1989 mystery: The murders of Dale and Janet Anderson

Special Reports

WASHOUGAL, Wash. (KOIN) — “It would appear that we have a double homicide. That’s how it’s being investigated by the Clark County detective homicide unit at this time. Cause of death, the official cause of death  won’t obviously be determined until the autopsy is completed but it would appear gunshots was probably most likely the cause of death.”

That’s what a Clark County investigator told reporters on Monday, September 11, 1989 when the bodies of Dale and Janet Anderson were discovered in their Washougal home. Dale was 54, Janet 51.

Nearly 30 years have passed but the heartache remains for Dale’s brother, Jerry Anderson.

“It hurts. I wish I could say it any other way but I can’t,” Jerry recently told KOIN 6 News. “It bubbles up inside me. I’d like to go scream someplace.”

Jerry keeps a photo in a drawer next to his bed.

Dale and Janet Anderson on a Hawaiian vacation not long before they were shot to death at their Washougal home in 1989 (Courtesy: Jerry Anderson)

“This is Dale and Janet on their last trip to Hawaii,” he said. “If I don’t look at that picture I don’t think I could go to bed at night.”

And each night he thinks the same thing: “How much I miss him. The things we did. The things I wish I could do.”

They were very close and less than a year apart in age. As children, they did everything together, like fishing.

“We never had a fancy pole with a reel. We cut a stick out by the lake someplace, tied a string on the end of it and a cork. That’s how we fished.”

Their bond continued as adults, and he said they each knew what the other was thinking.

“We went to eat and this lady looked at us and said, ‘Well, you guys are brothers, ain’t you? I said, yeah, but I said I’m the better looking one. And he said, ‘But yeah, I’m the smarter one.’ That’s the kind of way we talked about each other all the time.”

The case

In 1989, Dale Anderson was working as a contractor. Janet worked for the Public Utilities Department in Clark County. Their grown children, Greg and Shari, were starting their own lives, so Dale and Janet were the only ones living in their home on SE 362nd Avenue in Washougal.

“He was remodeling houses, buying houses, remodeling them up and then renting them out or selling them,” Jerry said. “Greg was supposed to be going to school in California someplace and Shari, she was married then.”

Photos: A look at Dale and Janet Anderson

Dale was supposed to meet his son-in-law at a job site that Monday morning but never showed up. So his son-in-law “drove to the house because it was so out-of-character and he reported to 911 he had found his father-in-law and mother-in-law deceased inside the home,” Detective Lindsay Schultz with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit told KOIN 6 News recently.

Schultz said there was no sign of forced entry and nearly nothing was stolen except for the family car.

Investigators believe someone shot and killed Janet as she arrived home from work the previous Friday, September 8, 1989.

“The suspect was still in the residence obviously waiting for the other party to come home,” Schultz said.

Dale was also shot and killed.

Investigators learned Dale’s son-in-law dropped him off at his house Friday afternoon and agreed to meet Monday morning at the job site. 

Detective Lindsay Schultz with the Clark County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit, April 2019 (KOIN)

Friday evening, Dale took some items to a donation location — “it was verified that he did do that,” Schultz said — and then he likely returned to his home.

“The Andersons were supposed to leave that same evening to go to a cabin that they had owned or had rented,” the detective said. “It was pretty obvious that they never made it.”

The fact that nothing of value was taken except their car makes investigators think the killer could “be someone who had an issue with these 2, whether professionally or personally,” Schultz said.

The vehicle was located a “couple days later” in the Cascade Park area, she said. “I don’t think they ever located the firearm.”

Jerry got a phone call

At that time, Jerry said he worked for a bank in Camas. His sister called him that day and told him she “just got a strange phone call that somebody was killed out in Washougal right around where Dale and Janet lived.”

He rushed out of the bank and went to Dale and Janet’s home.

“I said, ‘I want to go down and see them,’ and (a police officer) said, ‘No, you don’t. No, you don’t want to see them.’ And I said, ‘Why? He’s my brother,’ and he said, ‘Well, the way their bodies were it would be best if you had a friend. He wouldn’t let you go down there and look at them.'”

Jerry said investigators told him it appears Dale found Janet “laying on the floor. He used to be a corpman, so he checked and she was gone. So he ran to the phone and that’s when whoever did this killed him, caught Dale there. That’s why he was laying at the bottom of the phone. Each of them were shot 4 times.”

Detectives searched for answers but the case went cold. Now, 29 years later, there are still no arrests.

“But what we know from current cases now and even going back 30, 40 years is that people hold onto things and they either think at the time it’s not important or know it’s important but because of the place in life that they are in, they are just fearful or have concerns or don’t want to get involved,” Schultz told KOIN 6 News. “I think it became one of those where we have these people that we have in our sight but we can’t go any further because we don’t have any more information.”

Jerry Anderson, 84, talks about the 1989 unsolved murders of his brother and sister-in-law, Dale and Janet Anderson, April 2019 (KOIN)

Jerry, who is now 84, still visits with his brother and Janet at a Vancouver cemetery. 

“I take flowers over to them and that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done is walk over there and look down at him knowing he’s there,” Jerry said.

He holds out hope a tip will one day lead to an arrest.

“I think I would scream at the top of my lungs in happiness,” he said. “Happiness for Dale and Janet and the fact that they found the person that did that. And happiness to me, too, that they did find the person, that they didn’t get away with it, whoever it was.”

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