Nancy Newman was a 32-year-old wife and mother who, along with her daughters, Melissa, 8, and Angie, 3, were brutally murdered by Kirby Anthoney on March 14, 1987, in Anchorage, Alaska.
John and Nancy Newman were a happily married couple who lived in Anchorage, AK with their two daughters, Melissa, 8, and Angie, 3. The family was originally from Twin Falls, Idaho, but had relocated to Anchorage for better opportunities. Nancy worked as a waitress at Gwennie’s Old Alaskan Restaurant. John had worked for an airline company but had suffered an on-the-job accident, which left him physically unable to do his job anymore. Starting new, he was training in California for a career as a locksmith and security technician. They lived in a large apartment complex on Eide Street in Anchorage.
March 14, 1987
On March 14, 1987, Nancy did not show up for work. Employees became worried about Nancy because this was extremely out of character. They called Nancy’s sister, Cheryl Chapman. Cheryl and her husband Paul drove to the Newman family’s apartment on Eide Street. There was no answer at the door, so the couple used their spare key to enter. They found Nancy and her two daughters brutally murdered in separate rooms of the apartment. Paul immediately called 911.
According to investigators, the crime scene was not like anything they had ever witnessed. The remains of breakfast sat on the table; 2 bowls of cereal and a coffee cup, half-full of coffee. Also on the kitchen table was the tin that Nancy’s kept her tips in, which was empty. There was also a cigarette butt in the ashtray that was not a brand associated with the family. The apartment did not appear greatly disturbed or ransacked. There was no forced entry.
In the Newman’s bedroom, they found Nancy, laying on her bed with her nightgown pushed up around her chest, abrasions and swelling on her forehead, nose, and chin, evidence the suspect had struck her several times in the face. There was a blue-knotted pillowcase around her neck. Investigators also noticed a small amount of blood at the foot of the bed. Police also found a pair of olive green colored gloves laying on the top of the dresser.
Melissa was found lying on her bedroom floor. She also had a pillowcase knotted around her neck and her hands were bound behind her back with a separate pillowcase. Based on the position of her body and blood on the floor (under the lower half of her body), it was immediately evident that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Based on evidence including DNA, investigators surmised that Melissa had been taken to Nancy’s bedroom where they were both sexually assaulted. Then the assailant had taken Melissa to her own bedroom where she was killed. There was no evidence that Angie had ever been taken to the master bedroom.
Police found 3-year-old Angie laying on her bedroom floor with her throat so severely cut that it nearly decapitated her. She had a deep gash on one of her hands, which suggested that it was a defense wound. A very clear presentation of blood splatter was on the bedroom furniture and the bedroom walls. Police noted a swath of her skin from her chest to her pelvic region had been wiped clean, suggesting the suspect wiped away something on her remains. Investigators found a washcloth in the bathroom that contained a notable amount of DNA including blood and hair follicles.
The Homicide Response Team had been developed 3 years earlier by Sgt. Mike Grimes of the Anchorage Police Dept. Because the crime scene was so complex, police contacted the FBI for assistance.
Michael Propst, M.D. performed the autopsy on the Newman family, and using a laser, he was able to collect three hair follicles from their bodies. Forensics also found a fourth hair follicle on the washcloth from the bathroom, along with olive green fibers, presumably from the gloves that had been found in the master bedroom. All samples came from the same person and showed treatment of pubic lice.
Upon dusting every surface for fingerprints, technicians found a full hand print on the wall above the bed in Melissa’s bedroom, approximately 10 inches above where Melissa’s head would have been located while being assaulted. This positioning suggested that Melissa was sexually attacked in her bedroom.
A good part of the evidence was sent to the FBI center in Virginia for in-depth analysis. Doug Deedrick, a trace evidence examiner with the FBI, conducted experiments on how pubic hair could be transferred from one room to the next. The FBI further enlisted help from an FBI profiler, Judson Ray, from their behavioral science unit. At the time, it was a fairly new practice that was being established. According to Mr. Ray, the perpetrator would be someone who was familiar with the Newman’s apartment and the neighborhood. He would be someone who blended in as if he belonged. The perpetrator would be someone who was in control of his impulses but would fantasize about rapes, murders and had likely assaulted young girls in the past. He had the capacity to commit a sexual assault/murder one minute and seem perfectly fine in the next minute.
Kirby Anthoney, 23, John Newman’s nephew. He had recently moved to Alaska from Twin Falls, ID with his girlfriend. The couple had stayed with the Newman’s for a short time before accepting work on a local fishing boat at Dutch Harbor, AK. After arguments with his girlfriend and the skipper of the boat, Anthoney’s girlfriend and the skipper both severed ties with Anthoney.
Anthoney returned to Anchorage from Dutch Harbor and asked Nancy if he could stay at their apartment temporarily until he got back on his feet. A phone call from Anthoney’s stepmother tipped off Nancy that Anthoney might be suicidal and that it might not be safe for her and the girls to be around him. Nancy asked him to leave, which he did, although he was extremely angry. He moved in with an acquaintance, Dan Grant.
