Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

March 21, 2014

Caldwell pleads guilty

TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City man who claimed he accidentally shot his girlfriend in a failed suicide attempt pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Robert Lee-Allen Caldwell, 33, stood accused in the Nov. 19 shooting of Monica June Anderson, 28, who died from a single gunshot.

Caldwell appeared today in 13th Circuit Court and entered guilty pleas to charges of involuntary manslaughter, discharge of a firearm under the influence causing death, felony firearm and resisting and obstructing a police officer.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said Caldwell pleaded “straight up” to all charges.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Cooney said. “I thought we had a strong case on these charges.”

Caldwell’s attorney Janet Mistele couldn’t be reached for comment.

A police report states Caldwell told authorities that on Nov. 19 he drank alcohol, loaded a .45-caliber pistol owned by Anderson and held it to his forehead as he sat at the bottom of their Aero Park Drive apartment’s staircase. He told authorities he flinched and the gun fired; a round missed him and struck and mortally wounded Anderson.

Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling headed up the investigation. He said detectives still question how the gun ended up pointed up the stairs where Anderson stood, but they don’t doubt Caldwell’s story that he truly intended to kill himself and not Anderson.

“I don’t think the motive is any different. It’s just physically a little different than what he said,” Ayling said.

Ayling said Caldwell’s guilty plea took him by surprise as he appeared in the courtroom for a routine court hearing.

“I guess after having time to think about it he decided it’s time to take full responsibility for what happened,” he said.

Members of Anderson’s family couldn’t be reached for comment.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 17.

Cooney said Caldwell faces a 17-year maximum sentence. Caldwell’s felony firearm charge carries a mandatory two-year prison stint that must be served before any other sentences can begin.

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