So far the police investigation into Williamsburg woman’s February disappearance has yielded the arrest of one individual last week for complicity to commit murder.
A second person, who reportedly saw the woman a short time before she disappeared, is also facing separate charges that arose in connection to the investigation into her disappearance.
On Thursday evening, police thought that they had located the woman’s remains in a rural portion of Whitley County only to find out Friday morning that the bones they recovered weren’t human remains. Police are also planning to continue the search for the woman’s remains in that same area this week.
These are the latest developments in the case of Laura Anderson, who was last seen on the evening of Feb. 11, when she exited her mother’s vehicle near Pilot Travel Center off Exit 11 after getting into a fight with her boyfriend.
On Aug. 27, Joseph Samuel James Bauer, 33, contacted Williamsburg police confessing to his involvement in Anderson’s death, said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
So far, police have been able to corroborate about 90 percent of Bauer’s information, except where the suspects disposed of Anderson’s body.
Bauer initially told police that Anderson’s body was dumped in the Clear Fork River at the Savoy Bridge, which prompted an extensive water and ground search of the area that turned up a bone, which later was determined not to be human.
On Sept. 4, Bird charged Bauer with complicity to commit murder, complicity to commit tampering with physical evidence, complicity to commit first-degree robbery and complicity to being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun in connection with Anderson’s death.
There are two other suspects in the case, who so far have not been charged, and police think the shooting death was drug-related, Bird said.
On Thursday, two FBI forensics teams processed Bauer’s 1998 Z-71 pick-up truck for evidence, and Bird said that based on some of those findings some of Bauer’s statements didn’t quite add up.
Police talked to Bauer again Thursday afternoon at the Whitley County Detention Center.
“After a few minutes, he said I will take you and show you, and he brought us here,” Bird said about a location police went to near the end of Dal Road.
The area, which is located off of a gravel road, is a dry creek bed/four-wheeler path where Bauer says Anderson’s remains were buried in a shallow grave. Three cadaver dogs indicated the presence of remains in the area before police and Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley started digging.
Although the bones found there Thursday proved not to be human, Bird said that police are still searching around the Dal Road area for signs of Anderson’s possible remains.
“There are still some areas there that we need to go back and check. Now we have rains and potential flooding again,” Bird said Monday morning. “When the weather breaks we are going to resume searching again. We haven’t given up.”
Bird said that spring floodwaters could have washed remains further down the creek bed, or one or both of the other suspects could have moved the body. So far they haven’t ruled anything out.
Bird said that Bauer is continuing to cooperate with police.
“He has been very cooperative,” Bird said.
Bird noted that Whitley County Jailer Brian Lawson and the Whitley County Detention Center staff have provided a lot of assistance with the case and the search for Anderson’s remains.
“Brian Lawson has been instrumental in this thing. I can’t say enough about the help that he has provided to this investigation. Any time we have called or need something, he goes out of his way to help us,” Bird added.
Bauer waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday morning in Whitley District Court, and Judge Cathy Prewitt forwarded his case onto the grand jury for consideration.
Other arrest prompted
The investigation into Anderson’s disappearance resulted in a secondary investigation, Bird testified Monday.
On Sept. 4, Bird charged James Edward Carroll, 49, with being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and on Sept. 6, he charged Carroll with being a first-degree persistent felony offender.
Carroll’s attorney, James Wren, noted during court Monday that he was aware of the ongoing investigation into the murder case, and that he and the prosecutor reached an agreement to not get into the details of the murder case during Carroll’s preliminary hearing.
Bird testified Monday that on Aug. 27, an individual, whom he didn’t identify, contacted him.
This is the same day Bauer contacted Williamsburg police.
The man told police that on Feb. 11, he and Carroll drove to a third person’s residence in the Highland Park area where he and Carroll allegedly sold a .380 semi-automatic handgun to the resident there. The person at that residence confirmed this, Bird testified.
Feb. 11 is the date Anderson was last seen alive.
On the next day, the person, who bought the .380 handgun, went to Carroll’s residence at 980 Savoy Clear Creek Road where he purchased a .25 caliber handgun, Bird testified.
Bird said that Carroll voluntarily came to the police department in late August or early September where he had a recorded conversation with police.
Bird said he asked Carroll during the interview if other individuals said he was in possession of a gun or guns would they be lying.
Carroll responded with something along the lines of that he wouldn’t say they were lying, Bird testified.
After the hearing, Wren stipulated that prosecution had established probable cause, and Prewitt sent both cases onto the Whitley County Grand Jury for consideration.
She left Carroll’s bond the same, which is $100,000 cash on the persistent felony offender charge, and $20,000 cash on the handgun possession charge.
Wren noted that Carroll is innocent until proven guilty.
“Even from the testimony of the chief of police, the only evidence that he ever had possession of a gun was other people saying that he had been in possession of a handgun. There was no testimony that any hand gun was recovered,” Wren said adding that all this stems from an incident back in February and nobody reported seeing his client in possession of a gun recently.
Bird said that on the day Anderson disappeared, Carroll’s residence was the last place Anderson was seen alive before she exited her mother’s vehicle at Pilot.
“She had just come from the Carroll residence,” Bird noted.
Carroll has not been charged in connection with Anderson’s disappearance or death.