Note: This is the first in a two part trip down memory lane inspired by Doug Hunter’s ‘Capac’s Unsolved Mystery’ series. I’ll wrap the trip next week.
“You’re the first reporter that could keep up with me,” the slim woman with the long brown braid standing in front of me says.
She’s wearing a baseball cap, and has a dog leash wrapped around her torso in an intriguing—dare I say sexy—way. With a long poker-type stick in one hand, and the loops of the leather lead wrapped over her shoulder and around her waist, she looks like a trailblazer, like a renegade, and I think it’s a good fit.
She’s Sandra ‘Sandee’ Anderson of the Great Lakes Search and Rescue team of cadaver dog handlers. She’s gained quite a bit of notoriety with her search dog Eagle, a beautiful, sleek Doberman pinscher/German shorthair pointer mix. The pair were the subject of many news and magazine stories—in a good way.
It’s 1999, and I’m with the dogs and handlers at a large tract of overgrown fields and riotous woods near Wilder and Sutton roads in Dryden. As a reporter for Tri-City Times, I’ve been invited to come along on a search—and was full on, high-octane excited to be there.
We’re catching our breath after running, hurdling and slogging our way through several miles of terrain, and I’m bolstered by the compliment. Indeed, I kept up with every inch of the search, hoping beyond hope to be right in the middle of things when the big discovery that would bring peace to a family was made.
Anderson and Eagle had been gaining quite a bit of notoriety on the local, state and national stage because of Eagle’s exceptional ability to sniff out human remains in all sorts of conditions. At the time, he was one of just three dogs in the entire United States with international certification in forensic detection. The dog and handler had been involved in some 356 search and rescue efforts across the globe.
This particular mission was to find the remains of 12-year-old Andre Bosse, who was abducted from Blue Lake Township in Muskegon County in 1997. Dean Metcalf, a former power company employee, pleaded guilty to a number of charges related to the disappearance, and told law enforcement officials that the little girl’s remains were “in Lapeer County.”
Anderson and the Great Lakes team were determined to bring closure to the Bosse family, who had been in the dark about their loved one for almost three years. Though we plowed our way through fields, streams and dense woods, our search efforts resulted only in the discovery of an antler shed. At least a four-point, if my memory serves. Maybe bigger. I’d hoped she’d give it to me as a souvenir, but no dice. Still, the “you’re the first reporter that could keep up with me,” was high praise and enough for me, and I was pumped to write the story. And write it I did. A huge and glowing spread on our former ‘Spotlight’ page. Being assigned the ‘Spotlight’ feature was a juicy bonus to an eager writer like me. All feature stories, you could inject quite a bit of your own style on the page—and write much longer and with more detail than a ‘regular’ feature story. Feature writing—where you could play with language and describe the scene in detail—was my favorite thing. It was the closest thing I could get to writing poetry—my true heart’s calling—and get paid in cash dollars.
I’d written about Anderson before, though not through firsthand knowledge. She conducted a training exercise with the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department in Goodland Township’s Mill Creek, and Eagle lighted on some human remains. The bones were sent out for DNA testing. A year earlier, in April of 1998, a bloodied Lincoln Navigator belonging to 32-year-old West Bloomfield resident Sam Konja was found in a nearby church parking lot. Police suspected he was the victim of foul play. His body has never been found. The lab was unable to link the DNA to any local incidents. The find was big enough to draw the attention of the television show Unsolved Mysteries, which aired a story on Anderson and Eagle in July of 2001. I was there during the filming, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.
“You are the first reporter that could keep up with me…” Puffed me up like a big ol’ balloon.
Later, Anderson’s words would taste like I’d been sucking on a lemon when they resounded in my ears. Soon enough, though, they’d taste more like honey and sound like the bell of truth. And alas, above all, it’s wasn’t personal, and I wasn’t done writing about Sandra Anderson…not by a long shot.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.