Investigators learned that shortly before moving to Anchorage, Anthoney had been the focus of an investigation regarding an attack of a twelve-year-old girl in a Twin Falls campground. She had been lured away from her campsite where she had been physically and sexually assaulted. She survived her attack but lost sight in one eye, suffered hearing loss in one ear, and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury due to blunt force trauma. She was unable to identify her attacker.
Police also suspected that Anthoney had been connected to two separate deaths of two Native American girls, but they were not unable to gather enough evidence to prove those cases. Anthoney denied being involved in the deaths of Nancy, Melissa, and Angie Newman. He did confess to police that he had committed an armed robbery in 1982, in which he robbed an elderly woman in a wheelchair, spraying her in the face with Mace. He said that he did so because he did not want her to scream. Although he did confess, he later recanted his confession and was not convicted of the assault. His criminal records history was varied. It included three separate arrests for burglary, three arrests for larceny, and one for disorderly conduct. Investigators also learned that he had beaten and stalked three past girlfriends. He would never be prosecuted though because all charges had been dropped during their individual investigations.
Building A Case
On the morning that the Newman’s were found, police located Anthoney at Grant’s house. He was informed that Nancy, Melissa, and Angie were dead and that he was a suspect. They requested the clothes and shoes that he had been wearing the previous night. He did provide them without incident. These would be part of what was sent to the FBI lab, for analysis. During his formal interview, Anthoney told investigators that he did not have a key to the apartment yet police knew that he did. He also lied about his location at the time that the murders were committed. He said that he had been partying and playing dice at a neighboring house but no one witnessed him there.
Five days after the murders, Anthoney was reported to have stopped at a local tavern, Chilkoot Charlie’s. While there, he wrote abstract poetry on napkins and handed them out to patrons. He also reportedly told a lightning technician that he was a suspect in the murders and was quoted as saying, “The worst thing was that the mom had to watch the murder of her daughters.”
On April 13th, Anthoney called investigators to check on the status of the investigation, a trait that the FBI profiler, Mr. Ray, had mentioned might happen. The investigator had arranged to meet with him the next morning. Anthoney called the investigators shortly before their arranged meet time to say that he was helping a friend with their truck and would not be able to make it to their meeting.
Police received a call from Dan Grant two days later to say that Anthoney had left in his blue Ford pickup. Anthoney had told Grant that he was headed to the Canadian border and to “play dumb” and say “he was not at home, that I didn’t know where he was at” Grant stated. Police notified US Customs agents and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to be on the lookout for Anthoney. At midnight that same day, Anthoney was apprehended at the Tok border, 320 miles northeast of Anchorage, and held on a driver’s license suspension. He was returned to Anchorage, where he was formally charged with three counts of murder, two counts of rape, and one count of kidnapping because Melissa’s arms had been bound. This is a law specific to Alaska.
While being held in the Fairbanks Correctional Center, the lab results came back from the FBI lab. The evidence stated that Kirby Anthoney’s fingerprints matched those found on the tin that Nancy’s kept her tips in; Semen collected from the bodies and washcloth were also positively identified as Anthoney’s. All four hair follicle samples were found to be Anthoney’s, as well.
Blood and fecal matter taken from his clothing, earlier in the investigation was determined to be a match and suggested that Anthoney had had sexual contact with Nancy after her death. Further investigation produced Nancy’s camera, which was found at the Grant house. Investigators also learned that Anthoney had been paying for things using rolled change, presumed to be Nancy’s tips. Neither a knife that was missing from the kitchen nor Nancy’s purse have ever been found. Anthoney was awaiting trial when he was attacked by another inmate, Kiven Collins. Collins, a Cocaine dealer who was in jail for the murder of four people, was quoted as saying, “If I ever get another chance, he won’t need no trial. There’s never no need to kill a woman and two little girls. I have a young daughter, myself.”
During the trial, the jury was shown a videotape of the crime scene which included the bodies of the Newman family. Anthoney had assigned himself as co-counsel and appeared clean-cut and personable. John Newman was extremely distraught but provided what testimony he could. Anthoney’s defense was that the police were trying to frame him and even took the stand in his own defense. Jury deliberations were very short considering the complexity of the case. This is reportedly the first case that expert testimony from a profiler was allowed in a court of law.
On June 3, 1988, after an 8-week trial, Kirby Anthoney was found guilty of the murders of Nancy, Melissa, and Angie; the rapes of both Nancy and Melissa; and one kidnapping charge of Melissa, due to her arms/hands being bound. He was sentenced to prison for 357 years and not the death penalty because Alaska does not have the death penalty. Anthoney’s earliest release date is listed as April 21, 2225.
Nancy, Melissa, and Angie are all buried together in the same oversized coffin, in Twin Falls, ID. John moved back to Twin Falls to try to move forward with his life.