HOLMBERG: Teen killer’s mom talks about what went wrong 21 years ago

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – It was a natural birth. A smooth one.

Back then – 36 years ago – 18-year-old Yvonne Anderson looked down at the healthy, sweet face of her firstborn child and marveled.

But within just few years, a different kind of wonder dawned.

“I think she was born kind of not right,” Yvonne Anderson said of her little girl, who grew up to become one of the most unusual and brutal killers in recent Richmond history.

Caroline Cooke

Caroline Cooke

The story of Monique Anderson has largely been a mystery since she broke into the Kensington Avenue home of 71-year-old hospital volunteer Caroline Cooke on January 21, 1993.

Monique Anderson as a teenager

Monique Anderson as a teenager

Monique had celebrated her 15th birthday just four days earlier.

“I think Monique snapped,” Yvonne said. “When the lady came in – Mrs. Cooke came in – and caught her in the house, Mrs. Cooke tried to hold her and she just snapped.”

The bludgeoning death was so staggering, one longtime former member of the homicide squad called it the worst crime scene of his career. The judge in the case said it defied human understanding.

Mrs. Cooke’s blood was in three rooms. She was covered with lacerations and contusions all over her body. Her ribs had been shattered, her internal organs damaged, according to her autopsy report. The broomstick she had been sexually assaulted with remained inside of her.

Investigators believed it must’ve been a man behind the damage.

Monique Anderson age 5

Monique Anderson age 5

Yvonne Anderson said her daughter’s mental condition became fairly clear by the time she was five. She put a neighbor’s cat in a fish tank, along with other acts of violence and aggression. “We had her in an and out of counseling since she was four or five.”

Monique stayed in a variety of facilities for troubled youths. She was diagnosed with a severe mental problems and was given a variety of medications.

“I found out later in life it could take some years to get the cocktail right,” Yvonne Anderson said. “I just don’t believe they ever got Monique’s cocktail right.”

She does not try to minimize her daughter’s crimes, which included entering many other strangers’ homes to steal. During our interview, Yvonne Anderson made it a point to clearly apologize to Mrs. Cooke’s family.

But she believes Monique didn’t get the significant care and follow-through she desperately needed back then because she was a poor African-American girl from the projects.

She also believes Monique got a long prison sentence – totaling, in essence, 55 years – for the same reason. She notes, accurately, that both Monique’s court appointed lawyer as well as the prosecutor argued the girl was insane and belonged in a mental hospital.

Yvonne Anderson said the judge was white, the victim was white and Monique got sent to prison for something she did as a certifiably unstable black juvenile.

The prosecutor at the time, Claire Cardwell, said Monique’s judicial downfall was that she came across as conniving, street-wise and extremely dangerous. That crime scene couldn’t be dismissed.

Court testimony indicated that Monique suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. But Yvonne Anderson insists she didn’t drink a drop while she was pregnant with Monique. She went along with that defense strategy, she told me, because Monique’s attorney told them it could help the girl’s chances in court – that she was damaged through no fault of her own.

There’s no question the girl was damaged. But her mother says she has no idea why. She said she’s certain that Monique didn’t suffer any physical or sexual abuse in their home as a little girl, or later.

Monique has spent a good bit of time in prison in isolation – “in the hole,” she said. She said she believed her daughter prefers it that way.

But she hasn’t gotten the help she desperately needs, Yvonne Anderson said.

“The Department of Correction has had Monique longer than I had her in my custody. Y’all have had her for 18 years and y’all haven’t been able to do (anything).”

Monique’s younger sister, Sheree Anderson, said they fully realize Monique took a life. “She was only 15. Yes, you should know right from wrong at that age . . . But in her state of mind, she probably didn’t know what was right or what was wrong . . . she was 15 years old.”

She certainly won’t get better being locked up in the hole, Sheree Anderson added.

Had Monique been ruled not guilty by reason of insanity, there wouldn’t be the state oversight and control over her release date via the parole board, said both Mrs. Cooke’s daughter and one of her neighbors.

Former next-door-neighbor Beth Damerel asked how much faith should she have in the mental health system that failed Monique – and Mrs. Cooke – 21 years ago.

But if Monique had been judged to be criminally insane and a danger to society, she could be held for the rest of her life – if there was a secure place for her.

But in the prison system, she’ll eventually serve all of her time. She’s been up for parole – and turned down – several times she first became eligible seven years ago. Her current parole hearing is still being decided. It’s unlikely she’ll get out any time soon.

Yvonne Anderson said the once-sweet little girl she gave birth to all those years ago will never get better where she is now.

“So when it’s time for her to be coming home for real,” asked her mom, “what are you going to do then?”

23 comments

  • Kim

    You do the crime, you do the time. Plain and simple. I’m so sick of these parents crying about how unfair it is for their child (who in this case is a murderer) to be treated like they are. TOO BAD! Maybe if the girl’s parents would have actually taught her right from wrong and followed that up with corporal punishment like most of us had growing up, she may have turned out better. I see so many stories about people like that girl claiming to be mentally unstable, insane, etc when in reality you find out they aren’t.

