Sanders pleads not guilty to mother's murder

Monday, December 8, 2008 | 5:10 p.m. CST; updated 6:49 p.m. CST, Monday, December 8, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Columbia teen charged with second-degree murder in the drowning death of his mother pleaded not guilty Monday in Boone County Circuit Court.

Daniel Sanders, 19, was indicted Friday on the second-degree murder charge almost four months after Columbia police found his mother’s dead body in the trunk of the car he was driving.

According to the indictment, on Aug. 14, Sanders "acting in concert with another," drowned his mother, 53-year-old Helen Sanders, and then tampered with evidence by hiding her body in the car's trunk. In August, Sanders pleaded not guilty to one count of tampering with evidence in a felony prosecution.

Sanders’ trial is scheduled for Jan. 7, Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton said Monday, though depending on motions filed with the court that date could change.

“With the addition of the new murder charge, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that the trial date could be moved,” said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Scholz, who will be the lead prosecutor on the case.

Gary Sanders, Daniel Sanders’ 16-year-old brother, remains a suspect and is living with relatives in Texas, Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said.

An autopsy performed by Boone County Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein found that Helen Sanders had a significant amount of fluid in her lungs at the time of her death, as well as a broken sternum and broken ribs.

Court records show that police found a large bathtub "capable of holding enough water to successfully drown inside of" during a search of the Sanders’ home. Adelstein ruled the death a homicide on Sept. 2.

Police first learned of the death after pulling Sanders over near Stadium Boulevard and Audubon Drive for driving erratically. While searching the car, they found Helen Sanders’ body wrapped in a blanket next to what appeared to be a newly purchased shovel in the trunk, according to a probable cause statement filed with the court.

Sanders is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond in Boone County Jail.

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