An unexplained death

A decade later, plenty of questions still swirl around Robbie Anderson's death in Maple Grove, Minn.

For a decade Bob and Sandy Anderson have been looking for answers as to how and why their 19-year-old son, Robbie, died during a night of drinking with friends. 

They may finally be closer to getting answers.

Maple Grove Police have re-opened the investigation after inconsistencies in the case were recently discovered and brought to the attention of detectives and the Fox 9 Investigators.

At the time, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled it a “sudden unexplained death.” The Hennepin County Attorney declined to file manslaughter charges because it was unclear how and why Anderson died.

Maple Grove Police say they have been presented with new information, and the case is now open and “very active."

A NIGHT OF DRINKING

On December 3, 2009, Robbie Anderson had been partying with two friends he had known since middle school, Paul LeClerc and Matt Scouton.

In the basement of LeClerc’s home, they played video games and did shots of vodka. Vodka that LeClerc had stolen from his parents’ liquor store, according to police.

Police reports and witness statements describe a night of excessive drinking.  LeClerc and Scouton did 15 to 17 shots, polishing off their own bottles of vodka.  Robbie did about ten shots.

Then, according to LeClerc and Scouton, Robbie Anderson keeled over, suddenly.

Scouton started giving him CPR, while LeClerc called 911.  In a chaotic and rambling 911 call, LeClerc says, “I don’t know, we were drinking and he stopped breathing and he fell out of his chair.”

When the first squad arrived at the home, LeClerc told the 911 dispatcher he didn’t want to disturb his parents. 
 
911: “Someone needs to go open the door and let the police officers in.”  
LeClerc: “Okay, we’re bringing him outside to 63rd Ave. N.” 
911:  “I understand that, sir. There’s an officer outside your house. Someone needs to let him in, please.”   
LeClerc: “Alright, we’re bringing… we’re bringing him to the door.”  
911: “Alright, I don’t want you to bring him to the door, I want you to let the officer in.”  
LeClerc: “No, we can’t let him in.”  
911: “Why can’t you let the officer in?”
LeClerc: “My parents are sleeping and I don’t want to wake my parents up.”  
911: “There’s someone not breathing in your house, police officers are medically trained to help him.”
LeClerc: “Okay, we’re bringing him to the door.”

Police entered a chaotic scene, both LeClerc and Scouton were heavily intoxicated.

In the basement, police found Anderson, not breathing, turning blue, and without a pulse.

The officers on the scene noticed Anderson had two black eyes and bruises on his face.  Officers noticed blood on his upper lip and in his nostrils.

As police and paramedics did CPR, LeClerc kept getting in the way of first responders, yelling expletives and looking for his cell phone.

LeClerc went upstairs, where he pulled a kitchen knife on his father, who had just awoken.

Police arrested LeClerc for obstruction and he was placed in a squad car, where he tried to bust out the windows.

While sitting in the squad car, LeClerc seemed to make a startling admission, captured by the squad's video system:  “Oh God, Oh God, I killed Rob. I killed him.”

Paul LeClerc screams and cries in the back of the squad after police responded to his home. (Supplied)

Police went to the Anderson home before dawn to notify Robbie’s parents, Bob and Sandy.

When Bob and Sandy Anderson saw their son’s body at the hospital, they noticed his bloody nose and bruising on his face.

The Anderson’s say their son’s friends, LeClerc and Scouton, provided few answers.

“The only thing they told us was that he stopped breathing and there wasn’t too much else, they didn’t want to go into anything,” Bob said.

When Fox 9 reported on the case 10 years ago, a reporter received the same response from LeClerc when she asked him what happened that night: “He stopped breathing, that’s it. I really don’t want to talk about it. I wish you’d be on your way.”

AN UNEXPLAINED DEATH

The autopsy report doesn’t answer the parents’ questions, either.

Robbie’s blood alcohol was point 15, he was acutely intoxicated, but not enough to cause his death.

Besides a prescription antacid, there were no drugs in his system.