  • Harvey Quick

    18 year old mom- check
    no dad mentioned-check
    projects-check
    race card-check
    white lady killed-check
    “unfair”-check

  • blak blak

    If you can’t tell she got mental problems you slow… Its not natural for a child a girl to want to kill animals at that age. Thehy tell you that’s how most socialpaths start then they evolve… Bye the way y’ll white playing the same card just from the otherside.

  • hummmmmm

    Based on her crime she is where she is suppose to be…. But torchering animals at such as early age is signs of mentally illness which normally escalates….. She needs to be n a facility where she can also get mental help…. The mom isnt making excuses for her… She acknowledged her daughter is a murderer but she also knows they had not been able to fix her issues…. Its a sad situation all the way around….. This shouldnt been a race issue…. There are killers in all ethnicities and races…. Stop playing the race card people…. 2014 we shld be over that…..

  • ms hope

    it is truly sad that YOU people are missing the point here. this was a sad little girl who didnt get the help she needed and commited a horrible crime. and all these years later she still has not gotten the help she needs. It does not matter that she was black or from the projects or even that she was poor. the system failed her. Look at what happened with Mr Deeds son. so money doesnt matter if there is a true sickness. So PLEASE dont us this forum to spew your racist points of view. Just pray that this person finally gets some help for all of our sakes.

    • Morning Dew

      The problem is……..there is no help for her. Our mental health system doesn’t know how to help her. The prison certainly isn’t helping her, but mental health is in the dark ages. It will take years, maybe a century before they are able to help such a horrible disease.

  • bpgagirl22vanow

    When I looked at that picture of Monique when she was about 5 next to her mom, there was definitely something “dark” in her eyes with her soul. Some people say demons but I think there was something far worse going on.

  • Psy-Ko Smiley

    I must have read it differently then some of you. Seemed to me the mom was saying she would have been better off being held the rest of her life in a mental facility then in jail where she will eventually be free when time is served. I think mom realizes that she is still dangerous and should not be let out. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her or anything, you always love your kid, just not always their actions. I give the mom credit for realizing her kid shouldn’t be out.

  • ShuLuvr

    I personally think a person has to have mental issues to want to even rob a someone much less savagely beat them to death @ any age this person has mental issues. Now maybe I’m crazy but when I see elderly people, who cares the race I go into nurturing mode even if their is no problem at hand. Just a wave, smile & acknowledging there presence is awesome. I’m so sorry what ever wasn’t right in her mind caused her to do this its sick & sad shame…To her mother I’m so sorry. I too am a parent & it would tear my soul out if my son would do anything to harm another human being. To the elderly women’s family may good bless you. My heart bleeds for you fore no one deserves to die that way. When does it end……

  • JL

    shes more than likely going to spend the rest of her life in jail, so why should she get help?… crazy gets crazy….let her rot

  • Julie Zeh

    A very sad story indeed. I imagine that Monique’s mother is trying her best to process the whole situation, through her personal “lens” of being black and being poor. We all do what we can to cope when face-to-face with tragedy. Personally, I believe that sociopaths come from all walks of life; one of forms of mental disorders that are in need of a more comprehensive mode of lifelong treatment.

  • Lisa K

    I don’t get the cry to “help” or to make a cold blooded killer “better.” The person she killed had no help and will never get better. She doesn’t deserve a chance for a better life, freedom, or to feel better – if you take it from another living creature, you don’t deserve it for yourself.

    • pay attention

      Pay attention!!! She has a release date! They can deny her parole until she serves all her time then they have no choice but to let her out. With no ‘help’ you better hope your home isn’t the next home she decides to break into!!!

  • Tastykake

    Most of you are stupid Monique was very sick as a child I knew her and her mother well.Her mother didnt know what or steps to take she did try and Monique just didnt get the right help.Its not a white or black thing with mental health people back then wasn’t educated enough to know.

  • Terri Johnson

    This statement in the article is what I believe made people start having race issues: But she believes Monique didn’t get the significant care and follow-through she desperately needed back then because she was a poor African-American girl from the projects… Either way this was/is a sick person. Sadly the help she got/the medicines she was on didn’t prevent Mrs. Cooke’s death. But if Monique is truely sick she needed to be in a mental hospital. But 18 years in Corrections probably only exacerbated the girls mental status/at this point I dont know whether or not treatment could reverse ALL the harm and make her a better person. But by reading the article I think her mother is concerned about her release/thinking she would be better off in an institution than on the streets. I think she may be on to something. So instead of pooling together our ignorance maybe we should pool togeher and help her mother keep her in some type of instiuion mental or otherwise.

  • hmmm

    anybody else notice the looney tunes poster in the teen pic? ….foreshadowing or was this after the main event?

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