Head Games

At least one out of every five Colorado prisoners is mentally ill -- some violent, some undetected or untreated. How did the Big House become the Bug House?

Questions about his mental competency prompted a trip to Fort Logan. The shrinks there decided he was a fine case of a mixed personality disorder with anti-social and borderline features: "A great deal of his identity seems to be related to rebellion," one remarked. He was practically an adult now, but he caught one last break, a sentence of three years in a closed adolescent treatment center. Subsequent escapes and suicide attempts led to additional trips to Fort Logan. A doctor warned that he seemed unable to function in a correctional setting and would probably become psychotic if sent to prison.

In 1990, Anderson walked away from a drug rehab center and returned to his own street meds, including methamphetamine. A few months later he picked up his first prison sentence -- eight years for attempted burglary -- but the charge doesn't quite do justice to the strangeness of the crime, as detailed in the prisoner's file:

"Mr. Anderson entered a house, and after being confronted by the occupant and told to leave, was found to be standing at the front door starting to pull a long knife from his pants. Mr. Anderson then entered another home, where the occupant found Mr. Anderson hiding behind a door with a knife over his head in an 'Alfred Hitchcock' position and a can of mace in one hand. This occupant, who had a gun, ordered Mr. Anderson into the study and then called the police."

Troy, now 37, is serving a 75-year sentence for 
shootouts with police.
Troy, now 37, is serving a 75-year sentence for shootouts with police.

You might think that Anderson -- 5'7", 130 pounds and all of twenty years old -- would be easy prey in the state prison system. You would be wrong. "I came to prison a scared kid," he recalls. "Yeah, I could be violent. Didn't follow the rules. Too tough to do any kind of mental-health treatment. So I got ad-segged. And was even worse in ad-seg. All I did was fight, stab people."

Records show that Anderson racked up numerous serious assaults against other inmates and staff during his first few years in the DOC. At one point, he was charged with twenty assaults in as many months. He was sent to Pueblo or San Carlos several times for evaluation; some doctors believed he was faking or exaggerating symptoms, but others suspected a schizotypal personality. He spent almost his entire sentence in administrative segregation. He was released from CSP right to the street on October 30, 1997, twelve days before his 28th birthday.

"We begged him to come home," Carol Anderson recalls. "We thought that after eight years, maybe he will want to be out. He always says, 'I'll never go back.' But what he means is he would rather die than go back."

Darrel had a job lined up for his son, but Troy was ill-prepared for the hurdles of life on the outside. "It was like he'd just woken up from a long sleep and found out the world had changed around him," Darrel says. "He was confused about how to get along, how to go to the mall and find things."

Anderson stayed with his parents only a couple of weeks. He drifted to the streets, to old buddies and ways. In CSP he'd made so many plans. He'd studied to be a securities broker. He'd earned a certificate for anger management. Now that he was out, it all seemed like a joke. He couldn't even stand in line at the DMV for his driver's license without losing it. All that rage, just boiling, rattling the lid right off. What was the use?

"I was out three months," he writes. "I was cooking, shooting and selling meth. And chased some guy down the street with a knife. I got some county [jail] time. Stabbed two inmates, Danny Martinez and a guy named Alton. I stabbed Danny cause he raped and murdered Brandy DuVall ["Dealing With the Devil," February 25, 1999]. Stabbed Alton cause he was loud. Still ended up doing the county time. And got out. Went right back to the dope."

In late 1998, Anderson showed up at a motel in Commerce City, brandishing a .38 revolver and looking for someone who'd burned him in a dope deal. The police were called, and Anderson traded shots with them before being arrested. Three months later, after boarding a police bus that was supposed to take him back to jail from a court appearance, he kicked out a wire-mesh screen and grabbed a handgun from the dashboard. The Adams County deputies escorting him ran for cover. He fired eighteen shots and kept them at bay in the courthouse garage for thirty minutes before surrendering. He was handcuffed to another inmate the entire time.

No one was injured in the shootouts -- which could indicate that Anderson, who discharged a total of 26 rounds in the two incidents, is either the world's worst shot or was trying to accomplish suicide by cop. ("I wanted everything to stop," he would later testify.) Whatever his true motives, he was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, and more charges piled on as he got into repeated fights with his jailers.

The judge who presided at his trial, Murray Richtel, was the same judge who'd handled his first case in juvenile court sixteen years earlier. Richtel gave him 75 years and recommended that the DOC consider sending him to San Carlos.

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