There were signs of blunt force soft tissue damage to the right side of his head, but again, the medical examiner said, likely not fatal.

His heart tissue was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to check for any genetic disorders, and the results all came back negative.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled it was a “sudden unexplained death.”

Maple Grove Police submitted the case for possible manslaughter charges, however, Hennepin County prosecutors declined, writing: “There is no evidence to suggest any unlawful conduct of the suspects related to the cause of his death.”

They also wrote that LeClerc’s episode in the squad: “… could be interpreted as either expressions of concern or as expressions of guilt.”

Prosecutors added: “In the final analysis, the cause and manner of death remain undetermined. Without this information we cannot charge anybody with causing his death.”

To this day the Andersons are filled with grief, and are left to wonder what happened to their son.

“We have been walking around for ten years. Three of us died that night.  The two of us just haven’t stopped breathing, yet,” Bob said.

A GRAVE REQUEST
 
Earlier this year, when visiting Robbie at the cemetery, they noticed another grave site and a name they knew, Antonio DeMeules.

The Anderson’s had seen a Fox 9 Investigators story about DeMeules, killed while riding his skateboard and how his aunt, Sheila Potocnik, found missing clues detectives overlooked, that led to charges against the driver who fled the scene.

The Andersons wrote a letter and left it on DeMeules’ grave.

A portion of it read: “We would like you to know you are not alone in your grief. We lost our son almost 9 years ago and haven’t received any answers to his cause of death.”

“I asked them if they could point me in the direction, if they could help me find out what actually happened to my son,” Sandy said.

Potocnik received the letter, but didn’t know if she could offer assistance.

“It took me a few months for me to get back to them. I was taken aback.  I wanted to help, but not every case is like Antonio’s case.”

As she had done before with her nephew’s case, Potocnik meticulously went through the police file, the crime scene reports, detectives’ notes, and interviews.

“The majority of the information that I shared with them (the parents) they had no idea,” Potocnik said.

The Andersons had never heard the 911 call and they didn’t know about LeClerc’s episode in the squad car where he said he killed Rob.

Potocnik was struck by the inconsistent stories LeClerc and Scouton gave detectives just hours after Robbie died.

THE POLICE INTERVIEWS

LeClerc was interviewed in jail.
 
LeClerc told detectives: “He laid down and watched a movie, and he got up and threw up and I was sitting there in the sink in the basement. And he laid down and he was still breathing and everything, and all of sudden we noticed he wasn’t breathing.”

Detective: “Did he say anything to you guys when he got up?”
LeClerc: “No, he just got up and puked.”

Detectives sounded skeptical.

Detective: “Both my partner and I have, we’ve talked to a lot of people so far, and some of your story’s not adding up.”

Detectives had a more detailed story from Scouton, who said after Robbie passed out on the bed, they began “messing with him.”

Scouton: “And basically just made a mountain of clothing and shoes on top of him, put a blanket over him.” 
“I’m sitting there flicking him in the head wake up, wake up, wake up.  And he kinda wakes up, ‘screw you’ and pushing the s—t off of him and he gets up and then, you know, hold on, you need to throw up? It’s like alright and he’s not moving and he’s not getting off the bed, really.”

In a departure from LeClerc’s account, Scouton said they actually carried Robbie into the laundry room and placed him over a utility sink to throw up.

Scouton: “Paul’s on the right side hitting him on the side of the head trying to you know wake up, wake up, and trying to puke and stuff.”

“He’s sitting there like pushing his head, shaking his head, and I’m like, I think you might of hit, he must, he had to have hit his nose on the faucet or something, cuz like I said, after that his nose was starting to bleed.”

LeClerc didn’t mention any of that in his statement to police, but in a second interview he admitted to striking Robbie in the face a half dozen times, with an open and closed hand.

