Monday, July 29, 1996 was not an ordinary day for the Streyle family of Canistota, South Dakota. It was their son Nathans second birthday and they looked forward to celebrating later that evening.
Piper Streyle, 28, was preparing to take Nathan and her daughter, Shaina, 3, to their babysitter before going to work at the Southeastern Childrens Center in Sioux Falls. Her husband Vance, 29, left less than three hours earlier for his plumbing job.
Sometime around 9:30 a.m., a man entered the Streyles trailer while Piper, Shaina and Nathan were still there. At some point a violent struggle occurred between Piper and the man, which the children witnessed. The intruder then abducted Piper, leaving Shaina and Nathan alone, utterly traumatized by what they had seen.
That afternoon, Vance called home but there was no answer. Patty Sinclair, a day care worker at the Southeastern Childrens Center called the house at approximately 3 p.m. because Piper failed to show up to work. Patty was surprised when Shaina answered the phone in a tearful panic.
Patty asked if anyone was home, but Shaina claimed that they were alone at the house. Patty was even more shocked when little Shaina suggested that her parents were likely dead and then hung up. Patty called back and Shaina, sobbing hysterically, said that she didnt want her parents to die. According to court documents, Shaina told Patty that her mother left with a man she knew in a black car.
Patty stayed on the line for approximately 45 minutes trying to soothe the traumatized little girl. While she talked with Shaina, Patty instructed a co-worker to contact the sheriffs office. Sheriff Gene Taylor arrived at the Streyles home a little after 5 p.m. that day.
Taylor noticed that the trailer door was open. He walked in and saw that the living area was in a state of disarray, indicating that a struggle had occurred. The contents of Pipers purse were strewn on the floor, along with other household items.
Taylor went towards the rear of the trailer to the bedroom where he found Shaina unharmed but crying. Two-year-old Nathan, who was also unharmed, walked around in a dazed state. Piper was nowhere to be found. Taylor suspected that the children had been left to their own devices for quite some time.
Taylor and Jim Stevenson, a state criminal investigator who was called to the scene, questioned Shaina about what happened that day. According to Roy Hazelwood and Stephen G. Michauds Dark Dreams, the little girl told them, Mommys going to die, and that a mean man came into the trailer, argued with their mother and fired his gun. Afraid that the man might harm her children, Piper told Shaina and Nathan to run and hide as the intruder grabbed her and took her away in his black car. The little girl also recalled the man taking Nathans birthday present, a blue tent, before leaving.
A little more than an hour after Sheriff Taylor arrived, Vance came home. Shaina immediately threw herself into her fathers arms and began crying. He questioned Shaina about what happened, but she was excited and stressed by the days events and had difficulty trying to communicate. He was only able to make out that a man came in and stole Nathans tent and that her mother wasnt coming back.
Vances concern turned to horror when he learned more of the details from the sheriff and Stevenson. His wife had been abducted. All he could do was comfort his children and hope that the sheriff could find Piper alive.
Three days after Pipers abduction, Vance remembered an important piece of information, which he told to the police. It would prove to be the break they were all looking for. It would lead to the identification of one of South Dakota s most sadistic sexual murderers.
On July 29th, Vance told the police about a man he remembered visiting their residence several days prior to his wifes disappearance. He recalled that a balding man in his twenties named Rob Anderson came to their trailer at around 7:30 a.m. on July 26th to inquire about enrolling his kids into Vance and Pipers bible camp for children, which they operated every July.
Robert Leroy Anderson
Vance claimed that Anderson seemed startled to see him as if he didnt expect him to be home. Once Anderson overcame his initial surprise, he briefly asked about the camp. Vance referred him to Piper who explained that the camp was over for the summer but suggested he sign his kids up for the next year. Anderson agreed and wrote down his name and telephone number before leaving.
The police immediately began investigating the information Vance gave them. Their new suspect was 26-year-old Robert Leroy Anderson, a maintenance man at John Morrell & Co. meat packing plant. They also learned that Anderson had been married twice and had four children.
John Morrell & Co, antique logo
Several witnesses who were interviewed during the police investigation claimed to have seen a black truck in the vicinity of the Streyles trailer home on the day Piper went missing. One of the witnesses was a highway worker who told investigators that he saw a black Bronco approximately three times that day, once at around 9:45 a.m., a second time approximately one hour later and a final time at about 12:30 p.m.
A neighboring couple told investigators that at around 11:45 a.m. on the day in question, they witnessed a black Bronco close to the Streyles trailer. According to court documents, they noticed Shaina and Nathan standing alone by the roadside, looking upset. The neighbors saw the truck again about one hour later. It was standing in the front of the driveway and they saw a man in a black baseball cap and jeans walking from the Streyles residence.
