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Twin Is Convicted as Jailhouse Ruse Unravels : Crime: One brother showed up to serve the other’s term. The latter faces 16 years for attacking his estranged wife.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When a man calling himself Ronald Anderson surrendered to Port Hueneme police July 14 on a felony warrant for spousal battery, no one thought to make sure he was the man the law wanted.

After all, who would come in to serve an 180-jail stay if they hadn’t done anything wrong?

But authorities now say the man who showed up at the police station on July 14 was not Anderson, 43. Instead, the man turned out to be Anderson’s identical twin, Donald.

Authorities didn’t get wise to Donald Anderson’s impersonation scheme until five days later, when Ronald Anderson was arrested for allegedly trying to kill his wife. Investigators believe that Ronald Anderson set up the impersonation to give himself an alibi in the attack.

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This week, a jury agreed that Ronald Anderson was not in jail where he was supposed to be. The jurors convicted him of attempted murder, spousal battery and robbery in connection with the attack on his wife, Brenda.

On Friday, a day after the conviction, Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox said Ronald Anderson faces up to 16 years in state prison for the July 19 attack.

“He’s not getting out this time,” she said.

As for Donald Anderson, authorities said they could not prove that he agreed to go to jail to provide his brother with an alibi.

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Fox, however, suggested that Donald Anderson’s role in the case is still under review. Neither the Anderson brothers nor Brenda Anderson could be reached for comment Friday.

Authorities said the case began in February, when Brenda Anderson informed her husband of eight years that she wanted him to move out and that she intended to seek a divorce.

Soon afterward, Ronald Anderson began calling his estranged wife at home and making death threats, Fox said.

“He started calling up and saying, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ” according to Fox.

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Brenda Anderson, still reasoning that she could talk out her problems with her husband, went to his apartment in April and sought to straighten out matters, the prosecutor said.

But, Fox said, Anderson pulled the woman into the apartment, brandished a knife “and basically said, ‘If I can’t have you, no one can.’ ”

The woman was able to get away and alert police to the incident. The officers set up what is known as a “cool call,” where they have a death-threat victim call up the threatening party and get him to repeat the threats while police listen in.

Ronald Anderson was charged with spousal battery and pleaded guilty. On May 25, he was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but was given until June 14 to report, Fox said.

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An arrest warrant was issued when he failed to appear at Ventura County Jail. But it wasn’t until a month later--July 14--that Donald Anderson appeared, impersonating his brother. Fox said deputies checked a photograph and were satisfied that they had the right man.

“They fingerprinted him when he came in, but there was no reason to believe it wasn’t (Robert Anderson),” Fox said. “How many people turn themselves in on someone else’s warrant?”

She said Ronald Anderson probably would have stayed out of jail had he not attacked his wife when he was supposed to have been locked up.

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Authorities said on that day, Anderson hid behind a gate at a park near the woman’s house. About 5:30 p.m., as she arrived home from work, Anderson came up behind her and “strangled her right there in the street and tried to kill her,” Fox said.

Neighbors called police and Anderson grabbed the woman’s purse and fled. Officers caught him within half an hour, hiding in a field.

As Ronald Anderson was being led away, he told police his name was Donald Anderson. But a sharp-eyed friend of the Andersons corrected him, Fox said.

“The friend of the family arrived at the scene and said, ‘I don’t think you have Ronald. That’s Donald.’ ”

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In court, Fox told the jury that Ronald Anderson planned the whole identity switch so he could kill his wife and have an alibi for his whereabouts. Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn argued that there was no evidence Anderson wanted his wife dead.

Ronald Anderson remains in County Jail with sentencing scheduled for Jan. 3.


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