“He was supposed to tell where the body was,” an anguished Carolyn Anderson cried out in Whitley Circuit Court Monday afternoon after one of the men involved in her daughter’s death was sentenced to 10 years in prison. “Where’s justice?”
Immediately prior to this, Judge Paul Winchester followed the terms of the plea agreement, and sentenced Joseph Bauer to 10 years in prison for his role in the Feb. 11, 2018, disappearance and believed killing of Laura Anderson.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling noted that Carolyn Anderson was understandably upset as she left the courtroom Monday.
“She was kind of holding out hope that he would identify the location of the body. She understood going into it that wasn’t a guarantee. It wasn’t even probably a certainty. I think she was just very optimistic that would happen today,” Bowling said after court Monday.
“She was justifiably upset. I think otherwise the family is happy. I think obviously they would like a life sentence. I can’t blame them. With the evidence we had, this is probably the best we could do.”
Bauer was originally charged with criminal complicity to commit murder, criminal complicity to commit tampering with physical evidence, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and first-degree robbery in the case.
He instead pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation to commit murder, facilitation to commit first-degree robbery, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and criminal complicity to commit tampering with physical evidence.
Laura Anderson was last seen alive on Feb. 11, 2018, while exiting her mother’s vehicle near Pilot Travel Center off Exit 11 after getting into a fight with her boyfriend.
On Aug. 27, 2018, authorities caught a break in the case when Bauer contacted Williamsburg police confessing to his involvement in Anderson’s death, said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
At the time, he wasn’t on police radar involving the disappearance, Bird noted. The motive for the killing was drug related.
So far, police have been able to corroborate about 90 percent of Bauer’s information, except where the suspects disposed of Anderson’s body, Bird said.
Bauer initially told police that Anderson’s body had been dumped in the Clear Fork River at the Savoy Bridge. Divers searched but turned up no human remains.
Then he told Williamsburg police her body was disposed of off of Dal Road.
A search of the area turned up bones, but officials determined the next morning that the bones weren’t human.
Bowling said there may be some periodic combing of the river, and searches at some of the sites where cadaver dogs indicated the possible presence of human remains, but at this point it is probably more of a cold case until the remains are found.
“Sometimes that is fruitful. The only other case I am aware of in Kentucky where there was a conviction without a body, it was recovered 20 some years later,” Bowling said. “It may be one of those wait and see kind of things. There may be some routine efforts or searches as information comes in. Right now I am not aware of any major leads as to her body’s location.”
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Nick Wilson added that it is incredible that Bowling was able to even get a conviction without the body being found.
In regards to parole eligibility, Bauer will be eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of his sentence behind bars.
Part of Bauer’s plea agreement called for prosecutors to recommend probation to the parole board if Bauer helped authorities find Laura Anderson’s body, but that hasn’t happened.
Bowling noted his office looked at the historical data for most people convicted of facilitation to commit murder, which there isn’t a lot of, and those people typically serve 77-83 percent of their sentence before being released from jail.
He said prosecutors are hoping that Bauer will serve between eight – 10 years in prison before getting released.
There is a victim’s impact statement in the court file, and Bowling said that his office plans to oppose any efforts for Bauer to receive parole.
“It was part of the plea deal that if he were to give promising information to lead to her body, then we would absolutely recommend parole to the parole board, but that is not happening,” Bowling said.
Bowling said that there is no statute of limitations for prosecuting someone for any felony offenses in Kentucky, but especially not for murder.
If the remains are located, Bowling said he hopes his office can file murder charges against the other perpetrator or perpetrators.