By Clare Kennedy
Owatonna People's Press
OWATONNA -- When Corrections Officer Andrew Esparza entered cell B on Dec. 15, 2009, he found the walls and furniture scrawled with words. Above the window, the previous occupant had apparently written an informal confession: "When I killed her, I killed me. I wish I killed myself. The pain of losing her is killing me slowly by the day. Without her I am a lost soul. Katie, forgive me and Lord watch over me."
The cell had been recently vacated by Ryan Hurd, a 23-year-old Tulsa man now standing trial for the murder of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Morris woman Kathryn Anderson, whose body was found stabbed 109 times. Hurd was the sole occupant of the cell for 10 days. On Thursday, Esparza testified that he found pencil writing scribbled all over the walls, the door and the desk.
Anderson's friends and family quietly wept as another officer, Deputy Darwin Guinn, read the words on the walls aloud. Next to the mirror, were the words "Can't look at this" and on a wall, "Only God can judge me!"
A recurring phrase was "Should have been me."
However, the prosecution's objective in this trial is not solely to establish guilt. Hurd's attorney, public defender Joel Eaton, conceded that his client was "involved" in Anderson's death. Steele County Attorney Dan McIntosh told the jury that the state is trying to prove that the murder was premeditated, a key element in the charge of first-degree murder. The state contends that Hurd plotted to kidnap Anderson, stabbed her and left her in a remote rural field to die.
To that end, the state has brought in a gauntlet of witnesses to reconstruct Dec. 1 through Dec. 4 of 2009. On Tuesday, Pamela Trandahl, a financial advisor at Anderson's college, testified that the girl came into her office on Dec. 1, requesting an unusually large advance on her monthly stipend. According to Trandhal, Hurd was with her and Anderson did not seem herself. She was nervous and would not tell Trandahl why she needed the money. The school cut the check anyway.
Friends detailed Anderson's distress and constant conflict with Hurd on Dec. 2. The trail goes cold after 11 p.m. that night, when both Hurd's and Anderson's cell phones showed no activity.
A trail of receipts, bus tickets and video surveillance put Hurd back on the radar at 6 a.m., when he bought a winter jacket and a pre-paid cell phone at a Wal-Mart in the Twin Cities. At 6:26 a.m., he popped up at the bus station, with a complete set of luggage. He paid cash for the ticket, notable because Hurd was not known to have a job at the time.
The video shows Hurd boarding a bus to Tulsa. He reappeared less than 12 hours after he fled Minnesota, when he had a brush with the law in a Kansas City bus station. As he exited the bus, Hurd caught the eye of Antonio Garcia, a plain-clothes investigator who testified on Wednesday. Garcia is customarily posted at the Greyhound Station in Kansas City, Mo. His job is to check into any suspicious person who may be carrying something illegal.
It was Dec. 3, 2009, about 6 p.m., and Garcia had no way of knowing that Hurd would soon be the prime suspect in the murder of Anderson, whose bloodied body was discovered in rural Steele County 11 hours earlier. At that point, her identity was not yet known. Nevertheless, something about Hurd seemed odd to Garcia.
"He had his hood over his head and he was looking down," Garcia recalled. "It appeared that he was trying to hide his face."
Garcia walked up to Hurd, who was traveling under an alias. Hurd consented to a search of both his person and his bags. He told the detectives that he had a pocket knife. Garcia took it and gave it a look. It was a four-inch blade with a black plastic handle. He found Hurd's wallet in his back pocket. The Oklahoma ID inside listed the name "Mark Johnson." Inside the bags, he found nothing suspicious -- just clothing, video games and other personal effects.
"He appeared to be extremely nervous. He kept asking if he'd done anything wrong," Garcia said. "To my knowledge, he hadn't."
Hurd reboarded the bus without further incident, but the case was quickly coming together in Minnesota, where Anderson had been identified. On Dec. 4, Det. Mike Anderson, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, talked to Hurd over the phone. In a recording of their conversation, Hurd said that he and Anderson were fighting from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. He decided to leave for Oklahoma and she helped him get his stuff together.
On the tape, Hurd said he heard her say to someone "I'm on my way." Then she left, but she didn't take her car or keys.
"I kept calling her to see where the hell she went," Hurd said to the detective. "She didn't call or text me. That's what freaked me out."
Hurd told the detective that after Anderson left, he went looking for her in her car. He said he drove around Minneapolis and St. Paul for hours before he gave up. He said he started out at 2:30 a.m., and looked for four or five hours.
"I figured she was just trying to piss me off," Hurd said on the tape. "So I decided to go home."
About an hour after Hurd spoke to the detective, the Tulsa police took him into custody outside of his mother's apartment. Hurd had $240 in cash with him and three cell phones. Clothes that Hurd had with him tested positive for blood, a BCA agent testified on Thursday. The blood on his white sweatshirt appeared to have been diluted, the agent said, perhaps by an attempt to wash it.
Hurd kept his composure until his mother, Sharon Fellows, took the stand. She was one of the few witnesses who looked at Hurd directly. He cried silently as his mother answered the prosecutor's questions.
Fellows said she picked her son up at the bus station in Tulsa at just before midnight on Dec. 3.
"By the time he arrived, did he tell you what happened?" McIntosh asked.
"He told me that she'd been found deceased," Fellows said.
"Did you ask him what happened?"
"He said he didn't know," Fellows replied.
She said the two of them went to bed immediately after they arrived home, as she had to be at work at 8 a.m. She did not see her son again until she visited the jail. McIntosh tried to draw out the content of her conversations with Hurd at the jail, specifically what he had told her about Anderson's last night, Dec. 2.
Fellows placed her son in the car with Anderson.
"Where was the original destination?" McIntosh asked.
"The bus station. I'm not sure where they ended up heading to," Fellows replied.
Eventually, Fellows testified that her son had told her he was driving the car, when a fight began, and that Anderson began hitting and kicking him. She admitted that in her original statement to police, she said he told her he began heading home, which she took to mean Tulsa, and that Anderson began fighting him when he wouldn't turn around.
Anderson's parents stared at the ground. Her best friend, Amber Azpiroz-Blas, looked at her hands.
After her testimony concluded, Fellows left the courtroom without speaking to her son and did not reappear.