Detective to LeClerc: “Okay. Can you explain how there’s blood on the sheets then?”
LeClerc: ”I was (inaudible) trying to wake him up.”
Detective:  “Punching him like pretty hard?”
LeClerc:  “I was just trying to wake him up.”
Detective: “By slapping, open hand or did you…?”
LeClerc: “Both”

Detective: “Okay. Now was there any type of argument or anything that, because it seems like if you were going to wake somebody up you’d just kind of, ‘hey, you knucklehead come on.’”
LeClerc: “No, the reason (inaudible) is because he wasn’t waking up.”

To Potocnik, the statements were riddled with inconsistencies.

“How LeClerc is admitting his physical role in this, the punches, how Scouton is discussing how Rob just lays down and he goes to put a mountain of items on is body,” she said.

And during that frantic 911 call, LeClerc and Scouton later admit they were hiding the bottles of vodka.

LeClerc lawyered up and stopped talking to detectives. His attorney offered that LeClerc could speak with detectives, but would need immunity from prosecution. 

And the story is still changing to this day.  A couple months ago, a friend communicating with LeClerc on Facebook messenger, asked him to remind her what happened that night.

LeClerc wrote: “I woke up as he was turning blue laying on the bed. I tried to do the Heimlich to make him puke, accidentally dropped him. And started CPR til the police showed up.  Had to stop CPR to call the police because Matt was in freakout mode.”

STILL NO ANSWERS

LeClerc and Scouton have both moved from Minnesota, but both were back recently for a funeral.

The Fox 9 Investigators approached them: “Between the two of you, you know what happened and that is all Bob and Sandy want to know. You can imagine being in their position, right? Waiting 10 years and not having any answers?"

“I have gone into great detail with Sandy many times,” Scouton replied.

The Fox 9 Investigators: “That's very different from what Sandy has told me. She says she never heard an explanation.” 

“That is false, that will be all.” Scouton said, ending the interview.

“He said Robbie stopped breathing and that was about it,” Bob said after watching the interview.

“Just sort of shocking,” Sandy responded.

“Shocking the way they have no answers. The arrogance of both of them, actually,” Bob said.

Looking at this case 10 years later, Potocnik and the Anderson’s thought police, prosecutors, and the medical examiner never really got the big picture.  Never saw the inconsistencies in the various accounts.

The Andersons and Potocnik approached the doctor who conducted the autopsy ten years ago, and he agreed to review the case.  In a statement to the Fox 9 Investigators the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said they recently reviewed all the available information, but the cause of death remains “undetermined.”

“Should additional material develop that points to a more clear cause or manner of death in this case, the Medical Examiner can always amend the cause and/or manner of death on the death certificate,” the statement read.

Maple Grove Police also met with the family, a couple weeks ago, including the same detectives who originally worked the case.

“I feel more positive than I have in a long time,” Sandy Anderson said after coming out of the meeting. 

Maple Grove Police told the Fox 9 Investigators they have “received new information,” and the case is “open and active.”
 
704 UNDETERMINED DEATHS

Through the cloud of alcohol and time, Robbie’s parents may never know exactly what happened in that basement.  
 
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined Robbie Anderson’s cause of death was a “sudden unexplained death.” The manner of death (homicide, suicide, accident) was listed as “undetermined.”
 
He is not the first undermined death, The Fox 9 Investigators discovered he is one of 704 undetermined deaths, ruled by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, in the last decade. Many of those cases appear to be deaths in hospital settings or drug overdoses.

“It is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing when I close my eyes. And when I wake up out of a sleep that is what I see is my wonderful son gone,” Sandy said.

The Andersons have never cleared out Robbie’s room in the basement of their townhouse.

“I can’t get rid of anything, can’t go through anything,” Sandy said. “This will stay like this till we die or move.”

There’s a partially restored ’78 Buick Regal in the garage that Bob and Robbie worked on before Robbie’s death.  Ten years later, it’s untouched, as if time had not gone by.

“Love everything about my son and everything he touched is a treasure to us, Bob said. “I can’t get rid of it, it’s his.”

If anyone has further information relating to this case, contact the Maple Grove Police at 763-494-6184.