Sandy Bird was worried about her marriage. She was losing weight and had trouble sleeping. "I'm afraid he doesn't love me anymore," she told a friend.
About this time, in June, 1983, Lorna invited a former lover, Darrel Carter, to the church. She and Bird asked Carter to help them kill her husband, Carter would later testify.
Accident Spot Selected
The pastor described a place in the country where there was a bend in the road, a bridge and a long drop to the river. "If a person was drugged or drunk and was coming down that road, they could miss that bridge and go down into the river and it would raise very little suspicion," Carter said that Bird told him.
Investigators would later notice the similarities between Bird's plan for Anderson's murder and his wife's death a month later.
"I'm not a cold-blooded killer and I've never done anything like this in my life," Carter said.
According to Carter, Bird responded: "I haven't, either. I'm a man of God and I'm going to kill Marty Anderson."
By July, Sandy Bird seemed to have come to terms with her domestic problems. "She said her life was right with God and it was up to Tom to get his life right with God," her mother, Jane Grismer, later recalled.
A few days later, Sandy learned that she was being promoted. She would have extra classes to teach in the fall.
Wife's Last Evening
To celebrate, she and Tom went to a movie. They returned home at 9:30, and Sandy ran inside to grab a half-empty bottle of pink champagne from the refrigerator for herself and a bottle of whiskey for her husband. She told the baby-sitter that she would be back by 10:30.
Bird later told police that they had a drink at Tom's church office and then parted--she went to her office at the university and he stayed to work on his sermon.
Police Officer Scott Cronk delivered the bad news to Tom Bird the next morning.
"What was she doing out there? We never go out there," Bird asked the officer. Then he asked, "Where is it?"
At the scene, seven miles southeast of town, Trooper Rule was baffled.
"I'm programmed to work traffic accidents," he says. "By the time I realized that this might be more, our best evidence was gone. The body had gone to the morgue; the car had gone to the shop. There was a mountain of evidence down there, if you had been working a homicide."
The possibility of foul play "was so damn gruesome--so incredible. Hell, I didn't want to believe it myself," Rule says.
State Agent Suspicious
In the days that followed, Rule continued to look into the case. Routine tests of Sandy Bird's blood indicated only a trace of alcohol. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent agreed with Rule that the accident "didn't seem right," but there wasn't enough evidence to indicate otherwise.
"We heard rumors--faint rumors--about him having an affair, but no one wanted to tell us anything about that," said the agent, J. Vernon Humphrey.
Rule talked with Sandy's friends and co-workers, and he came to know her well. "She was very diligent, very intelligent, and the sort of person who ran at 100 m.p.h., 18 hours a day," he says.
She was a teacher who talked with students about their personal problems as well as their math problems, and she had this other habit that people mentioned: she never drove without a seat belt.
"I kept thinking, what was she doing out there alone?" Rule said. "It kept me up nights, but I didn't know what else I could do. I'm not a homicide investigator, I'm just a traffic cop."
Sandy Bird was buried in Arkansas and her husband presided at the funeral. When Bird returned to Emporia, he and Lorna drove to a rest stop on the Kansas Turnpike to talk.
Murder Story Told
Lorna says that Tom told her he had driven Sandy out to Rocky Ford Bridge. They had walked out onto the bridge and Bird had struck his wife with a tool he had taken from the car. He had tried to push her off the bridge, but she had held onto the railing and he had kicked her until she fell.
He had dragged her body down to the water and then run the car off the road, jumping out before it went over the precipice.
He was wearing jogging shorts under his clothes, so he threw his shoes into the woods and ran--barefoot--eight miles back to the house. He dumped his clothes into trash cans along the way. His feet were still bruised and scarred from the run a week later, Lorna said.
Even before Sandy died, the lay leaders of Faith Lutheran were concerned about the rumors that Bird was having an affair with Lorna Anderson. Lorna offered to quit her job, but Bird said that Lorna's self-esteem was so low that it would be cruel to let her go.
Others saw signs of a blossoming love affair. While Deana Lee Koch was installing a program in the church computer--purchased as a memorial to Sandy Bird--she noticed that the pastor and his secretary "had pet names. They would say 'honey' and 'sweetie' to each other."
Payment for Killing