Did habits lead to Arden Anderson’s death near Webster in 1983?

Cold Cases

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Back when Arden Anderson was a high school senior, his classmates joked that he’d someday be involved in criminal activity.

Anderson was involved in criminal activity but it was far from what his classmates imagined. Anderson was shot to death at a rest stop on U.S. Highway 12 four miles west of Webster on June 21, 1983.

Anderson was 61. He graduated from Langford High School in 1938. His senior biographical information said he wanted to be a criminal lawyer. The class prophecy good naturedly said Anderson would be criminal lawyer in the future but would get involved in some of his clients’ crimes.

In these days of internet sleuths and would-be cold case solvers, there is scant information about Anderson’s murder online. Chris Wevik includes Anderson’s murder as one of the unsolved or cold cases in South Dakota in her two books on the topic.

The rest stop where Anderson was shot doesn’t even exist anymore. Julie Stevenson of the South Dakota Department of Transportation said the rest stop was demolished in 2003 when two lanes were added to the highway.

A photo of the roadside park where Arden Anderson was killed in 1983. The photo is from 1998. South Dakota Department of Transportation photo.
A South Dakota Transportation photo of where the roadside park was in 1983 when Arden Anderson was killed.

Doug Card, the publisher of the Marshall County Journal in Britton, found an old 1983 news story from the former Britton newspaper.

The newspaper story said then Day County Sheriff Sy Herrick said Anderson was attacked coming out of the men’s room at the roadside park. Anderson apparently struggled to his car but was shot before he could get in.

Anderson was a creature of habit, according to the newspaper story.

He frequently stopped at the roadside park, said David Planteen of Langford. He thought of Anderson as a Pierpont resident as Anderson’s farm was close to the small town about eight miles north of Langford.

“He kept to himself,” Planteen said. But residents of Langford and the area knew him.

“It hit the community quite hard,” Planteen said.

Planteen was a student at South Dakota State University in Brookings when Anderson was killed.

“There was speculation that it was someone who knew him. Someone knew that he carried money and that he got killed being robbed,” Planteen said.

The newspaper story quoted Anderson’s legal guardian Luther Gulleson, who said Anderson had lived alone since his mother, Jennie Anderson, died.

Gulleson died in 2001, according to the ancientfaces.com website.

Anderson regularly ate meals at a cafe in Webster for about three years before he was murdered.

Arden Anderson’s bio information from the 1938 Langford High School yearbook. Yearbook courtesy of the Langford Library.

Someone who knew him could have shot Anderson. Or it could have been a passerby. U.S. Highway 12 is a major road from east to west.

“…it could have been someone passing through…” Planteen said.

Planteen said Anderson’s murder prompted many residents of the area to be more cautious.

“It was the talk of Day and Marshall County for months,” Planteen said.

Planteen’s parents warned him not to pick up strangers on the roads when traveling to and from SDSU.

As a 6’1″ 200-pound college student, he hadn’t really worried too much about giving a stranger a lift in his vehicle. But Anderson’s murder and the warning from his parents changed that.

“After that, I paid attention,” Planteen said.

Langford librarian Nicole Hoines said the library didn’t have much information on Anderson’s murder. She did find the 1938 Langford High School yearbook and Census card for Anderson.

When Anderson was in high school, he participated in the class play during his junior and senior years. His hobby was hunting gophers. His ambition was to be a criminal lawyer.

Apparently, based on the 1983 newspaper clipping, Anderson never made it to law school. He was a farmer when he was killed.

Planteen said after the early news coverage of Anderson’s death and a few months of local conversation, the roadside murder seemed to fall to the wayside for the public.

“There wasn’t much press coverage after that,” Planteen said of the early coverage in 1983.

The 1983 story in the Britton newspaper said Anderson was hit on the head with a blunt object and shot with a .380 automatic pistol. Anderson had stopped for gas in Webster at about 9:30 p.m. on June 21. His body was found by a Webster area farmer at 10:05 the same night. Anderson’s wallet was missing.

Anderson was buried in the Higlanda Lutheran Church cemetery in rural Langford. He was survived by several cousins.

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