Man guilty in 1977 murder
Closure for kin of woman killed
BROCKTON -- Pamela Masters was just 9 the last time she saw her mother, Ruth, on a spring afternoon more than 26 years ago. Yesterday, she stood 10 feet from the man convicted of murdering her mother in a Plymouth forest and spoke of the loss that shaped her life.
Delivering a victim impact statement in Plymouth Superior Court, where 74-year-old Eric H. Anderson Jr. had just been convicted of first-degree murder for killing Ruth Masters, the murder victim's only child said she long feared that her father would also die violently, leaving her alone. She worried that she, too, would be murdered.
She never had a mother to guide her through her teen years, to be there on prom night, at graduations, on her wedding day, and for the birth of her now 12-year-old son. For a time her faith evaporated, replaced by a misdirected hatred of God.
"That's the bad news," Masters said before Anderson was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Patrick Brady to life in prison without parole.
"The good news," she continued, was that she no longer defines herself by the aching void created by Anderson. "I've learned that life is not fair, but that you can still suck the life out of life and it is wonderful." She's regained her faith and learned to live.
"It's what my mother would want for me, and it's what I want for myself," she said.
Masters -- who was not allowed to see her mother's body because of the brutal nature of the killing -- learned for the first time during Anderson's trial how her mother had died.
Masters, her mother, and her father, Wayne, were at Myles Standish State Forest on May 14, 1977, for a day of bike riding when Anderson spotted Ruth Masters riding alone on an isolated trail. He knocked her unconscious with a rifle, cut her throat, and mutilated her body, according to trial testimony.
The murder of Masters, whose death haunted a generation of detectives, went unsolved until State Police Lieutenant Richard L. Nagle and Plymouth Police Sergeant John W. Rogers reopened the investigation in 1994. Nagle, who was then assigned to the now-disbanded State Police Cold Case Squad, had learned of the killing from his father, also named Richard, who was once chief of police in Plymouth.
Four years after Nagle and Rogers restarted the investigation, Anderson was indicted for Masters's murder. During the trial, a couple testified that they had told State Police about a man they identified as Anderson within days of the murder, but did not hear from them until Nagle came calling some 17 years later.
Yesterday, Nagle said Anderson was among 200 suspects scrutinized by the original investigators, but he could not explain why the couple's information was never followed up.
"The puzzle is very easy once you get it put together," Nagle said. "For whatever reason, they were probably focusing in another direction. In a cold case, there is usually a reason it goes astray."
For a time after Masters's murder, investigators considered her husband a suspect, a fact Wayne Masters alluded to during his victim impact statement and later at a press conference. "We never had a face, we never had a person," he said. "The hardest part is seeing myself as a victim. When compared to what Ruth has lost, my own suffering seems insignificant."
A jury of six men and six women convicted Anderson of first-degree murder on the grounds of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty after deliberating for about nine hours over two days.
Three former cellmates of Anderson's testified about statements he had made regarding Masters's murder. No forensic evidence was found connecting Anderson to the murder.
"It seemed like 25 years," Wayne Masters said of the deliberations. He added that justice for his late wife will mean that Anderson will not hurt another woman. "If he was ever released, he certainly would try to kill again."
Anderson, who showed no emotion, is currently serving a 20-year sentence in Maine for attacking a woman in 1990. The Maine attack occurred two years after he was released from a Massachusetts prison for attacking another woman with a knife in Kingston.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.