EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.
TRAVERSE CITY — A police investigation confirmed much of a Traverse City man’s claim he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend in a failed suicide attempt, authorities said.
Robert Lee-Allen Caldwell, 33, remains in Leelanau County’s jail serving time on an unrelated probation violation. He’s the focus of an investigation into the Nov. 19 shooting death of Monica June Anderson, 28, in their Three Mile Road and Aero Park Drive apartment.
Officers arrived to find Anderson dead and Caldwell with a gun in his hand. He accidentally shot himself in the hand when confronted, and received treatment in Munson Medical Center, where he told investigators he didn’t mean to shoot Anderson.
“He says that he was attempting to shoot himself and somehow missed and the bullet struck her,” said Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling.
Anderson, who dated Caldwell for four years, died from a single gunshot. Family and friends remembered her as a devoted mother of two children -- a boy, 3, with Caldwell, and a girl, 9 -- who dreamed of becoming a baker. She was also a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, who held her funeral service on tribal land.
Anderson’s family couldn’t be reached for comment.
Caldwell’s Nov. 25 guilty plea and subsequent 93-day sentence for a Leelanau County probation violation charge connected to an August drunken driving arrest gave police more time to investigate the shooting. Jail officers took him off suicide watch and he’s scheduled for a Feb. 4 release.
Investigators conducted hours of interviews with Caldwell, as well as neighbors and Anderson’s children who were in the apartment during the shooting. Police believe Caldwell was drinking and alcohol played a role in the incident.
The gun, a .45-caliber, was registered to Anderson. Ayling said a state police ballistics reconstruction found the bullet’s trajectory matched Caldwell’s story that Anderson got in the way of a bullet not meant for her.
“We’re not convinced he was entirely truthful when says he held (the gun) to his head and flinched,” Ayling said. “But we do believe it was accidental.”
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney hasn’t yet authorized charges. Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said the investigation continues and charges won’t be filed until prosecutors go through the police reports.
Ayling said detectives sent the police report around Dec. 20.