By Sean Rice
COLUMBUS -- A Franklin County jury ruled in a civil suit Friday that Kimberly Anderson must pay more than $540,000 to the family of Brent Anderson, her estranged husband whom she shot to death on Labor Day weekend 2001.
In a 6-2 decision, the jury affirmed that Kimberly Anderson did "intentionally, knowingly and maliciously" kill Brent Anderson, a well-known Celina attorney, on Sept. 2, 2001.
The 10 hours of closed-door jury deliberations Thursday and Friday may be the final chapter in a case that began when eight shots from a handgun were fired in an upstairs bedroom of the couple's rural Wapakoneta home, with their two sons downstairs. The couple was only days away from finalizing a divorce case that stretched nearly a year in court and filled a three-inch folder.
The monetary award in the civil trial comes after Kimberly Anderson was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in a criminal trial in October 2002. During the criminal trial, lawyers claimed self defense spurred her to kill Brent Anderson.
The criminal trial was moved from Auglaize County, where Kimberly Anderson lived, to Defiance County due to high press coverage in the area, a judge ruled. The same reasoning moved the wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by Brent Anderson's brother, Kevin Anderson, to Franklin County. Kevin Anderson sued on behalf of Brent's estate and the extended family. His attorney said the majority of the money, $500,000, will go to Brent's three children -- his two sons with Kimberly and a daughter from a previous relationship.
"It's emotionally draining," Kevin Anderson said after the courtroom cleared Friday afternoon. "We're grateful for the verdict, but it doesn't bring back our brother."
The jury's decision was structured as a series of questions for the jurors to answer and damage award amounts to complete.
Six jurors affirmed that Brent Anderson, on the day of the killing, did not engage in actions that would cause Kimberly Anderson to believe she was in danger of bodily harm or death prior to firing the first gunshot.
In the following question, all eight jurors agreed that Brent Anderson did not engage in threatening actions after the first shot was fired. The question was worded nearly identical to the prior.
Jurors unanimously agreed on damage amounts totaling: $100 for property damage; $4,990 for funeral and burial expenses; $10,000 in general damages for the victim's pain and suffering; and $500,000 for human experience losses for next of kin as a result of wrongful death.
Six jurors agreed to award another $25,000 in punitive damages and attorney's fees to the plaintiff.
After the jury's decision, Judge John D. Martin said it is rare to "see the jury this dedicated and working so hard on the case."
Friends and family members of Brent Anderson wept as it was apparent the decision was in their favor at about 1:45 p.m. Friday. Kevin Anderson held back tears and hugged his sister Pam.
"He's not coming back, so there will never be closure," said Pam Anderson, of Washington, D.C.
"This is the outcome I expected from the first day I took the case," Kevin Anderson's attorney Dale Perdue said. "I think it's justice for the entire community."
Kimberly Anderson's attorney, Gerald Kowalski, said "no comment" to reporters while quickly leaving after the verdict. Appeals are common in wrongful death suits.
The judge arranged for Franklin County Sheriff's deputies to escort the jurors out of the building in downtown Columbus, a procedure usually reserved for criminal cases. No jurors responded to a reporter's request for comment after the verdict.
Shelly Folk, former secretary for Brent Anderson and family friend, said after the verdict, "If they had heard Brent's side of this during the criminal trial, none of this would have happened."
Folk said she felt the Auglaize County prosecution team botched the criminal murder case against Kimberly Anderson, partly by not representing Brent with character witnesses to counter unsubstantiated abuse claims.