Jake Russell Anders doesn't know yet where he'll spend the next 30 years for shooting his mother and younger brother to death. But this much the 15-year-old boy does know - he can't return to Rapelje.
As part of a complex sentence imposed Monday, Stillwater County District Judge Blair Jones included banishment from the farming town in a list of conditions the boy must follow when he eventually is set free.
"It is my prayer that this is sufficient to protect the community," Jones said after ordering Anders to 30 years in the custody of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Jones said sending Anders into state custody for mental health treatment, sparing him a life behind prison walls, was one of the hardest decisions of his legal career. He called the deaths a tragedy "of almost unbelievable proportions."
Jones said Anders could be placed at a facility such as the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, or he could be sent to some other secure treatment center. Under state law, the director of the state agency will decide where Anders receives treatment for what several witnesses described as a severe mental illness.
Jones also ordered Anders to spend 30 years on probation after completing treatment. If he gets in trouble at any time during the next six decades, the judge said, Anders could be sent to prison.
Anders was told he could not return to Rapelje after one witness testified at the two-hour sentencing hearing that the boy's presence would strike fear into the small community north of Columbus where the killings took place.
Connie Hossfeld-Umbright, whose brother is Anders' stepfather, said the boy is capable of "incredible violence," and that his public appearances in court have been a "sanitized presentation." The woman said Anders should not be placed anywhere where he might escape. She asked Jones to impose a permanent order restraining Anders from having any contact with her brother and her family.
"Please, do not underestimate him," Hossfeld said. "I don't want Jake to be one of those people who falls through the cracks and shows up on my doorstep 10 years from now."
The shootings were reported at about 7 a.m. July 28, 2003, when Anders called 911 from the house south of Rapelje where he lived with his mother, Jennifer Hossfeld, stepfather, Ervin Hossfeld, and 10-year-old brother, Levi Anders. The 14-year-old boy told a dispatcher that he had just shot his brother.
According to court records, the dispatcher asked the boy if his mother and father were present.
"No, I killed her, too. She's dead," Anders reportedly said.
Stillwater County Sheriff Clifford Brophy was the first to arrive at the house on Jones Hill Road. He said Anders was sobbing in the front yard.
When Brophy went inside, he found Jennifer Hossfeld in bed bleeding from a gunshot wound to her head. She was alive, but her breaths were slow and gasping, he said. Brophy called for medics. A few minutes later, the sheriff found Levi Anders in an upstairs bedroom, also alive and bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.
The boy was face down on the bed and covered by a blanket.
Jennifer Hossfeld, 36, died before medics could get her to town where a helicopter was waiting to fly the victims to Billings. Levi Anders survived the flight but died at a Billings hospital a few hours later.
Ervin Hossfeld was working outside when the shootings happened and apparently did not hear the gunshots.
Anders was charged as an adult with two counts of deliberate homicide. At previous court hearings, Stillwater County Attorney John Petak said the boy deserved to be treated as an adult because of the nature of the crimes. After a hearing in November, Jones agreed to keep Anders' case in adult court, where he faced a possible life sentence if convicted of the murders.
Five months later, Anders and his court-appointed attorneys, Matthew Wald and John Mohr, reached an agreement with prosecutors. Anders pleaded guilty to two counts of mitigated deliberate homicide. The boy admitted that he killed his mother and brother, but the killings were partly the result of a mental disease or defect.
In exchange for Anders' plea, Petak and Assistant Attorney General John Conner, who also was assigned to the prosecution, agreed to recommend that the boy receive a "treatment-based" sentence to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. The recommendation was supported by independent psychiatric evaluations that found Anders suffered a major depression before the shootings for which he was not properly treated.
At the hearing Monday, a psychologist testified that his experience and evaluation of Anders supported efforts to provide the boy treatment for a mental disorder. William Stratford said Anders could benefit a "lengthy sentence that included intensive mental health treatment." He also said Anders had expressed "profound remorse and guilt" for the deaths.
Joe Neimi, Anders' grandfather and Jennifer Hossfeld's father, testified at the hearing that he also supported a sentence that included treatment and long supervision of the boy. He said he had no idea before the killings that his grandson suffered from such a severe mental disorder.
"Jake is a sick boy," Neimi said. "It's not natural behavior to shoot somebody except in self-defense. I know Jake knows what he did. I don't know if he knows why he did it."
In court records, Ervin Hossfeld told investigators that his wife and stepson had argued the night before after Jake Anders asked to live with his father in Billings. Prosecutors said it was unclear if the argument was a motive for the murders.
Tom Anders, the boy's father, also spoke Monday. He said his son should have been treated for his depression before the slayings. According to court records, a witness reported that the boy banged his head against a wall for two hours after his school basketball team lost a game.
"We are responsible for our children, and we failed Jake," Tom Anders said.
Tall and awkward in the same suit jacket that he has worn in every court appearance, Jake Anders spoke briefly but with emotion before he was sentenced.
"I just want to say I'm sorry, and that nobody wishes that this hadn't happened more than me," he said.
Petak called the murders "horrendous and shocking," and said he was most concerned with protecting the community from future violence from Jake Anders. He described the boy's stepfather, Ervin Hossfeld, as heartbroken. Hossfeld did not attend the hearing.
"Erv's heart is heavy, but not hardened," Petak said. "Nor do I believe it will ever harden. But he said, with his family gone, his house is empty."
Conner, of the state Attorney General's Office, said he has prosecuted dozens of murder cases, including death penalty cases. He said he has come to believe that society needs a "broader approach than simply saying someone needs to be locked up and the key thrown away."
Anders' attorney, Matthew Wald, said the boy will have to live with the crime for the rest of his life, regardless of what punishment the judge imposed.
Jones said the case should be a lesson to all to "cherish life, build families and advocate for mental health."
"I think many of us felt something like this could never happen in this community," he said.
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