Sanders' death ruled a homicide

Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | 7:32 p.m. CDT; updated 2:44 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 11, 2008

COLUMBIA - Columbia police now know what caused the unnatural death of 53-year-old Columbia resident Helen Sanders, but they won't disclose the cause.

In a final autopsy report released to Columbia police and the Boone County prosecutor's office Tuesday, the Boone County medical examiner's office ruled Helen Sanders' death a homicide. However, Columbia police have decided to withhold the specific cause of death because releasing it could "jeopardize the investigation" into the homicide, Capt. Brad Nelson said in a news release issued Wednesday.

"It's up to them to make an announcement," said Deputy Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein, who conducted the autopsy. The findings of the autopsy, he added, "will be interesting."

Columbia police discovered Sanders' body in the trunk of a car driven by her older son, 19-year-old Daniel Sanders, after pulling him over Aug. 14 for driving erratically. The body of Helen Sanders was wrapped in a blanket and lying next to what appeared to be a newly purchased shovel. According to a search warrant affidavit, police officers observed scratches on Daniel Sanders' face and arms.

Little information has been released in the death investigation. Initially, both Daniel Sanders and his 16-year-old brother were brought in for questioning related to what police called a suspicious death.

Daniel Sanders was subsequently charged with tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, he was being held at Boone County Jail on $250,000 bond.

Preliminary results from the autopsy released Aug. 19 showed that at the time of her death, Helen Sanders had a significant amount of fluid in her lungs, several broken ribs and a broken sternum. Police were investigating the possibility that she drowned in a bathtub in her home.



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