On July 30th, investigators contacted Anderson and asked him to voluntarily go to the police station to be interviewed, which he did. During approximately eight hours of videotaped questioning, Anderson calmly admitted to going to the Streyles trailer four days earlier. Even though he hadnt established an alibi for July 29th, he did tell investigators that he returned to the Streyles house that day to ask permission to use the archery range on their property, but no one answered the door so he left. Anderson denied knowing anything about her abduction or Pipers whereabouts. Eventually, they would catch him in his lies.
Anderson’s Bronco truck
While the police were interrogating Anderson, investigators got a warrant to search his blue Bronco and home. During the search they would find what would prove to be some of the most incriminating evidence found against Anderson. Unfortunately, it would not lead to Pipers whereabouts. In fact, she would never be found.
As investigators searched Andersons truck they discovered several receipts for duct tape, black water-based Tempura paint, paintbrushes and a bucket, most of which was purchased a few days prior to and on the day Piper went missing. Investigators suspected that the paint was used to disguise Andersons Bronco. Their suspicions would prove to be correct.
They called in experts to analyze the paint job on the truck more closely. Samples were taken and chemically tested. They found that the Bronco had been painted with the same material bought by Anderson around July 29th. The paint used was a kind that could be easily applied and washed off.
Interestingly, a witness claimed that he saw Anderson cleaning his car on the same day Piper disappeared. It was believed he was washing off the paint and ridding the car of any other incriminating evidence. Yet, he failed to do a thorough job.
Inside the Bronco, investigators found even more incriminating evidence. They discovered a wooden platform that had holes drilled into it. It was believed that it was made as a restraining device in which a persons ankles and hands could be tied to metal hoops that were strategically inserted into the board. The platform had been sized to fit perfectly into the back of the truck.
The investigative team also found hairs attached to the wooden platform, which genetically matched Pipers. Moreover, a dirty shovel, furniture moving straps, weeds, a toolbox and dog hairs similar to those of the Streyles dog were also discovered in his truck. It was becoming increasingly clear that Anderson had a darker side than that which he presented at the police station.
At Andersons Sioux Falls home, investigators found a pair of jeans in his laundry basket. They were stained with what appeared to be blood. The jeans were taken to a police lab and analyzed. They found that the DNA structure of the blood did not match that of Anderson or his family. It was believed to have been Pipers blood. They also found semen stains on the jeans but they were not able to genetically match them to Anderson because they had such a limited specimen to test.
During the search, investigators also discovered a set of handcuff keys at his home. However, Anderson vehemently denied that he owned a pair of handcuffs. After questioning, Anderson was free to leave. Yet, the police had little doubt that he was involved in Pipers kidnapping. They just needed more proof to make their case.
On the same day of Andersons interview, Shaina and Vance were called into the police station to view a six-picture photographic line-up. One of the pictures was an outdated drivers license photo of Anderson with long hair and a mustache. Shaina and Vance were unable to identify the man that had come to their house.
Approximately two days later, Shaina and Vance were asked to return to the police station to view some more photos. Once again, Andersons picture was included in the photographic line-up. This time they had a more current photo depicting him with shorter hair and cleaner shaven. Almost immediately Vance picked out the picture of Anderson as the man who had come to the house on July 26th. Shaina separately picked out the same photo and identified him as the man who took her mother.
The positive identification gave Sioux Falls police the evidence they needed to press charges against Anderson. On August 2, 1996 he was arrested on two counts of kidnapping. They were unable to charge Anderson with murder because they lacked evidence of a body.
In September of that year, the police launched a massive search for Piper and any other evidence that might convict Anderson of murder. They wanted to make sure he would be jailed for the full extent of his crime. They employed the help of hundreds of volunteers who searched the wooded area around the Big Sioux River, close to the town of Baltic, South Dakota.
Piper’s Code Zero shirt
During the hunt for evidence, several significant items were discovered. Half of a shirt shorn down the middle with the logo Code Zero was found. It was the same shirt Piper was wearing on the day she disappeared. A man picked up the other half of the black and white striped shirt on July 29th on a road near Baltic. According to court documents, he initially thought it was a referee shirt, yet when he discovered it wasnt he threw it in the back of his car and forgot about it. He later gave it to the police when he realized the shirts significance.
Near the Big Sioux River where part of the shirt was found was a roll of duct tape with human hairs attached to it. The hair was later analyzed and found to be consistent with samples taken from Pipers hairbrush. Moreover, the duct tape taken from the scene matched the roll recovered from Andersons truck two months earlier.
More gruesome physical evidence was discovered around the river, which included several lengths of rope and chains, eyebolts, a vibrator and a half burned candle. It was believed that the items were used to torture Piper. They also presented clear evidence that Anderson was a sexual sadist.
