By Clare Kennedy
Owatonna People's Press
OWATONNA -- Ryan Hurd will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted on all charges for the murder of 19-year-old Kathryn Anderson.
Hurd made no public statement to the court, but he did try to speak to Anderson's parents as deputies led him away in chains.
"I'm sorry," Hurd said.
"Too late," replied her father, Gary Anderson.
No one but Hurd will ever know for sure what he was thinking when he turned down the dark, windswept gravel road where the Morris teen met her death on Dec. 3, 2009. Nevertheless, the court asked 12 men and women to decide: Was the stabbing the work of a calculating, cold-blooded murderer or a merely a violent outburst from a man pushed to the limit?
And decide they did. The jury convicted Hurd on all five counts of murder, including premeditated murder in the first degree, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
"We're 100 percent that we made the right decision," Jury foreman Michael Loupe said after sentencing.
Anderson's family and friends sobbed quietly as Judge Casey Christian read the verdict. Hurd did not look at the jury.
Legally, the state did not have to show that Hurd actively plotted to kill Anderson for any particular length of time to prove premeditation, said Steele County Attorney Dan McIntosh. All the state needed to prove was that the defendant determined to kill her and weighed his options at some time prior to the act itself.
"It doesn't have to be a month, a week, a day or even a matter of minutes," McIntosh said. "All we have to show is that there was forethought."
Anderson's murder was the end result of a series of choices Hurd made, the prosecution argued during closing arguments on Tuesday. McIntosh said that Hurd deliberately selected a remote location with the intent to kill Anderson and dump her body in a place where it wouldn't be noticed for a while, if only long enough for him to leave the state.
"If it was a momentary fit of rage, it would have happened in the apartment (in Eagan where Anderson and Hurd lived) or on the side of the road," McIntosh said.
McIntosh argued that Hurd made a conscious decision to murder Anderson with each turn he made leading them to the lonely spot on 30th Street Northwest.
At that point he had a choice, McIntosh said: He could have simply kicked her out of the car. He could have let her go after Anderson apparently made a break for it. Instead, he chased her down -- as evidenced by the 130-foot distance between Anderson's body and her lost shoe, a length of gravel spanned by a trail of blood.
Even then, McIntosh argued that Hurd had a choice with each plunge of the three-and-a-half-inch knife.
"He had to start stabbing her and keep stabbing her, over and over and over," McIntosh said. "It's exhausting. He had to make the choice to keep going."
McIntosh suggested that Hurd used Anderson's car to nudge her body into the ditch, which would explain patterned wounds on her left leg. McIntosh said that it was then likely that Hurd stabbed her repeatedly in the back, puncturing her lungs and slicing into her kidney -- an effort to make sure she would not live to tell the tale.
His actions after her death also hint at premeditation, McIntosh said. Hurd covered his tracks: He cleaned blood from the inside of the car, washed his clothes, and boarded a bus for Tulsa at about the same time that Anderson's body was discovered by a passing motorist. He used cash because he knew he would not have to provide identification and he traveled under a false name. When Anderson's friends and family asked what happened, he had a story ready.
The truth did not begin to emerge until Hurd was arrested in Oklahoma, McIntosh said.
Further, there is no evidence to suggest that Anderson goaded Hurd until he lost it, killing her in the "heat of passion" McIntosh said. All Anderson did was "talk to dudes" she met on myspace, McIntosh said.
Surely, Hurd was jealous and angry, but Anderson did not provoke such an extreme response from him, McIntosh said.
It all adds up to one thing, McIntosh concluded: That Hurd planned and premeditated Anderson's death.
"Ryan Hurd decided to kill another human being and now Katie Anderson is dead as a result of choices he made," McIntosh said.
During his closing statements, public defender Joel Eaton asked the jury to see past the horror of Anderson's death and recognize that Hurd acted on a spontaneous impulse -- a destructive and brutal impulse, but an impulse all the same.
"As difficult as it is to accept, Mr. Hurd did not kidnap Ms. Anderson and did not plan her death," Eaton said.
Eaton argued that the facts show a very different story than the one McIntosh outlined in his final statements: Hurd had little incentive to kill Anderson. He was emotionally and financially dependent on her, Eaton said. And in spite of her recent online flirtations, Anderson was committed and did not plan to leave him.
Furthermore, though Hurd did lie to investigators, he left much of his trail uncovered which suggests lack of planning, Eaton said. He did not try to conceal Anderson's body by the roadway, he had no alibi, and he told her friends that he'd driven her blood-laced car to the bus station where he then parked it.
In a moment of remorse, he wrote a confession on the wall of the Tulsa jail -- a partial narrative of the event stating that he should never have "lost control." Eaton concluded that Hurd's actions suggested a crime of passion, rather than a murder by design.
Based on that, Eaton asked the jury to convict Hurd of the lesser charge of first degree manslaughter.
The jury disagreed, however. In less than seven hours they returned a verdict: Guilty as charged.
"What convinced us was the drive," Loupe said after Hurd was sentenced. "It was such a long ride between Eagan and Owatonna. He had so many choices along the way. He had too much time to change his mind and he didn't do it."