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Story Last modified at 9:53 a.m. on Thursday, April 5, 2007

Anderson murder trial postponement ordered by judge

April 2 date cancelled, new date not set

By DARRELL L. BREESE
Alaska Star

photo:safety

Ted and Leslie Dirkes, left, watch as Barry Anderson, center, talks to his defense attorney in court in October 2005. Anderson is accused of murdering the Dirkes' son, Keith. Anderson's trial has experienced a number of delays, causing it to take more than seven years to go to trial.
STAR FILE PHOTO
After waiting nearly eight years for justice, Ted and Leslie Dirkes thought they had finally reached the end of the road as the man accused of murdering their son in 1999 was days away from heading to trial when another postponement was ordered.

Thirty-year-old Barry Anderson is accused of killing 18-year-old Keith Dirkes during a robbery of Godfather's Pizza. His trial was set to begin April 2 before the most recent delay.

After tragedy struck the Dirkes family in January, when a house fire destroyed the their home, taking the lives of two of their grandchildren and injuring two others, Anderson's defense attorney, Andrew Lambert, requested delaying the trial six months to prevent the publicity of the fire from tainting a potential jury.

Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton delayed ruling on the motion until he could hear from Ted and Leslie Dirkes, who are busy tending to their injured grandchildren.

After meeting with the family during a status hearing March 19, Judge Wolverton decided to set a new trial date more suitable for both the defendant and the family.

According to Wolverton's clerk, a new trial date has not been set. She added that it would likely be set during a May 11 hearing, which means a longer wait for the Dirkes family.

“I heard the defense attorney say something about not being available until October,” Leslie Dirkes said. “That's another six months. The longer this gets put off the more likely it is that a killer will be put back out on the streets.”

The family has been at this point before, close to a trial only to face a delay.

In 2005, six years after their son's death, they were a day away from the trial starting after years of battling over evidence and pleas from both sides for closure. But that trial date went by the wayside amidst a series of motions and changes in attorneys.

The reason for the bulk of the delay early in the case was a taped conversation between Anderson and a police informant in early 2000. Prosecutors say that conversation is key to their case. Defense attorneys for Anderson said the evidence was obtained illegally, but the appellate court denied that allegation, clearing the way for the trial.

“Now I understand that those witnesses, (who committed another crime with Anderson) have decided not to testify,” Leslie Dirkes said. “I guess they would rather be in jail instead of testifying against someone else. They don't want to be known as snitches in jail.”

More recently, Anderson's previous attorney was forced to resign because his firm represented an individual on the prosecution's witness list. The conflict of interest meant more delays, as Anderson's new attorney, Lambert, got up to speed with the case.

According to charging documents, Keith Dirkes, was closing an Anchorage Godfather's Pizza, when Anderson, a former employee, was allegedly let in by Dirkes to use the restroom.

Anderson, 25 at the time, is accused of shooting Dirkes twice in the head with a .45 caliber handgun, leaving his body in a walk-in cooler, and fleeing with about $1,200, according to police.

Anderson was charged with the murder about six months later while he was incarcerated for an unrelated crime and has remained in jail awaiting trial. All the while he maintains his innocence, saying he was framed.

“I believe we've set a national record for the longest time between an arrest and the trial,” Ted Dirkes said. “I'm almost getting used to the delays. It's getting to the point where I don't have much faith that this case is ever going to go to trial.

“It's all up to the judge,” he continued. “He's the one who has the power to bring this case to trial.”

Reach the reporter at darrell.breese@alaskastar.com.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, April 5, 2007.