"What do you say in a situation like this? How can my words have any weight, given my crime? When will the pain end, knowing that I'm the cause of it?"
It was the 20th of March 2020. A Friday. Fifty one year old Gretchen Anthony was finished work for the weekend. Gretchen was a positive person and loved spending time with her twelve year old daughter Ava and doing yoga. She had at one time worked as a teacher but left that position to take a job at a utility firm. She worked in their human resources department. Her coworkers recalled that she was in good spirits as she left work that Friday evening.
Gretchen lived in a house on Sunshine Drive in Abacoa's Mallory Creek community in Jupiter, Florida, United States with her daughter. Until recently, she had also lived with her husband David Anthony. Forty four year old David was a fitness coach. Gretchen and David married in Nevada in 2015 but at the start of 2020 they separated and both filed for divorce in February 2020.
David and Gretchen Anthony
On the Monday morning, the 23rd of March, Gretchen was due back in work but didn't turn up at the office all day and didn't notify the office that she wouldn't be in. None of her coworkers heard from her that day either which was unusual. In the days that followed, Gretchen's coworkers, her boss and some of her friends received emails and text messages from Gretchen's account and phone number.
Her coworkers received an email from Gretchen's work email address. The email stated that she'd developed "a low-grade fever over the weekend" and "awoke to shortness of breath this morning" and as a result of that, she was booked in for a COVID-19 test at the hospital.
A text message received by another coworker stated that she had been diagnosed with an “acute” case of coronavirus and was being held at the Jupiter Medical Center. She was required to remain in quarantine for 14 days. A number of coworkers, including Gretchen's boss, received text messages saying she was getting transported from the hospital into the custody of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further observation. Another message said that she was in a facility in Belle Glade.
Gretchen's coworkers were concerned as the emails and text messages didn't sound like Gretchen had written them herself. They were so concerned that the reached out to Gretchen's mother to ask her if she had heard from Gretchen. Gretchen's boss asked police to carry out a wellness check. When police called to her property, Gretchen was not home.
The police contacted the Jupiter Medical Center to enquire about Gretchen but they were informed that there was no patient there under that name. They also checked if she was at Belle Glade but she wasn't there either.
Police tracked her phone and discovered that it pinged off a tower in the city of Pensacola on the 25th of March and then it pinged off another tower in Texas a couple of days later.
Police reached out to David. He told them that he thought she was being treated for Covid-19. But he also informed them of a possible reason why Gretchen may be missing. He mentioned that Gretchen had uncovered tax fraud at her workplace. According to David, she reported it and was worried that somebody may find out that she was a whistleblower. She was paranoid that someone may come to her house and confront her. When police looked into the information David provided, they discovered it was not true. But when they investigated further, they found out that someone had indeed called to her house, just not for the reasons that David had outlined.
Police obtained a search warrant for Gretchen's house. Gretchen's neighbors told police that on the 21st of March, they heard a "blood-curdling scream"and shouts of "No! No, it hurts!" coming from Gretchen's patio or garage. They notified police that the next day, they smelled a mix of water and chemicals coming from Gretchen's garage.
When police searched Gretchen's home, they found large bleach stains in the garage and blood in different parts of the house, including on the wall in the master bedroom. They also discovered what appeared to be blood stained towels inside the washing machine.
Gretchen had a Blink door video device on her front door and police looked at the recording from the 21st of March. At 6.15am that morning, what appeared to be a tall man , was standing inside the screened in porch. When Gretchen opened the door she stepped out and the camera recorded someone shouting "What are you doing?".
Further footage was obtained by the police from inside Gretchen's home. The footage was from a camera that was installed in the garage and it showed what appeared to be a person lying on the floor close to a water jug. It looked like there was blood on the water jug. The tall man who was seen on the footage in the porch was captured on the video reaching with a gloved hand to the garage camera and pulling it down. A witness identified the tall man as David Anthony. David is 6 feet 7 inches.
One of the neighbors had a security camera installed on the outside of their house and it captured footage of what looked like David's car leaving Gretchen's home on the 21st of March. Police located David in New Mexico and he was arrested on the 31st of March. Police also seized his vehicle, a 2016 black Nissan Frontier pickup, as a cadaver dog alerted its handler to evidence of decomposition. Police said a cadaver dog trained to detect the smell of decomposition picked up a scent inside Gretchen’s home also.
