Editor's Notebook: Rumors swirl, but Anderson still missing

Body found in mountains may not be related to case

By KRIS REILLY, Editor

In a small town, you quickly learn how unreliable word of mouth can be.

Rumors travel fast in a place as small as Lucerne Valley, and the stories get edited, revised or wholly changed with each retelling. Chances are, whatever enters your ears is completely different from whatever left the mouth of the person who first told the tale just 30 minutes ago.

These stories sometimes take on a life of their own. They get repeated so often that some people regard them as the undisputed truth.

I’ve heard my share of rumors during my three years as editor of The Leader, but few have been as persistent as those about Michael Lynn Anderson — better known as Mike.

Anderson is a 55-year-old man who hung around Lucerne Valley for decades. In his time here, he worked odd jobs, collected cans and usually slept in a shed. He drank too much, but he was friendly and most people seemed to like him.

Anderson is no longer with us here in Lucerne Valley — that much we know. Does that mean he is no longer with us on this earth? That’s what we don’t know.

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, he was last seen Aug. 5 at about 4 p.m. He and two friends drove from Big Bear up Van Dusen Canyon to the Belleville Cabin in Holcomb Valley. The friends told authorities that they left Anderson at the vehicle while they hiked in the area, and Anderson was gone when they returned 25 minutes later.

The website ROTWnews.com is reporting that a hiker found a partially decomposed body at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday in the San Bernardino National Forest between Running Springs and Highland in Plunge Creek. The body has not been identified yet, and the location of the body is quite far from where Anderson disappeared.

As of press time on Monday, we had no further details and no reason to conclude that the body is that of Anderson.

But you might have heard something different, like one of these tall tales:

• He was shot to death in front of a liquor store.

• He died of a heart attack and was found near Crystal Creek Road.

• He was found dead under a tree in Holcomb Valley, still clutching his last bottle of liquor.

A couple of months ago, someone came into the office and asked why I wasn’t reporting the real story about Mike. She told me that she knew Mike had been found dead. I asked her how she knew, and she said, “because everybody knows.”

We talked for a while, and I explained the lengths to which I had gone to investigate the case. I asked a county coroner official to search death records for the name Michael Lynn Anderson along with all of its possible variants. The coroner also searched their “John Doe” cases for people matching Anderson’s description and circumstances. Nothing came up.

After a while, my visitor conceded that maybe she wasn’t so sure Anderson had been found dead.

Just last week, I was visited by another woman, a person who was familiar with the investigation. She wanted to know why my paper had printed an article stating that Mike was dead.

Huh?

Apparently multiple people told her that Mike had been shot or met his demise in some other fashion, and they told her they read all about it in The Leader.

Of course, no such article was ever printed in this newspaper.

If you have real information about Mike Anderson’s disappearance, call the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station at (909) 866-0100.

When and if he is found, dead or alive, you will read about it in these pages.

Until then, disbelieve half of what you hear and be skeptical about the rest.

Kris Reilly can be reached at editor@lucernevalleyleader.com or at (760) 248-7878.