TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City man negligently and drunkenly fired the gunshot that fatally wounded his girlfriend, but authorities said they can’t prove he intended to kill her.
Robert Lee-Allen Caldwell, 33, told police that on Nov. 19 he drank alcohol and loaded a .45-caliber pistol owned by his girlfriend, Monica June Anderson, 28, with the intent to kill himself. He held the gun to his forehead as he sat at the bottom of their Aero Park Drive apartment’s staircase, but said he flinched and the gun fired, missing him and instead striking and mortally wounding Anderson.
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney said a “thorough” investigation completed in late December led him to charge Caldwell on Monday with involuntary manslaughter, discharge of a firearm under the influence causing death, felony firearm and resisting and obstructing a police officer.
“We took our time in charging because wanted to make sure we looked through all the evidence and follow-up investigation,” Cooney said.
The manslaughter and discharge charges carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
The Anderson family sent a statement to the Record-Eagle in which they disagreed with the charging decision.
“We are not satisfied with the charges but these charges are what the officials deem adequate to charge him with. We are saddened and hurt by these minimal charges and does not do our daughter, her children, or our family justice,” the statement said.
The police report states that officers arrived to find Caldwell with a gun in his hand. He refused to drop the weapon and placed it to his head and in his mouth while pleading for them to help Anderson, who lay dead at the bottom of the stairs.
Caldwell then put a round into the gun and shot himself in the hand before police subdued him, the report states.
“I tried to shoot myself in the head, but she must have leaned over me and I accidentally shot her,” Caldwell told authorities that night, according to the police report.
Traverse City police Capt. Mike Ayling said the bullet traveled 12 feet upward and struck Anderson, who fell and slid from the top of the stairs. A forensic autopsy found Anderson died from a bullet that entered her back left shoulder and traveled into her brain.
Ayling said detectives still “don’t really buy” portions of Caldwell’s story. He said it appears Caldwell pointed the gun up the stairs instead of at himself, but police still don’t think he intended to shoot Anderson.
“What he was doing when he fired a round where she and the kids were, we don’t know,” Ayling said.
Anderson’s daughter, 9, and son, 3, also lived in the apartment. The police report states the boy also fell down the stairs with Anderson, but was not injured. Caldwell is the boy’s father.
Cooney said the investigation didn’t find enough evidence for premeditation, malice or that Caldwell intended to kill Anderson. He’s alleging Caldwell was “grossly negligent” and intoxicated when he fired the gun. Caldwell’s blood-alcohol content tested at .11 percent.
Caldwell is being held in Leelanau County’s jail on an unrelated probation violation charge. He’ll appear for arraignment in 86th District Court today at 8:30 a.m.