This blog post is a part of a series of stories about the Dixie Mafia. Make sure to subscribe to Synova’s True Crime Newsletter so you don’t miss out on any of the stories.
Six weeks after the ambush of Sheriff Pusser and his wife on New Hope Rd, another death was reported to police in Gulfport, Mississippi. 17-yr-old Ronald Anderson was said to have committed suicide in an apartment he shared with the teenager, Jeffery D. Bass. Anderson’s body was transported to the Lang Funeral Home in Gulfport, then transferred to Faith Chapel in Pensacola before being taken to Vernon, Florida, for burial. No Autopsy was performed, and no one in law enforcement questioned the suicide ruling by local coroner Frank Hightower. This life-shattering event for the family barely caused a stir amongst the locals and only generated one small article about the death inquest. No one seemed to care that this crippled teenager could have been gunned down. It was more convenient to label it a suicide and go on.
What I’m about to relate is highly controversial. I have researched and studied this case trying to provide evidence. I have uncovered some compelling facts and some disturbing theories. In the 25-page Sheriff’s Investigation report into this case, I have discovered a few more tidbits of questionable behavior by law enforcement. I have struggled to remain unemotional in this case, but I will try to relate the story to you with logic and reason. I will let you decide what happened to Ronald Anderson for yourself.
Before getting into the case, I must explain to you that I was raised with extreme respect for law enforcement. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who is willing to put their life on the line to protect someone else is a hero in my book. When I mention something derogatory in this article, please don’t think I’m attributing the actions of a few shady officials to the entire law enforcement community. I bleed blue for our guys and gals in uniform and don’t wish anyone to think otherwise. Like every position in any organization, there are a few shady characters, but that doesn’t mean the entire system is corrupt.
Ronald “Ronnie” Anderson had a rough life from the start. He contracted Polio at the age of three and would have to wear a leg brace for the entirety of his life. One leg was smaller than the other, so buying shoes was a difficult task. He would need two different sizes, and one shoe must be mounted onto his braces. Ronnie was a beautiful, sweet child with large brown eyes. His sister remembers how he would cry when his friends would go play and leave him behind. He wanted so desperately to fit in, and family members think that’s what led to his death.
September 26, 1967:
Ronnie had gotten a job working at McDonald’s and decided to move out of his father’s house with an older boy named Jeffery Bass. He was so excited to be starting out on his own and had even gotten a little “friend” named Cathy. Ronnie finally felt like he belonged, but this wouldn’t last. Two months after moving out he started having trouble with Bass. Bass was older and rowdy and is rumored to run with a shady crowd. On this morning, Ronnie’s sister Phyllis offered to let him come to visit her for a while. Ronnie was excited to go. His parents had divorced when he was quite young. Phyllis had been a segregate mother while their mother was working trying to provide for four children.
Ronnie’s father, Lt. Dan Anderson, went to see the teenager that morning and to take him some new shoes. The teenager was busy packing some clothes and ironing his shirt. His sister would arrive from Pensacola, Florida, in a few hours, and he wanted to be ready. Dan Anderson returned home only to receive a phone call within the hour. Ronnie was dead.
The distraught father raced to the hospital only to be met by his ex-wife Rose Moore. Rose was also Jeffery’s aunt. Instead of calling the ambulance, Jeff had called his aunt since she was supposedly a registered nurse. Rose cleaned up Ronnie and changed his clothes before calling the ambulance. Why? No one could answer that question.
So, what happened to Ronnie?
Bass told the police that he was sitting on the bed playing with a .410 shotgun, and it accidentally went off shooting him under the chin. According to Bass, it was a shock because they thought the gun didn’t have a firing pin. Could Ronnie have been toying with the weapon thinking it was inoperable and accidentally shot himself? If so, why would the aunt come racing in and wash the teenager and change his clothes?
If that wasn’t unusual enough to cause investigators to question this case, the other witness had a different story to tell. Cathy claimed that she and Ronnie had argued and then he went upstairs and shot himself. That’s what she told the police, but that’s not what she said in her frantic phone call to Phyllis the night before Ronnie was buried.
The inconsolable sister had been given sleeping pills by her doctor and had turned in for the night. The phone rang with a frantic woman insisting on talking to Phyllis. Her husband assured the woman that Phyllis was out cold and couldn’t come to the phone and asked to take a message.
