Police investigate after a woman was found dead in her Canyon Country residence.… (Ricardo DeAratanha, Los…)
Two weeks ago, Lance Holger Anderson gave his Christmas tree to a neighbor, telling her "we're not having Christmas this year."
The neighbor thought nothing of it until Wednesday, when deputies swarmed the apartment complex. Authorities allege that Anderson killed his ailing wife at their Canyon Country apartment, then took a cab to a North Hills nursing facility, where he fatally shot his near-comatose sister. Anderson then dropped the gun and patiently waited for officers to arrive, police said.
LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon said detectives are investigating the slayings as possible mercy killings.
"I use the term 'mercy killing' in terms of describing a killing here because I want people to understand that this man did not randomly walk into a hospital to commit this crime," Vernon said. "He knew his sister was there in a vegetative state."
"The motives and rationale for this kind of shooting can never be justified legally," Vernon added. "Mr. Anderson made a unilateral, fateful decision to take two lives and forever alter his and so many others who loved his wife and his sister."
Anderson's wife suffered from some type of dementia, and his sister had been in seriously ill and bedridden for five years after suffering a heart attack, at times being in a coma, neighbors and police said.
Anderson, 60, and his wife, Maxine, 63, moved into their Canyon Country apartment complex six months ago. Neighbors say he was caring and loving to his wife.
"He was very dainty with her. You'd see him caressing her hand," Grace Madrigal said. "He was caressing her like she was a jewel. You could tell that's how he treated her."
Madrigal said it was clear that Anderson's wife was ill but he never offered details. She said he once mentioned that he had another sick relative and that caring for both of them appeared to taking a toll on him.
Detectives said that Anderson killed his wife sometime Wednesday morning with a single gunshot to the head. He then took a taxi 15 miles to Country Villa Sheraton Nursing and Rehabilitation hospital in North Hills, authorities said.
Anderson entered the Sepulveda Boulevard center shortly after 9 a.m., Vernon said, pulled out the same small-caliber handgun that he used to kill his wife and shot his 59-year-old sister, Lisa Nave, in the head.
Two other patients lay unconscious in the same area where the killing occurred.
Another patient, David Chabolla, 61, said he had just finished eating breakfast and a nurse was bandaging the IV on his forearm when he heard something. "It sounded like a balloon popped," he said.
Chabolla said staff members went into the room next to him and discovered that Nave had been shot.
"That's when all the commotion started," he said. "There was screaming and people running around."
As police investigated the nursing home shooting, the LAPD called relatives of Anderson's wife. They expressed worry about who would care for her if Anderson was under arrest, police said.
Sheriff's deputies made a check at the Canyon Country apartment and found her dead.
Neighbors said they couldn't believe that Anderson killed two people.
"He didn't seem very violent," said Lee Booker, who lives with his wife, Kristen, across the complex alleyway. "He was very nice."
Anderson was booked on suspicion of murder.