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Killer mom pleads guilty as charged

By RON HARRIS Associated Press Writer
Monday June 10, 2002

REDWOOD CITY — This time, for a mother facing first-degree murder charges for the killing of her son, there was no mention of a mysterious child pornography ring, or a conspiracy by others to commandeer her defense strategy. 

Rather than blurt out her previous theories to the court, as she had done in past tumultuous hearings, Donna Anderson softly said one word that brought Friday’s court hearing to a swift close. 

When asked for a plea, she replied “Guilty.” 

The Minnesota doctor charged with stabbing her teenage son to death represented herself in court and pleaded guilty to first degree murder and attempted murder. 

Anderson, 49, spoke directly to San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum in Redwood City. Earlier in the week he ruled she was entitled to represent herself in court. 

Anderson was accused of fatally stabbing her 13-year-old son, Stephen Burns, on Feb. 24 while he was visiting his father. She also was accused of stabbing her ex-husband, Frank Burns, in the leg as he tried to restrain her. She pleaded guilty to both counts and was scheduled to be sentenced July 5. 

Anderson, an obstetrician at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., explained to the judge Friday the series of events that day that led to the grisly stabbings. 

“I bought a knife at Albertson’s. I brought the knife into the house. I thought about some choices,” Anderson told the court. “But then I killed my son by stabbing him multiple times in the abdomen and he died. I used a knife to do that. I inflicted great bodily harm on him when I did that.” 

The prosecution has wrestled with the peculiar case from the beginning. Anderson had previously claimed a child pornography ring may have targeted her son and funding her defense against her will. 

She was able to convince the San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum to let her represent herself, a move that befuddled prosecutor Steve Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney. 

“It has never happened in San Mateo County that a defendant has represented himself, or herself, and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder,” Wagstaffe said.