SD State Penitentiary
In May 1997, Anderson was tried and found guilty of kidnapping Piper. He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in South Dakota State Penitentiary. However, it would not be the only charge for which he would be convicted.
According to Hazelwood and Michaud, there was sufficient proof that Anderson was a sexual sadist who was excited by the physical and psychological suffering and helplessness of his victim. Their opinion was based on four factors:
- Anderson displayed an obvious interest in sexual bondage, a hallmark of the sexual sadist, which was represented by the restraints, dildo, partially burnt candle, eyebolts, handcuff keys, duct tape and plywood platform.
- The evidence found by investigators clearly indicated physical torture. It was surmised that after Piper was abducted, Anderson drove her to a wooded area near Baltic. While there he may have bound her to the platform, gagged her with duct tape, sheared her shirt off and then methodically tortured her with the dildo and candle before raping her. It is believed that he then murdered Piper and disposed of her body.
- Anderson admitted to police and friends that he liked anal sex, a preference his wife did not share. Research conducted by Hazelwood and Michaud found that, sexual sadists prefer this form of sex. They believed that the dildo was used by Anderson to act out his fantasy.
- It was further suggested that sexual sadists habitually plan their crimes in much greater detail than do other criminals.
One of Andersons longtime friends, Jamie Hammer, brought forth evidence, which provided investigators with new information concerning Andersons sexually sadistic and predatory behavior. They learned that Piper was not his only victim. They also realized that he would have likely continued to prey on women, if he hadnt been caught.
During police interviews, Hammer said that as far back as high school he was aware of Andersons obsession with torturing and murdering women. Hammer was intrigued by the idea and the two often discussed ways in which to commit the perfect crime. As their conversations progressed and grew more detailed over time, so did their fantasies. It wasnt long before the two men decided to act them out.
Anderson’s tire poppers
Larisa Dumansky’s Murder
In 1991, Larisa, 29, and Bill Dumansky moved to South Dakota from the Ukraine. They were eager to start a new life in the United States and they both began working for the John Morrell & Co. meat packing plant. Eventually, Bill found work elsewhere, but Larisa remained at the company mostly working the night shift. It was there that she befriended the plants maintenance man, Robert Leroy Anderson.
Like with Hammer, Anderson confided his violent murder fantasies to his lifelong friend, Glen Walker, who shared a common interest. They both wanted to experience what it would be like to abduct a woman and then kill her. Together, they devised an elaborate plan to kidnap Larisa. Anderson had been stalking her for several months.
Anderson and Walker put wheel poppers in the road specifically to damage Larisas tires, hoping to abduct her after she stopped. However, their plan didnt initially work out the way they hoped. Larisa did experience many flat tires. Yet, she never stopped her car in an isolated place, which made it difficult to abduct her because of the risk that they would get caught. Instead, they decided to try another method.
On August 26th, Anderson approached Larisa in the parking lot where they worked. He held her at knifepoint and ordered her into his vehicle. Then Anderson and Walker drove Larisa to Lake Vermillion. When they arrived at the lake, Walker watched as Anderson dragged Larisa out of the car and raped her several times. According to Hazelwood and Michaud, Larisa pleaded desperately for her life but Anderson ignored her.
During testimony given by Walker several years after the incident, he informed police that Anderson suffocated Larisa with duct tape and then buried her remains beneath a chokecherry bush. At the time of Larisas death she was approximately six weeks pregnant.
Shortly after Anderson was convicted for the kidnapping of Piper in 1997, Walker confessed to police that he was an accomplice in the abduction of Larisa. He told them that he and Anderson methodically planned and carried out the kidnapping, but he claimed that he was not involved in her rape or murder. He also said that he would show the police the location of Larisas body.
On May 20th of that year, Walker led the police to Larisas shallow unmarked grave at Lake Vermillion. When they dug up her remains they realized that portions of her skeleton were missing. A 1999 Midwest News article stated that forensic experts recovered a total of 57 items related to Larisa, which included a tooth, a rib, the bones from the left and right wrist, several fingers, a right foot and ankle, several fingernails and jaw and throat bones. Moreover, they found at and near the grave a pair of work gloves, shell casings and bullets, Larisas shoes, a part of her belt, jewelry and pieces of her clothing.
The authorities were baffled as to why only part of Larisas body was present in the grave. There were no signs that large animals disturbed the site because it was neatly covered over. The police would get their explanation from an unlikely source several months later.
Confessions and Convictions
According to a January 20, 2002 Aberdeen News article, Andersons prison cellmate, Jeremy Brunner, contacted the attorney generals office in August 1997 with information about Andersons crimes. He told them that Anderson bragged excessively and in great detail about the murders of Piper and Larisa during a one-week period in which they shared a cell. Brunner was able to provide them with significant evidence, which would further implicate Anderson.
