minutes later MacPhee was dead.

Matton said he saw a flash of red just before the window shattered. According to Tony Nadeau's police statement, Lundquist pounded the steering wheel and yelled, "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" after the shooting.

They ditched the stolen car in Lauderdale. All three were arrested in St. Anthony early that same morning, trying to steal another vehicle.

Ramsey County prosecutor Eric Johnson has read hundreds of pages of psychological and investigative reports about Lundquist. "He appears to have little regard for life, his own or anyone else's," says Johnson. "He had many run-ins with the legal system and never learned a thing.

"It's no secret that kids who get in the kind of trouble he's in usually come from homes that thwart their development. Did the system fail him, as his mother claims? I can tell you there were a number of interventions in their life by both Child Protection and Juvenile Court, and several resulted in treatment-oriented placements. He sabotaged every attempt. Plenty of people who come from circumstances like his and worse don't kill. Or at least they kill for a reason."

Ironically, it was Lundquist's lack of a reason that may have helped ensure he'll be out of prison before the age of 35. Had he been found guilty of first-degree murder, he probably would have gotten life. But that would have required prosecutors to prove premeditation--and that, says Johnson, was not possible. "Premeditation can take place in a moment, yes. But our experience is that local juries equate it with longer reflection, plots, gang hits, that kind of thing. The period of time between the initial encounter and the fatal shot in this case was roughly three minutes, and his confession [during plea-bargain negotiations] was all about the gun 'going off accidentally.'"  

As it was, Lundquist was charged under a 1996 law that stiffened the penalty for killings committed by drive-by shooters. He pleaded guilty. His 25-year sentence could be over in 16 years.

If Lundquist succeeded at nothing, Anderson did well at just about everything. He served on a task force that helped set up a teen court in St. Paul's north suburbs. He played guitar in a rock band, and sang one of his own compositions at his high-school commencement. He aspired to be either a minister or a lawyer.

Not long before the shooting Anderson was born again. His faith, says his friend Andy Pyle, was not the giddy, proselytizing type. "He wasn't a weirdo. He didn't try to talk me into anything."

Yet Anderson had a dark side as well. He had a drinking problem, says Pyle, and "some problems at home too, but he never discussed that with me."

According to police records, Anderson got into some unspecified trouble as a juvenile. "He started drinking when he was 13," says a friend, who asked not to be identified. "Any trouble he got into related to that." Anderson's father told investigators that his son struggled with drugs, and was a different kid when he was using.

That difference was apparent on August 7 last year, when Anderson's father called 911 to say that his son, who'd been despondent over losing his girlfriend, was talking about suicide. Police arrived to find Anderson's father, brother, and a friend pinning him on the stairwell.

According to the officers' report, Anderson had come home drunk, started arguing with his friend, and threatened to go upstairs and jump out of the third-story window. The cops heard him shouting obscenities and threatening to "kill everybody." They took him to a detox center, where a test revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of .23.

Three weeks later Anderson purchased a .22 rifle with a 10-round clip and 300 rounds of ammunition. When police asked him why, he said there was no particular reason. "I think he just wanted to shoot at cans and stuff," says Andy Pyle.

Anderson modified the weapon by trimming the stock. He told police it "looked cooler" that way; it also had the effect of making the rifle easier to handle in cramped quarters.

A few days later, on August 30, he worked at the State Fair until 10 p.m. Then he joined some friends in Falcon Heights. They drank vodka and beer, and about 5 a.m. Anderson got a ride home. He took the rifle out of the trunk of his car and started driving.

Soon afterward there was a report of gunfire on a Roseville street. Anderson later admitted to shooting holes in a sign. A few minutes before 6 a.m., a witness saw Anderson shoot through the living-room window of a residence in Little Canada. The witness called police and described Anderson's vehicle.

Half an hour later Dale Westvig was driving on I-35W near Stinson Boulevard in Northeast Minneapolis when Anderson passed him, firing as he went by. A fusillade of bullets shattered the windows and penetrated the windshield.

"It was one of the scariest experiences you can imagine," says Westvig. "I was confused for a moment when I heard the first bullet hit. Then I was terrified because it became obvious what was happening. Bullets came through the window, through the windshield, right through the sun visor. One of them hit where my head had been a moment before."

Westvig called 911 on his cell phone with a description of Anderson's car and part of his license number. A short time later Anderson was arrested. At first he wouldn't talk, but by that afternoon he made a statement to Sgt. Thomas Ludford of the Highway Patrol. He remembered little, he claimed, of what happened after he left his friend's house in Falcon Heights. He could offer no explanation for what he'd done. He mentioned that it couldn't have been due to trouble with a girlfriend, since he didn't have one.

Eventually Anderson owned up to his actions, after a fashion. Throughout the process of being charged, making a plea, undergoing investigation, and being sentenced, he stuck with two key claims: that he was blind drunk when he was driving around, and that he blacked out during the shootings.

