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Cop knew he ‘likely’ killed woman, but kept silent and investigated her death, feds say

Sacramento Bee
An on-duty police officer felt a “bump” on a highway but kept driving until a call came in about a body on the road, federal prosecutors said.

It was Thanksgiving morning at about 3:31 a.m. when Joshua Ben Anderson was dispatched to “the same stretch of highway” he had driven on minutes earlier on State Route 73, on White Mountain Apache Tribal territory in Arizona, according to prosecutors.

He arrived at the scene and found a woman dead Nov. 23, prosecutors said.

Then, Anderson and a fellow White Mountain Apache tribal officer found a piece of a bumper with “blood and human flesh on it,” according to court documents.

Anderson soon realized the bumper piece was “probably” from his patrol car “but said nothing,” court documents say.

He “suspected or knew that he was driving the vehicle that hit” the woman, but he stayed silent “about his likely involvement” and didn’t tell other officers, according to prosecutors.

Anderson began investigating the woman’s death, and when he got home from the scene, he removed the damaged bumper from his patrol car and hid it, according to prosecutors.

He also told the woman’s family she died, prosecutors said.

A day later, the White Mountain Apache Police Department arrested Anderson on multiple tribal criminal charges in connection with the death of Iris Billy, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office announced Nov. 27.

The department turned the criminal investigation over to the FBI, the sheriff’s office said at the time.

Now, Anderson, 49, of Whiteriver, is facing federal charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona said in a March 19 news release.

He’s been indicted on one count of engaging in misleading conduct to hinder or delay, and one count of corruptly altering and concealing evidence, according to the attorney’s office.

Brad Miller, Anderson’s court-appointed defense attorney, told McClatchy News on Anderson’s behalf that “our thoughts and prayers go out to the Billy family, nobody wins when an innocent life ends.”

“Our criminal justice system is built on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty and this principle applies to police officers who are accused of a crime,” Miller said in an email. “Mr. Anderson will in time present his defense to these allegations and the truth will be brought out.”

The family of Billy, a 30-year-old mother of two boys, thought she would have returned home the morning of Nov. 23, Phylene Burnette, one of her sisters, told 3TV/CBS 5 in November.

They were heartbroken when she didn’t, Burnette said in an interview with the TV station.

“Whatever he did to her, he came back to the scene and helped investigate,” Burnette told the outlet. “And he (Anderson) was one of the four officers that came to my parent’s house to break the news to them.”

“It is very disturbing, sickening and heartless,” she said.

The officer’s resignation

When Anderson’s shift ended Nov. 23, he took the plastic bumper piece found near Billy’s body home, according to the indictment.

Then, he “removed and concealed the broken parts from the front bumper area of his patrol vehicle,” the indictment says.

Anderson’s fellow officer suspected he fatally hit Billy after reviewing security footage from a casino near State Route 73, according to the indictment.

The footage showed Billy walking southbound on the highway, then Anderson’s patrol car driving in the same direction, the indictment says.

The next vehicle seen heading southbound on the road was an ambulance responding to Billy, according to the indictment.

When officers visited Anderson’s home to check his patrol car, a lieutenant found “what he believed to be blood, black hair, and brain matter,” the indictment says.

They asked “if he ran over anything,” to which Anderson responded no but said “he had run over skunks and other things in the past,” according to the indictment.

“He knew this was not true,” the indictment says.

Ultimately, the bumper piece found where Billy died was discovered in the bed of Anderson’s patrol car, according to the indictment.

Anderson resigned as a police officer following his arrest, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office said.

“He took my sister and we’ll never get her back, never get to celebrate birthdays again or holidays with her,” another one of Billy’s sisters, Dalecy Billy, wrote Nov. 25 on Facebook. “She’s gone forever and we’re all still very heartbroken.”

On March 19, Dalecy Billy shared the news of Anderson’s indictment, writing: “prayers we get justice for my sister.”

If Anderson is convicted on the two counts he’s facing, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Whiteriver is about a 180-mile drive northeast from Phoenix.

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