Brunner told the authorities that Anderson admitted he was a serial killer and that he kept trophies of his victims at his grandmothers house. He even told Brunner the precise location of the items. They were later found exactly where he said, tucked between the ceiling and the wall of Andersons grandmothers basement. The stash included a ring and a necklace belonging to Piper and Larisa, as well as Andersons gun.
Ring & necklace behind wall
Anderson told Brunner that he believed Walker might tell the authorities about the murders. He also had a feeling that Walker would reveal the location of Larisas body. In order to prevent the police from discovering the identity of Larisa if ever found, which could link the murder to him, Anderson decided to remove her skull and teeth from the shallow grave. Hazelwood and Michaud suggested that the remains that were exhumed were then thrown from Andersons car window as he drove from the scene. Brunners story explained why the police found only portions of Larisas body.
Brunner claimed that Anderson also bragged about abducting Piper. He said that Anderson admitted to raping and strangling her before disposing of her body in the Big Sioux River. Witnesses said that they saw Anderson on several occasions the day of Pipers disappearance. Brunner explained that the reason for this was because Anderson forgot his watch and the tent and returned to the trailer to retrieve them.
During another conversation, Anderson asked Brunner to murder Walker because he distrusted him and didnt think he would remain silent about the crimes. After Brunner agreed, Anderson drew up two maps for him. One of the maps depicted the location of Walkers house and the other map showed where Andersons grandmother lived. He told Brunner that in her basement he could find his gun.
Even though Brunner agreed to kill Walker when he got out of prison, he had no intention of actually following through with the deed. Instead, Brunner struck a bargain with the police, exchanging the information he gathered for a shorter prison sentence. Brunners testimony, along with that taken from Walker and Hammer proved to be instrumental in securing another conviction.
On September 4, 1997, Anderson was charged with murdering Larisa Dumansky. He was also charged with the rape and murder of Piper Streyle. His trial was scheduled to begin in March 1999. This time, he would not be so fortunate.
Death for Murder
Andersons trial took place in South Dakotas Minnehaha County Circuit Court during the first week of March 1999. The attorneys representing his case were John A. Schlimgen and Mike Butler. Deputy Attorney General Larry Long headed the prosecution team and Judge Tim Dallas Tucker presided over the case. The entire trial lasted approximately one month.
During the proceedings Shainas testimony was never heard, although her description of the events that took place on July 29, 1996 was presented to the court. Eyewitnesses, Andersons friends and his one-time cellmate Brunner also testified. The evidence against Anderson was overwhelming. The defense didnt stand a chance.
On April 6th, a jury of eight men and eight women quickly returned their verdict. Anderson was found guilty on four counts including, the rape and murder of Piper and the kidnapping and murder of Larisa. Three days later, the same jury sentenced Anderson to death by lethal injection.
Robert Anderson in prison garb
Andersons friend Walker was tried for his crimes in March 2000. He pled guilty to the attempted kidnapping of Amy Anderson, accessory to kidnapping and first-degree murder and conspiracy to kidnap Larisa Dumansky. He received a total of 30 consecutive years behind bars at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
In January 2002, Anderson filed for a death sentence appeal with the South Dakota Supreme Court. According to the Aberdeen News, his lawyers presented 18 issues in their appeal. Some of the arguments raised included a secret deal between prosecutors and Jamie Hammer in exchange for testimony. Anderson complained that he was not tried separately for the abduction and murder of Larisa, nor did he did get the chance to confront Shaina and that he was denied his right to make a statement to the jurors before his penalty was handed down.
SD Supreme Court discusses appeal
The Supreme Court met to discuss Andersons appeal in March 2002. The court would finally make their decision in May 2003, but Anderson would never hear the final results.
On March 30th, while awaiting the outcome of his appeal, Robert Leroy Anderson committed suicide. Joe Kafka of the Associated Press claimed that Anderson was not in his death-row cell but was alone in a segregation cell when he was found hanging by a sheet tied to a bar. He was placed in isolation because he was found in possession of a razor blade. It was likely that he obtained the blade to use as a weapon of self-destruction.
Approximately three months before Anderson killed himself, his father also committed suicide. He died from a gunshot wound to his head. His fathers actions may have been the catalyst, which prompted him to take his own life. Kafka quoted Larry Long saying that, Theres a lot of women who will sleep better knowing that this guy is deceased. Kafka further quoted Pipers husband Vance saying, This is what we were after anyway. It just saved some time and effort.
After Anderson committed suicide, The Supreme Court of South Dakota dismissed his appeal. Court documents suggested that they would have upheld Andersons criminal convictions anyway. Another factor in his suicide could have been that he knew his appeal would have been denied.