The trial of Clifford A. Andersen Jr. began Wednesday, and both the prosecution and defense made opening arguments establishing their beliefs as to the guilt or reasonable doubt regarding his involvement in the death of Deborah Dewey.
Andersen, 68, of Standard, is charged with killing Dewey, his sister-in-law, and concealing her body. Dewey, 62, of Ladd was last seen on Aug. 22, 2016, and reported missing on Aug. 23. Her body was found on Sept. 12, 2016, in a shallow grave in a yard of a Standard home for which Andersen was caretaker.
Before the trial began, Judge Stephen A. Kouri commended both sides for their work to seat a local jury of nine men and three women. Because of the size of Putnam County, the nature of the case and the amount of witnesses, there was concern there would have to be a change of venue.
Assistant Illinois Attorney General Bill Elward’s opening arguments on Wednesday included an abundance of information that he said “shows the defendant killed Deborah Dewey, concealed her body and then repeatedly lied about it.”
Among the information presented were multiple photos and surveillance images from various places. Some showed Dewey at a pharmacy during the last day she was seen alive and in the clothes in which she was buried. Others showed Andersen entering a store to buy the manure that was allegedly found at the grave site, as well as at the truck stop where her car was recovered.
Additional discovery evidence presented by Elward showed the carpet cleaner that Andersen allegedly used to clean the blood-stained carpet in the home where Dewey was believed to have been killed.
He also presented photos that he said showed Dewey’s blood on the door, carpet and the floor beneath the carpet.
“The carpet cleaner was meticulously cleaned, but Deborah Dewey’s blood was found by investigators on the inside of the left wheel,” he said.
Elward also told the jury of how Andersen lied to his friend about needing a ride from the Morris truck stop where Dewey’s car was recovered in order to pick up his car in Standard. Andersen then allegedly requested his friend lie about his whereabouts, which he did, only to later recant his story to investigators.
Additional information regarded Andersen lying about riding horses with a friend to search for Dewey while she was missing.
“This friend hasn’t seen the defendant in years, and you’ll hear his testimony,” Elward said.
Andersen was also allegedly seen carrying the carpet cleaner into the vacant Standard home.
Elward’s presentation described Dewey’s injuries as a large, gaping laceration to her mid-forehead, as well as a fractured skull with several radiating fractures.
Dewey’s personal habits, previous divorce and financial situation also were thoroughly discussed.
The defense, led by Drew and Rob Parker, of Parker and Parker Law Firm, of Peoria, began their opening statement by instructing the jury they needed to determine whether this was a murder, a concealment of a murder, neither or both.
“You need to ask yourselves, ‘Does this prove a murder?’ There might be enough for a concealment, but not murder,’” Rob Parker said.
He told the jury there were many nuances and complexities in the case.
Parker said the prosecution had 444 days and substantial resources in which to build their case against his client.
“The defense just has reasonable doubt,” he told the jury.
The defense sought to sway the jury to believe the blood in the carpet cleaner was from when Dewey had spent a few days at Andersen’s home while recovering from a 2015 surgery to her leg. Allegedly the wound had difficulty healing and it had “oozed” blood while she was at his home.
Parker said the only DNA evidence linking Andersen to the crime was what was found in the carpet cleaner.
Testimony from Dewey’s son, Chris, as well as her co-workers and employer at Riverfront Machine in Spring Valley showed Dewey as a prompt, dependable, frugal, yet fun-loving woman.
Details of her banking history were discussed — Dewey had a history of taking withdrawals of several thousand dollars years before her disappearance. The prosecution argues the money was being given to Andersen to meet his increasing gambling debts and “onerous payday loans.”
The defense argued that while Andersen may have been “a poor money manager,” it was simply how he did things, taking out short-term loans with interest rates of 35 to 70 percent and then quickly paying them off before repeating the process.
“Finances are a bad motive, and it even feels like a fake motive. These loans were ongoing since 2011,” Parker said.
The remainder of the day revolved largely around a conflict Dewey had with a co-worker. Dewey’s son testified regarding the April 2016 incident and said his mother was afraid of the man, who was fired the following day.
Video was shown of the incident, in which the man bumps into Dewey while clocking out of work and then leaves the building. According to Chris Dewey, the man then told Deborah Dewey in the parking lot that he was going to kill her.
The man testified he hadn’t been aware that he’d bumped into her and denied threatening her. Elward questioned his whereabouts on the day she disappeared, and he said he’d been at Illinois Valley Community College attending a GED class.
The jury also presented the judge with requests for more evidence regarding this incident. The judge allowed the presentation of the video, only because Elward had intended to show it previously but had faced technical issues. However, he wouldn’t allow them to hear what the man had been told as to why he’d been fired.
“The court is not going to entertain these types of questions. In criminal court, juries aren’t allowed to request more evidence. Both sides will present you with all the information you need,” Kouri said.
He did compliment the jury on their questions and said they were intelligent questions and showed that they’re being conscientious.