by Paul Fecteau
This article originally appeared in the February 4, 2009, issue of tmiWeekly.
Mattie Anderson makes fried chicken on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her family--including her mother, Willia Mae, and her brother, former Topeka Mayor James McClinton--would be satisfied with the turkey and dressing which she also serves, but they know why the chicken is included: it is for Damon, her eldest son. Fried chicken was his favorite dish, and he always asked Mattie and his aunt Bobbie Jean to make it for him on holidays. Mattie and Bobbie Jean keep up the tradition despite the sad fact that this latest holidayseason marked the family’s ninth without
Damon. He was gunned down in front of his home on Valentine’s Day, 2000, and his murderer remains at large.
A Topeka native, Damon Anderson graduated from Highland Park High School and attended Highland Community College. He was star baseball player. Although he appeared imposing and would not let himself be pushed around, he was known around town for his good humor and kindness. He was only twenty-five years old and full of plans for the future. He had a five-year-old daughter.
On Valentine’s Day, 2000, Damon worked at his job with Great Plains Locating Services and in the evening drove his work truck home to the house in the 900 block of S.E. 11th where he
was staying with his Aunt Bobbie Jean. Her three children shared a room with a window facing the street, and one of them, who was only eight at the time, recalls cousin Damon looking in on them that night. Damon told them to be sure and get to bed on time because it was a school night. Damon then left in his work truck, headed to Sonic to pick up some dinner.
Future mayor, then city councilman, James McClinton was home that evening. He glanced out a window and was surprised to see his nephew Damon’s truck outside, but before he could make it to the door, Damon drove away. Damon did not usually drop by his uncle’s house unless he had something important to discuss. To this day, McClinton wonders if Damon knew he was in danger and had come to ask for his help, only to change his mind.
Damon returned to the house on 11th Street, and tragedy unfolded.
His eight-year-old cousin heard Damon’s truck pull into the drive. Moments later, a car playing loud music drove up followed by another car. The cousin looked out the window and saw a small yellow car in the street and in the drive Damon talking to three men. The cousin did not think much of it and looked away from the window. He then heard Damon exclaim, “Come on, Man,”
in a frantically dismayed voice. Before the cousin could look out the window again, a burst of gunfire ripped through the night.
When Damon had walked away from the men, one of them had opened fire. Several bullets missed, striking the house, but one hit Damon in the back of the head. Damon collapsed on the front porch. Police and an ambulance responded at about 10:00 p.m. Damon was rushed to Stormont-Veil where he died.
Years have passed, but Mattie and Willia Mae Anderson continue to grieve for Damon, grief made worse by the likelihood that his killer remains in their community. “I wonder,” Mattie says, “if I’ve stood near him.”
The rumor persists that the identity of the murderer remains widely known in Topeka but that no one will come forward due to fear of possible retribution.
A variety of theories also circulate regarding the reason behind the slaying. Many of these stories tie the killing to the drug trade, but the Andersons maintain that Damon had no involvement whatsoever in illegal drugs, and they chalk up such suggestions to the kind of stereotyping that causes the media and even the authorities to write off all black-on-black crime as due to drugs.
The Andersons do think it possible that a fi ght Damon was in two weeks before had something to do with his murder. The altercation took place at a local barber shop, and Damon got the
better of it. What spurred Damon and an unknown man to violence remains unknown.
Perhaps someone who knows or who has other information will have the courage to come forward. Mattie, Willa Mae, and the rest of the family cling to hope that a break in the case will
come, and they continue to cling to their memories of Damon.
If you can in any way shed light on who killed Damon Anderson, please contact the detectives at the Topeka Police Department at 368-9400.
UPDATE: January 9, 2014: Monroe Lockhart III is charged with Damon Anderson's murder, see http://cjonline.com/news/2014-01-09/da-death-penalty-not-option-lockharts-two-homicide-cases