Letters from a Serial Killer – Excerpt


The Box

There is a box I keep in my basement, tucked far back in a corner where the kids will never stumble upon it. I’ve lugged this box 2,000 miles across the country—from my life as a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter to my life as a Minneapolis Italian-American mama.

From the outside, there is little indication of what the box contains. It is marked only with three letters: C.D.A.

Curtis Dean Anderson.

The box has become a dark memorial to a man I feared and despised. Nearly a decade after his death, I hold onto this box that contains sick mementos of a monster, a convicted serial killer who preyed on little girls.

This white cardboard box contains dozens of reporter’s notebooks filled with interviews with Anderson and newspaper articles I wrote about him while I was a police reporter for the Contra Costa Times.

Odd tidbits of a killer’s life remain in my safe keeping—an original birth certificate; requests to interview him in jail, stamped approved or denied; photocopies of maps I pressed to the glass window separating us, begging him to point out where the bodies were buried; a tiny piece of paper where I wrote the “code” he used to tell me sensitive information during recorded jailhouse interviews.

And then, also in the box, are the letters he wrote me—at first, from Solano County Jail and later, from San Quentin State Prison.

Letters from a man who infuriated me by writing: “Seems Xiana will never be avenged.”

Xiana Fairchild was a seven-year-old girl kidnapped and killed in my beat area when I was a reporter. It was her story that brought me to him.

In the beginning, during those nighttime jailhouse visits to Anderson, what I wanted more than anything was to find out if she was still alive somewhere.

Later, when they found Xiana’s skull in the Santa Cruz Mountains, my goals changed. I wanted him to confess to kidnapping and killing her so he’d be locked away for life.

And I wasn’t the only one receiving his rambling, bizarre letters.

The woman who raised Xiana Fairchild was also visiting him in jail and corresponding with him. Like me, she first had hopes she could bring Xiana home alive, and later, to see justice served.

That woman, Stephanie Kahalekulu, and I share a special bond. We both have looked into the face of evil.

For years we talked about sharing our letters from Anderson. And now, with this collaboration, we hope to further purge this man and his memory from our minds, hearts, and souls.

Stephanie co-wrote this book with me by putting herself back in that difficult place and time so she could write about her feelings and thoughts as she relived this tragedy on paper. Together, we wrote, read and edited in hopes that we could purge and heal from this time in our lives. It was an amazing experience to finally face, expose the evil mind, and conquer this horrible monster.

I had already seen the healing power of writing about Anderson.

Years after I left my reporting job and sat down to write my first book, Blessed are the Dead, I retrieved these letters from their box in the basement. I plucked the most horrible lines from them and stuck them right in the mouth of my antagonist.

I put his words on paper so I wouldn’t have to hear his voice when I watched my daughters play outside. Every once in a while I still think of him as I watch my children walk to the bus stop. I remember how he sat in his car, watching a girl walking home from school on the sidewalk, and then jumped out and grabbed her.

That’s when I remind myself that he is dead.

He was serving a 251-year-sentence at Corcoran State Prison when he died, at 46, of natural causes on Dec. 11, 2007, eight years and two days from the day Xiana Fairchild disappeared on Dec. 9, 1999.

In writing Blessed are the Dead, in creating a work of fiction, I did what I couldn’t do in real life—save a girl he took and make him die a terrible death. Despite hours trying to find out if Xiana Fairchild was still alive and where she might be, I failed. She was already dead. There was nothing I could do for his victims and nothing I could do to this man.

But I wouldn’t let him do anything more to me. I wouldn’t let him affect me as a mother. So I sat down and wrote a story that ended up spanning a crime fiction series. For the most part, I have kicked him out of my head, but for some reason, I can’t destroy the letters he sent. I don’t know why. So I will keep his letters buried in my basement, in my house, but not close to me. I will keep them in the farthest, deepest, darkest corner of the place I live. Like a shadowy secret that can’t ever see the light of day, that’s where you will find my letters from a serial killer.