“He killed him. We killed him,” was all Cathy said before disconnecting.
Phyllis took all these discrepancies to the police and tried to get her brother’s case re-classified, but she couldn’t find anyone who would help her. Every time she decided to call and ask questions she would receive a call from her father telling her to let it alone. Phyllis couldn’t leave it alone and wondered how her father could. She didn’t realize the trouble she was causing by asking questions. Phyllis was an innocent sister grieving the loss of her precious crippled little brother. So she kept digging.
The funeral director for Faith Chapel Home in Pensacola was friends with Ronnie’s stepdad and mother. This gentleman confided in the family, saying he didn’t think it was suicide because there wasn’t any gunshot residue around the wound. Could that just be because Rose washed him, or could it mean that he was shot from a distance by someone else?
Rumors say that Ronnie’s relationship with Cathy was one-sided. If this is true, could Cathy’s real boyfriend have shot Ronnie?
The local coroner has come under some scrutiny after many claims he rules cases as suicide too quickly and too often. Some locals even referred to him as “Suicide Hightower.” After researching, I couldn’t find any formal charges brought against the coroner. Could they be just rumors, or could those stories be based on facts? Who knows?
Little did Phyllis know that some of her local law enforcement officials and government officials were arm and arm with the Dixie Mafia. This story wouldn’t come out publicly for decades. Did Ronnie hear something he shouldn’t have? Could Bass and his friends have silenced the boy forever?
Phyllis continued to press the police department for answers until one day her father called.
“Leave it alone before you get someone else killed,” he demanded.
Shocked, Phyllis backed off and tried to investigate a little more quietly. What happened to her brother, and why wasn’t her father pushing the issue? This inner turmoil continued for 36 long years.
It was November 2002, and Phyllis always came into town to visit her father to celebrate Thanksgiving and her father’s birthday. The two went to the local Waffle House as usual. During their meal, Dan Anderson’s entire persona changed, and he mumbled “That Son of a $&*&^” under his breath. Surprised, Phyllis turned to look and was quickly reprimanded by her father.
Dan waited until the man was out the door and his car pulled out onto the road before he said anything else to his daughter.
“Do you know who that was?”
“No, but I can tell you don’t like him, Daddy.”
“That’s the old boy who killed Ronnie.”
Phyllis about fell out of her chair. For thirty-six years, her father had reprimanded her for saying the very same thing. He claimed his son’s death as suicide for nearly four decades, and now he just pointed out the man who killed his son. Of course, Phyllis had questions, but her father clammed up about the subject and wouldn’t speak another word of it.
After her father went out to his car, Phyllis hung back and talked to the waitress that knew all the local gossip. That’s when she was given the name Jeffery Bass. Unfortunately, years later, during the Sheriff’s investigation, this waitress and the other surviving witnesses would change their stories or conveniently forget it entirely. Were they intimidated into silence, or did they really forget?
Sadly, Lt. Dan Anderson would be dead a short time after pointing out his son’s killer. Surely the police would stand up and take notice. Nope. I’ll get into that and the revelation of the Dixie Mafia in the famous case of Judge Sherry’s murder.
**Since first writing about this case in 2018, new evidence has come in to prove Ronnie was lured to the docks, beaten by a group of thugs and shot in the face to stage a suicide. You can find out the details in my new book Silenced By the Dixie Mafia: The Anderson Files **
Can an unlikely string of coincidences link all these cases, or are they tied together by the Dixie Mafia? I will leave it up to you to decide.
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Back Cover Summary:
Deep in the heart of Dixie lies a hidden evil. It’s tentacles stretch from state to state, from county to county. The Dixie Mafia has produced infamous outlaws, bank robbers, and murderers. The story contains tidbits from each of their lives and even includes the story of a famous sheriff, but this book is not about them.
Silenced by the Dixie Mafia is about a big sister who has fought for answers for over five decades. It’s about a father who was an ex-alcoholic turned into a gambling addict. A father’s decisions would lead to the death of his disabled son and eventually lead to his own demise. Now left alone to find answers and make sense of the chaos is a brave little southern belle named Phyllis.
Tying back to the ambush of Sheriff Buford Pusser on August 12, 1967, this story will change history as we know it. The world knew nothing about the Dixie Mafia until the murders of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret in 1987. This public assassination brought this band of ruthless criminals into view, but the truth was still hidden until the death of the Andersons.
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