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Parents testify in trial of man accused in daughter's death

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By Clare Kennedy

Owatonna People's Press

OWATONNA -- In a hushed courtroom, Gary Anderson described the last time he spoke with his daughter. The day was Dec. 2. In less than 48 hours 19-year-old Katie Anderson would be found slain, crumpled in a ditch in rural Steele County.

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"She was looking for a special cookie cutter that she needed for her cake decorating final," Gary said of his daughter, who was studying to become a pastry chef.

On Tuesday, Gary Anderson testified before the jury in the trial of Ryan Hurd, Katie's 23-year-old boyfriend, who faces five murder charges stemming from her death. If convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder Hurd could be sentenced to life in prison.

Gary Anderson said he and his wife adopted Katie in 1990, when she was just three months old. She was the Andersons' only child.

"She was a good girl," her mother Rose said. "She never cried."

Her parents described a bubbly girl who taught her Yorkie puppy to smile. She was an outgoing teen who loved the outdoors, they said -- hunting, fishing and the go-cart she and her dad spent years working on.

"She rode that thing every day, even if there was four to five inches of snow on the ground," Gary Anderson said. "Easier to make doughnuts."

Katie graduated from high school in spring of 2008. In January 2009, she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, a Twin Cities cooking school. But even after she left home, the family remained close. Katie called her parents at 5 p.m. almost every night, like clockwork, he said.

The last time he saw her was on Thanksgiving Day of 2009, at home in Morris. Hurd was there with her, which did not allow him much time to talk to his daughter alone, he said.

Hurd and the family had a late dinner, then watched a Vikings game. Katie and Hurd headed back to Minneapolis around 3:30.

On Dec. 3, Katie didn't show up for class. Her friends called her parents, worried for her safety. All of their calls to her cell phone went to voicemail.

"It wasn't like her. She would have called her friends if she was sick," Gary Anderson said. "I told (her friends) that it wasn't quite 5 p.m."

He waited. Five o'clock came and went with no phone call from Katie.

About 7 or 7:30 p.m. Anderson said he called Hurd looking for his daughter. By that time, Hurd was hundreds of miles away, bound for Tulsa on a bus he boarded at about 6:30 that morning. A surveillance video shows Hurd paying cash at the counter and boarding the bus.

"I asked where she was and all he said was, 'I don't know,'" Gary Anderson recalled. He said he saw her last at 1 a.m. and that she'd gone outside the apartment, where somebody picked her up."

Anderson asked Hurd about his daughter's car. He said it was at a Minneapolis bus station, but he didn't name which one. Her friends later found her car in a parking lot across from the Greyhound station in downtown Minneapolis.

Katie was 60 miles away, in a ditch next to NW 30th Street, where she was found by a passing motorist. In her testimony, medical examiner Lindsey Thomas described the 109 injuries Katie sustained, one by one.

Of particular note were deep wounds across the backs of her ankles, just above the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendons connect the leg with the foot, and play a key role in the act of walking or running. One of her tendons was partially severed after a knife had repeatedly sawed at the area, which would have made it difficult for her to walk. Thomas also noted a wound across her neck, which began as a deep gash on one side and trailed off into a superficial scratch on the other.

She also had eight punctures to her lungs, which would likely have caused them to collapse, making it difficult to breathe.

"It took significant force to chip the skull. The skull is a very thick bone and the scalp is a very thick layer of skin, which would make it difficult for a knife to get through," Thomas testified. "That kind of force could knock someone unconscious."

The wounds led Thomas to believe that the weapon had been a knife with a one-sided blade about three-and-a-half inches long.

Katie also had red sores and raw spots on her back and legs -- evidence that she had been dragged across a rough surface, most likely the gravel road close to the ditch where her body was found. There were also abrasions that suggested Katie's body had been dragged across something with a specific, manmade pattern -- perhaps metal objects underneath her car, Thomas said.

There were holes in her clothing, consistent to the stab wounds beneath. She was wearing boxer shorts, a tank top and a blue sweatshirt -- her standard bedtime attire, her mother later testified.

Blood tests revealed that Katie was not under the sway of drugs or alcohol at the time of her death. Her blood sugar levels were high, which suggested hypothermia in a young, healthy girl like Katie, who had no history of diabetes. However, Thomas said that the principal cause of death was likely blood loss as a result of the stab wounds.

Thomas could not determine a definitive time of death, though it was clear that Katie had died sometime late in the night or early morning.

The Andersons put the pieces together thanks to the nightly 9 o'clock television news. A body had been found outside of Owatonna -- a woman who was five feet six inches tall, 150 pounds with dark skin and hair.

"I looked at my wife and cried. I said 'That's Katie,'" Gary Anderson said, fighting back tears.

Clare Kennedy can be reached at 444-2376.

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