Thursday, 18 April 2024

Young Lake County woman fatally stabbed in Washington incident; FBI leads investigation

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Heather Anderson and her dog McGruff after their reunion earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Diana Anderson.




OMAK, Wash. – The story of a young woman from Lake County who had fought back from injuries she suffered in a near-fatal auto crash earlier this year took a tragic turn last week, when she was fatally stabbed on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state.


Heather Danielle Anderson, 24, originally from Nice, and a member of the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo, died Dec. 17, according to a statement from the Colville Tribal Police Department.


Anderson's mother, Diana Anderson, who lives in Butte County, said her daughter was stabbed once in the left clavicle, which severed her jugular vein.


She said her daughter, who had no defensive wounds, would have fought back, and she believes the young woman was held down.


“She was point blank, cold-blooded murdered,” Diana Anderson said of her daughter.


Heather Anderson was staying with a friend in Washington, according to her mother.


Colville Tribal Police Chief Matt Haney's office released a brief statement about the incident, which is being investigated as a homicide.


Haney's office reported that Anderson died at around 4 a.m. Dec. 17 at Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak, Wash., near the 1.4-million acre Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, located in north central Washington.


Haney had told the Omak Chronicle that Anderson was stabbed during an incident at Lone Pine Housing, east of Omak. Omak is a small city of about 4,700 people in Okanogan County, Wash., according to Census records.


The Wenatchee World reported Haney as saying that a 29-year-old female, who also had been taken to the hospital with multiple stab wounds and was identified as being involved, had been in custody at one point but was later released. He also had stated that there were “several involved parties” and that his agency and the FBI had many leads in the case.


When contacted by Lake County News on Tuesday, Colville Tribal Police said the matter had been turned over entirely to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Spokane office and would not offer further comment.


FBI Agent Frank Harrill told Lake County News on Tuesday that “dynamic and complex are probably the two best descriptions” of the ongoing investigation into Anderson's death.


A Monday autopsy was performed on Anderson's body, but Harrill wouldn't comment about the outcome or offer information about a possible motive.


He said the case is being actively investigated. The investigation “can be a relatively lengthy process,” Harrill said, adding that he can virtually guarantee it will take more than a few weeks to complete.


Heather Anderson was involved in a near-fatal auto collision this past June near Walker Ridge Road, when the vehicle in which she was riding went off the road and down a steep embankment, as Lake County News has reported. Initially, she was thought to have died at the scene.


Anderson was severely injured, suffering a broken neck and broken pelvis, along with numerous other broken bones, a dislocated hip, lacerated liver, kidney and spleen, and contusions to her lungs which resulted in acute respiratory failure and the need for a tracheotomy. Several shattered vertebrae had to be fused together with titanium plates and screws.


“There's a lot of stuff wrong with me,” she told Lake County News in an interview earlier this year.


Her family said she also had suffered short- and long-term memory loss and brain damage that made it seem as if she was once again a 14-year-old.


Although her family hadn't mentioned to her that they noticed her mental changes, Heather Anderson noticed them, and she had asked her mother, “Will I ever get over that?”


“It devastated her,” Diana Anderson recalled, saying her daughter wondered if she would ever be able to live on her own.


Lake County News had profiled Anderson in September after Cal Fire firefighters – who had helped rescue her from the crash – reunited her with her little dog, McGruff, who had gone missing during the June collision.


At that time, she was still wearing a neck brace and needed to use a walker, having only stopped using a wheelchair in September.


Her mother said she was undergoing speech therapy, as well as occupational therapy to help retrain her in using her arms, and her injuries had left her with severe back pain. She walked with a limp and couldn't run because of the broken bones and the dislocated hip she had suffered. In addition, she recently had had neck surgery.


“It's mind boggling because she fought so hard to overcome the accident and the disabilities,” Diana Anderson said.


She said her daughter – who had been staying with family in Paradise during her recovery – had gone with a friend to the Colville Indian Reservation just a few days before Thanksgiving. The friend was moving back to Washington to be near family and had asked for Heather Anderson's help in the move.


The friend had promised she wouldn't let anything happen to the young woman, Diana Anderson said.


The reservation's Web site said it is home to just over 5,000 people who are from 12 tribes – Colville, Nespelem, San Poil, Lake, Palus, Wenatchi, Chelan, Entiat, Methow, southern Okanogan, the Moses Columbia and the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce.


Colville tribe members face high unemployment, lack of affordable housing, water and electricity, the Web site noted. “Individuals and families suffer from the effects of extensive drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and crime. In many instances, Colville Indian families are living below the national poverty standards year after year and depend on the Confederated Tribes and other welfare systems to survive.”


A few days before she was killed, Heather Anderson's jacket and money her mother had sent to her were stolen, Diana Anderson said.


A tribal policeman told Diana Anderson that her daughter was involved in a fight, an idea she disputes. “She could not have started and wanted to fight with somebody in the condition she was in.”


Heather Anderson died just days before she was set to fly home, said her mother. “She was supposed to come home Sunday.”


The friend who had asked for Heather Anderson's help in the move is telling Anderson's family a different story than the one they're getting from police. Police have told the family that the friend was involved in the altercation, and may have been at the home of another woman involved in the fight earlier on the day of the incident.


Diana Anderson last spoke to her daughter on Dec. 16, to let her know that she was sending money for the trip to the airport. Heather Anderson picked up the money from a local Wal-Mart Thursday night, in the hours before her death.


Heather Anderson then called her mother on Thursday night, but her mother didn't get the message until two days later.


“She was telling me how she really, really wanted to come home and be home for Christmas,” Diana Anderson said, noting that her daughter wanted to be home for her 11-month-old niece's first Christmas.


“At the end she told me that she loved me, and that's the last message that we have from her,” Diana Anderson said.


McGruff hadn't been able to go to Washington with his owner, and Diana Anderson said the little dog clearly seems to be wondering where his young lady is. “You look at him and you know he's sad.”


A private viewing for Heather Anderson's family will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, at Brusie Funeral Home, 626 Broadway, Chico. Guestbook entries may be left at www.brusiefuneralhome.com/ .


A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 28, at East Avenue Community Church, 1184 E. Ave., Chico.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

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From left to right, Cal Fire firefighter Levi Dietrich, Heather Anderson and Cal Fire firefighter Scott Ross (holding McGruff). Ross and Dietrich were at scene the day of the June 2009 crash that nearly took Anderson's life and resulted in she and her dog being separated. Photo courtesy of Scott Ross.
 

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