Renowned true crime writer Kathryn Casey is taking readers on a gritty ride this fall with her new book about a Texas killing that shocked the nation: the infamous "Stiletto Murder" case.
In 2014, Ana Trujillo, of Waco, made headlines after being convicted of killing her boyfriend, Dr. Alf Stefan Andersson, by stabbing him more than 20 times with the 5-and-a-half-inch stiletto heel of her blue shoe. The lurid killing took place inside Andersson's condominium at Houston's upscale building, The Park Lane, located in the heart of the Museum District.
What really happened to make a seemingly content woman living in Houston's high-end area commit murder? Did her involvement in the occult play a part one of the most strangest murders in Texas? Casey pored over court documents and evidence, interviewed numerous people, and attended Trujillo's trial to find out these answers, all detailed in her upcoming book, Possessed: The Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder.
Casey, a veteran crime writer with over a dozen best-selling books under her belt, (including The Killing Storm, which landed on the 2010 Library Journal Best Mystery Books list) was kind enough to answer a few questions about that case, as well as give a bit of insight about the egregious "stiletto murderess."
Can you give readers a few details about the Ana Trujillo case?
The setting is Houston. Those involved: Ana Trujillo, until six years earlier a working suburban mom with a husband and two teenage daughters, and Alf Stefan Andersson, a professor and a brilliant scientist who studied the way hormones and steroids work in the human body, especially in women during pregnancy.
They met in 2012. By then, Ana's life had taken a downward turn, and she was flitting from man to man, living with one after another. That fall, Ana lived briefly with a businessman in the posh Museum District apartment building where Stefan Andersson rented unit 18B. They initially met in the lobby, their paths crossing as they came and went.
Stefan was immediately attracted to Ana, but then many men were. She was in her 40s, trim, attractive, with a vibrant personality, and she catered to the men in her life, at least at first. Her hair long and dark, she dressed in sequined mini-dresses, tight jeans, flowing skirts and strappy tops, paired with fashionable and sexy stiletto heels.
A lonely man, one who longed for a family, Stefan was nearing 60 and eager to find someone to love. Quickly, Ana left her previous lover and moved into Stefan's condo. Yet their tumultuous relationship would be far from what Stefan envisioned. Stefan had struggled with an addiction to alcohol, and so did Ana, but her problems ran vastly deeper.
Before long, it would become apparent that Ana had become enmeshed in the dark powers, playing with Ouija boards, calling on spirits, and conducting rituals where she chanted over a drawing of a pentagram with lit candles at the corners. Once he realized who Ana truly was, Stefan attempted to distance himself, but she wasn't ready to let him go.
On June 9, 2013, just after 3:30 a.m., Ana Trujillo called 911, sobbing, her speech slurred. When officers responded, they found an intoxicated Ana splattered and soaked in blood and Stefan dead in a hallway, his face, head, arms, and hands covered in grotesque cuts and gouges, blood spatter on all three walls surrounding him, a coagulating blood pool near his head. On the carpet just above him lay one of Ana's cobalt blue suede, size 9 stilettos, the heel coated in blood and wisps of Stefan's white hair.
Interest in occult-based crimes seems to be on the rise. Is there something about these types of crimes that stand out when compared to others? In other words, do you think people are more scared of crimes when the occult is somehow involved or the fear of the unknown?
Yes, I believe they are more frightening. Along with the brutality of a crime like this, there's the mystery surrounding it. Ana Trujillo's fall from a functioning member of mainstream society to becoming a homeless vagabond known for using her body and with a penchant for violently lashing out in anger happened so swiftly that it seems nearly impossible. Yet it was true.
And the signs that there was something odd going on with Ana were seen by many. For instance, just a couple of years after leaving her family behind for the freedom and excitement of Houston's nightlife, Ana carried a voodoo doll tucked inside her bra, one she used to place curses. On the night she killed Stefan, notes were found nearby in which Ana apparently attempted to conjure a spirit. In her purse, the crime scene unit found a tarot book. It was open to the death card.
During Trujillo's trial, was there an indication of remorse? She claimed she never meant to do what she did, but often times, body language speaks louder than words.
I don't believe Ana felt any regret for killing Stefan other than lamenting the effect it had on her own life. There was no indication of remorse during her long, bizarre testimony. Everything revolved around her and how she'd been misused and suffered. Stefan was barely a footnote. She claimed she was justified, and she showed no indication that Stefan's brutal killing had affected her emotionally.
Is she as lively in person as she's been portrayed? Did you feel threatened in any way by her presence?
Yes, Ana is one of those people who exude a bristling tension, giving off the sense that she's living life on hyper-drive. Even during the trial, seated beside her attorney, she nearly danced in the chair at times. It was one of the more extraordinary courtroom experiences I've had in my three decades as a crime writer. I was never actually physically in a situation in which I felt in danger, but I did have people caution me that she would try to use her "powers" to hurt me.Trujillo claimed she was forced to kill under self-defense. Without giving too much away, did she (or her defense attorneys) provide any valid reasons for this?
I'm going to leave that for the readers to decide. There's a lot of history about these two individuals in the book. Their troubled pasts set the stage for this terrible tragedy. They were who they'd become throughout their lives, and it had a profound effect on each of them that ultimately resulted in Stefan's murder.
You're a veteran in true crime writing and crime reporting. Was there anything about this case was particularly challenging when compared to the other cases you've written about?
I'd never written about a murder with a tie to the occult before, so that opened up a new area of inquiry. At first, I found it hard to convince people in that world to talk to me. But ultimately I pulled it together, including through long, late evening telephone calls with a Santeria priestess in New Orleans. I must admit, I did find it all fascinating.
In your previous books, I've noticed that you provide readers with a plethora of details about the suspect's family and the victim's family in each case. You've been compared to Ann Rule quite a few times because of your attention to detail and your way with words. Is it difficult to get people so close to the case to open up and talk to you?
It can be difficult to get family members to talk, not usually on the victim's side, because they want their loved one remembered, but on the killer's side. The result is sincerely just a lot of hard work. It's kind of like being a cop who gumshoes a case, meaning that they just start walking and talking, interviewing folks, to get the information they need.
I do that, making phone calls, knocking on doors, tracking down not only family but neighbors, coworkers and friends, until I ultimately have a full picture of those involved. It's the psychology of the cases that I find intriguing, and to understand what happened and why, it's essential to document the journeys that brought killer and victim together.
Do you have any upcoming book signings scheduled for Possessed?
Not yet. I don't do a lot of book signings, perhaps one per book, usually in Houston, where I live. Murder by the Book on Bissonnet St. in Houston often has autographed copies they'll ship.
Any future books in the works?
I'm neck-deep in my fourteenth book. It's on the Kaufman County prosecutor murders, the case that mesmerized the nation back in 2013. In a small town outside Dallas, someone executed the district attorney, his wife, and a top prosecutor over a two-month period.
At first, there were rumors that it was the Aryan Brotherhood or the Mexican cartel. It turned out it was someone much closer to home, someone with a bitter grudge.
Possessed: The Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder, hits book stores on September 27. It's available for pre-order on Kindle, Nook, paperback, or audio CD.
[Photo by Lisa Hughes Photography]