Eugene Robert Anderson killed in prison
Convicted for child pornography, prostitution, abuse
MARIETTA — A former Marietta College professor sentenced to more than two centuries in prison on child pornography and prostitution charges in 2003 was killed Sunday in a West Virginia prison.
Eugene Robert Anderson, 66, was eight years into his sentence for more than 130 charges relating to child pornography and prostitution in Washington and Wood counties. He had yet to begin serving time on the most recent conviction of sexual abuse of two minors, to which he pleaded guilty in December 2015 in Kanawha Circuit Court and was sentenced to a minimum additional 60 years in prison after the first 180 years for the previous cases.
Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said the fatal incident occurred at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex. An open investigation by the West Virginia State Police continues into Anderson’s death.
“The facility will remain in lockdown as the state troopers do whatever they believe is prudent to investigate what happened,” said Messina.
Anderson was killed Sunday evening after an apparent assault by one or more fellow inmates.
He was fatally injured around 6 p.m. in an outdoor recreation area and the facility was immediately placed on lockdown.
Messina said a makeshift weapon had been recovered but no one has been charged.
Lt. Michael Baylous, West Virginia State Police spokesman, said officers are still investigating and interviewing witnesses.
He said the plan at present is to complete the investigation and present the findings to the prosecuting attorney for presentation to a grand jury.
Anderson’s impact is one vividly remembered by officials in Washington County, more than a decade after he was convicted.
“I was just thinking about him the other day; he wasn’t a rough and tough guy,” recalled former Washington County Prosecutor Michael Spahr. “Anderson was in his 50s when he was arrested and we tried him. He looked like a typical professor. I can’t imagine him getting into a fight in prison.”
Retired Marietta Police Det. Sgt. Rick Meek said the investigation into Anderson began with an unrelated case of property crime in which the suspect, Jay Johnson, provided information on Anderson in exchange for a reduction of his charges.
“That was certainly the catalyst,” said Meek. “Spahr sent him to me and (Johnson) told me that we should be looking at Anderson.”
Meek said law enforcement in Washington and Wood counties had suspected Anderson of improper conduct with minors for a while but had yet to find substantial evidence to open an investigation until December of 2000.
The investigation led to search warrants for Anderson’s residence in West Virginia and his car and office at Marietta College where officers seized items that included computers and computer media.
More than 100,000 still images depicting children engaging in explicit sexual conduct were found, along with videos and more than 8,000 chats between Anderson and both adult and juvenile males.
“It was really frustrating for us because the man was a computer genius and we had never dealt with a computer crime,” said Alison Cauthorn, Washington County assistant prosecutor. “I don’t think this county had ever seen or has ever seen anything like it. The chats were extremely graphic and he talked about acts that he had engaged in and identified himself as a professor at a liberal arts school interested in underage males.”
The joint investigation between local law enforcement agencies and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation revealed not only the pornographic images, videos and online chats, but also the grooming and sexual interaction between Anderson and several minor males from the Parkersburg area.
“Cases like this are always especially difficult,” said Cauthorn. “Young men can have a more difficult time processing and discussing sexual abuse so getting folks to come forward was hard.”
Throughout the three-week trial of Anderson in August of 2003, the jury bore witness to several of the images, chats and first-person accounts of Anderson’s actions.
“The jury had to deliberate each count individually and they had to look at this child pornography he had downloaded,” said Spahr. “Anderson was very stoic throughout the whole trial and I don’t think he had any friends or family there.”
The death of Anderson came as a shock to those who worked on his case in Washington County, especially after the consecutive sentences were ordered.
“He received what he deserved in sentencing; he preyed upon youth in our community and God only knows how deep those scars go,” said Meek.
Cauthorn recalled preparing for the original indictment throughout 2001 and said even her memory of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 is skewed because of it.
“I was working on identifying the pornographic images to use for that indictment with Sgt. Meek,” she said. “It makes you numb. But once we knew we hit the first count and that the jury understood how serious the offenses were, we knew we had him.”
Anderson was ultimately convicted of 108 child pornography and prostitution charges in Washington County, 22 charges in Wood County in 2003 and another 20 charges in Kanawha County in 2015. He was sentenced to a cumulative 240 years in prison.
Anderson arrived at Mount Olive in July 2003. His parole hearing was scheduled for 2085 while a projected release date was 2148.
He was formerly the director of information technology and an associate computer science professor at Marietta College.
(Jess Mancini contributed to this story.)