David Anthony's Pickup Truck
Police spoke to David. They knew someone called to Gretchen's house on the 21st of March and they believed that person was David. They believed that, despite not knowing where Gretchen was, that she was murdered and that David was responsible.
During the course of their investigation, police built a case against David. At the time Gretchen’s phone pinged in Pensacola, police could also place David in the city at the same time. He was at a pawn shop trying to pawn some of Gretchen's jewelry.
Police also established that when Gretchen's phone pinged in Texas, David's phone also pinged in the same location off the same tower in Texas.
Police investigated David's movements from the 21st of March, the day Gretchen went missing, to the 31st of March, the day he was arrested. They discovered that there was footage of him from the 23rd of March that was captured on a camera parking his truck at the Jupiter Medical Center. One day later, footage captured him parking Gretchen's Mini Cooper at that same hospital.
When police examined Gretchen's car, they found blood on the steering wheel and on the gearshift.
David and Gretchen Anthony
David was extradited to Florida and charged with murder and kidnapping. Police still did not know where Gretchen was or how she died. They believed that David was the person who sent the email to Gretchen's coworkers from Gretchen's work email address and that he was the person who sent her coworkers, boss and friends text messages stating that she was being transferred to hospital.
But while they believed David was responsible and believed they had enough evidence that would lead to him being convicted at Trial, they had no explanation as to what exactly happened to Gretchen and where her body was. And Gretchen's family wanted to find her to lay her to rest. As a result, David was offered a plea deal. Authorities gave David the option to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second degree murder and kidnapping if he would reveal where Gretchen was. The second degree murder charge carried a maximum penalty of life in prison as opposed to a possible death penalty sentence on a first degree murder charge.
David agreed. Within hours of accepting the plea, David told police where Gretchen could be found. Police found her body in woodland near Bush Road and Indiantown Road, about 3 miles from her home.
As a condition of the plea agreement, Prosecutors cannot withdraw the plea or seek any additional charges based on what they discover following an Autopsy or any further evidence they find.
David was sentenced to serve a 38 year prison sentence and was given credit for 295 days of time already served at the time of sentencing.
At the sentencing hearing, the Court heard of events that led up to Gretchen's death. One of David's coworkers observed that at the start of 2020, David had mood swings and said:
“I did tell Gretchen that he was off and she needed to stay away from him. I think about that every day.”
One week prior to Gretchen’s disappearance, on the 15th of March at 10.30pm, David was arrested. He was handcuffed and charged with resisting an officer with violence. Police approached him as an allegation was made that he was sweating and pacing and approaching teenage girls at an outdoor plaza in Riviera Beach in Florida.
When the officer approached David to talk to him, he noticed black electrical tape placed over David's license plate to make a “6” look like an “8.”
It was reported that David said that his stepdaughter likely did it as she enjoyed playing with tape. When David leaned into his truck to get his license, the officer drew his weapon and ordered him out of the vehicle and onto the ground.
When another officer tried to arrest David, he slammed the door on the officer's arm. They believed he was reaching for an unknown object. The officer shouted at him:
When David was on the ground, he was arrested.
“Get out! No! Get out! Turn around! Get out, now! Get out! I got him at gunpoint. Get out of the car! What’s he got? What’s he got in his hands? Drop it. Whatever it is, drop it.”
"You are pure evil. You stole a mother away from her child. A daughter away from her mother. You are a monster. You are a coward."
David also addressed the Court. He described Gretchen as someone who "brought light into this dark world." He told the Court that:
"Instead of being a man, I tried to be a coward. I can't get her life back. I can't fix this.I’ve created irreparable damage in the world of people who loved me. My addiction to and abuse of medicinal-grade marijuana combined with untreated mental health issues further fueled a chain reaction that led from one tragic event to the next."
The Court heard that David had struggled with bipolar disorder for years and was in a dark place. David told the Court that Gretchen had tried to save him from that dark place and showed him how amazing life could be. But he explained that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, his delusions saw it as an "end-of-the-world prophecy."
After the sentencing hearing, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Kronberg said:
"It is never ideal to have someone who commits a crime like this get anything less than life, but this is what the family wanted to provide closure."
Police have not yet revealed how Gretchen Anthony was killed.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
"My family and myself are good, decent and very honest people."
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