When Erik Anderson totalled the car belonging to his father, Dr. Danny Anderson, he lied and said he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.

But he felt guilty and after he told the truth, that he overcorrected when he turned too sharply and rolled the car, his father made him tell the officer who handled the case.

“My dad told me that (was) the only choice, if I wanted to be a man of God,” Erik Anderson said in a statement to the court that is included in the Probation Report obtained by The Union Democrat Thursday.

The report was used by the court to determine an appropriate sentence for Danny Anderson’s role in causing a triple-fatal collision on J-59 in La Grange that killed three people and injured three others in Oct. 2016. He was convicted of triple-manslaughter, reckless driving, hit and run and obstructing a police investigation.

Also in the report was a letter from Annie Johnson, whose best friend Trista Hoffman was driving one of the cars. Johnson was in the back seat.

Her letter was written to Trista.

“You’ve become such a constant in my life,” Johnson said. Something funny happens and, instantly, I think, ‘ha, Trista would love to hear this.’ But then reality hits. I look down at my feet so no one can see how often I think of you.”

Johnson sustained brain hemorrhages and cannot remember the accident.

In the letter, she referred to Trista as Kermit. The pair were inseparable, Trista’s grandmother, Carolyn Case said. They often played guitar together and made silly commercials and how-to-cook videos.

When Johnson recovered, she screamed, cried and refused to believe that Trista and Trista’s mother Tina were dead, Case said.

Johnson struggles with speech and memory.

“I never said it enough, but I love you, you are my best sister, and I wish I could’ve given you a big hug goodbye,” Johnson said in her statement.

Leniency

In the court documents, Danny Anderson’s family and friends painted the picture of a devoted father, a devout Christian and a benevolent doctor with a lifetime of service to Tuolumne County.

He worked from the early morning until late at night at his Sonora medical office, but on occasion he would take a few hours off work to drive Erik and his friends up to Dodge Ridge to ski, Erik said.
He provided free medical care to indigent patients and accepted knitted items from a woman in lieu of payment.

Erik remembered his father crying after her funeral 20 years ago.

Anderson’s daughter, Heather Anderson, said her father made time in his busy schedule to help them with homework, teach them to play baseball, and cheered for them at concerts and plays.

“If he had caused this most tragic accident, he would have said so a long time ago,” Heather Anderson wrote. “I believe that the person that caused the accident is still walking free and is still driving, living his or her life like nothing happened.”

In their letters, they appealed to Judge Donald Segerstrom for leniency.

Probation report

Tuolumne County Probation Officer Amy Lindblom wrote that in an interview in August Anderson spoke little and did not accept responsibility for causing the accident. He also did not express remorse, she said.

Lindblom suggested imposing the maximum sentence of 10 years, four months.

The report includes details of the accident. Anderson returned to the scene of the accident and administered CPR to Tina Hoffman, who was ejected from the front passenger seat and thrown into the road.

He left the scene without telling a California Highway Patrol Officer that he crossed the double yellow lines to pass a gray van and a car. Anderson also did not share that he returned to the northbound lane while an SUV driven by 16-year-old Trista, advanced toward him.

“This officer questions why Dr. Anderson denied involvement although he admits to making an illegal pass, just seconds before the collision, and then tried to place blame on Trista Hoffman, suggesting she was likely distracted and using he cell phone at the time of the collision,” Lindblom said.

Anderson said during his sentencing on Jan. 18 that he still denies causing the accident.

He was classified as low risk for reoffending, the report said.

Grandmother

In a phone interview Thursday, Case said, “Trista sang like an angel. She was our angel.”

The artistic and creative talent of a headstrong young girl was cut short because of Anderson’s reckless decision to pass the vehicles, Case said.

Case provided a short poem written by Trista at the age of 12 for her grandfather, Neil Case, who died a year before from cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange.

The poem, titled “20 Little Angels,” was prophetic to Trista’s own fate, Case said.

“We are reborn, new life awaits us in a world of grace,” the poem said. “20 of us don’t want you to mourn, for we are reborn.”

Trista Hoffman’s family, which includes her father Dal and her stepmother Wendy Hoffman, incurred a total of $16,689.73 in expenses as a result of the accident, according to receipts included in the report. Her brother Dillon was injured.

The expenses included $5,000 for a 2001 GMC Sahara wheelchair lift equipped one ton extended van, $1,570 for cremation and death certificates, and meals, gas, medical supplies and lodging during the hospital stays and Dr. Anderson’s preliminary hearing.

As a part of his sentencing, Anderson was ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

Anderson has been held in the Tuolumne County Jail since Sept. 7 and remains in their custody. He is expected to be transferred to the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation within a month.

The Medical Board of California is also expected to review Anderson’s medical license for potential disciplinary action. His license expires on June 30.

Besides the Hoffmans, Reinholt John Eisemann was killed. He was in a car that Anderson passed, driven by his wife, Dorothy.

Segerstrom imposed a sentence of five years, four months, because he had no prior record and was 71 years old. The probation report said he suffers from Crohn’s disease, diabetes, prostate hypertrophy and pemphigus vulgaris.

Anderson has a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Department 1 of the Tuolumne County Superior Court to address an issue with one of the concurrent terms, Segerstrom said.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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