"He was right around the legal limit when he was tested a little while after I arrested him," says Ludford. "I honestly don't think he'd have gotten a DWI if that was the issue." Ludford is familiar with the blackout alibi (amnesia is a common variation, according to other investigators). "You hear that one quite often."  

Ludford says he wanted the charge against Anderson to be attempted murder, a felony that carries a minimum sentence of 25 years. But, he adds, "I won't second-guess the prosecutor's decision. That's not my job."

That job fell to Hennepin County Assistant Attorney Caroline Lennon, who charged Anderson with second-degree assault, a felony punishable with up to seven years in prison. And as with Lundquist, the key to the charge was intent: Prosecutors say they could not prove Anderson got into his car planning to kill someone. "Do you believe that pointing a loaded gun in the direction of someone and pulling the trigger is per se intent to commit murder?" Lennon asks. "If you do, that's the real difficulty here."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman referred all inquiries about the charges to his press assistant, Kari Dziedzic. She was asked the following questions, and said she would show them to the members of a "review team" that advised Lennon on the charging decision:

Did Anderson's threat to "kill everyone" on August 7 imply intent to commit manslaughter? Did purchasing a rifle, a 10-round clip, and 300 rounds of ammunition imply intent? Did customizing the weapon's stock in a way that made it easier to fire from a car imply intent? Did removing the rifle from the trunk, loading it, and putting it near to hand imply intent? Did firing through the window of an occupied home in Little Canada imply intent?

If firing the first time at Dale Westvig on the freeway was an impulsive act, was the second shot just as rash? The third? The fourth and fifth? Is it possible to do what Anderson did while one is blacked out? Is there any evidence that Anderson was so drunk he didn't know what he was doing? (It is worth noting that he had a considerably higher blood-alcohol level on August 7, when he threatened suicide, yet according to the officers was fully conscious on that occasion.)

None of the members of the review team responded to the questions. But Dziedzic did say the information about Anderson's August 7 threat to "kill everyone" was not made available to Lennon, and might have influenced her decision if it had been. (When City Pages requested the investigative report on that incident, Roseville Police claimed it was not public information because it resulted in a mental-health referral. They referred inquiries to Roseville City Attorney Caroline Beckman, who provided the report after a considerable delay.)

Once Anderson had been charged, the wheels of justice started turning. Bail was set at $200,000 and Anderson's father did what any concerned parent would do: He obtained legal counsel for his son and found other people to support him.

"There was quite a large effort on Mr. Anderson's behalf," says Judge Mary Steenson, who accepted his guilty plea on October 27 and sentenced him two months later. "There were a number of letters from members of his church. There was one from the mayor of Falcon Heights, and other officials. It was an unusual number of letters, especially from the church members."

When asked whether she was swayed by the lobbying effort, Steenson says she read the letters with great interest. "This kind of case causes me a lot of concern," she says. "This is a young man who was very active in church and a good community member in many respects, but there were many things in his life that were very alarming. I had to weigh the positive and the negative and make a decision. The letters helped me see a more complete picture of a person, but we pretty much went with the [sentencing] guidelines. I didn't have to go along with the proposed sentence, but they had talked to the victim in the case and my understanding was that he was all right with it."

According to Westvig, Steenson misunderstood. "They kept telling me they couldn't prove he was out to get me," he says, "so what choice did I have? I still don't see how he got off so easy. The gun was in his vehicle, the lead was in mine. What else do they need?"

Steenson says she was aware that Anderson passed a breath test after his arrest, and that "it wasn't the kind of reading that would make you think he was blacked out."

But when Steenson accepted Anderson's guilty plea, she didn't challenge his version of events. "Do you recall when you were operating that motor vehicle that you fired shots at another motor vehicle?" she asked. "No," he replied. "Do you not recall that because of the use of alcohol?"--"Yes."  

At his sentencing two months later, Anderson told the judge: "We live in a society faced with a growing crime rate and a deadening sense of community." He said the low point of his life occurred when he realized he was part of the problem. He recapitulated his extensive community involvement. He claimed to understand that he had a debt to pay to society, but suggested it would be better paid if he could continue his good works on probation.

Steenson sentenced him to the statutory minimum of three years, with a stipulation that two years be spent in prison. The third year will be on supervised release. A Ramsey County judge, who tried Anderson on charges stemming from shooting into the home in Little Canada, gave him three years to be served concurrently.

On the surface, Bill Anderson and James Lundquist appear to have vastly different characters. But maybe not. In Greek tragedy, character is fate, and fate has thrown the two of them together. Both are serving time in the St. Cloud prison now. They even have the same prison social worker, Ken Kulla, who told City Pages it would be impossible to interview either of them for the time being.

"Mr. Lundquist is still in orientation," says Kulla, "and he can't participate in normal activity until that's over. Mr. Anderson, I'm afraid, is indisposed for the next little while." He refused to elaborate, but former prisoners say that means Anderson is either in solitary confinement or on suicide watch.

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