LOS ANGELES – Neighbors recall Lance Holger Anderson as a nice, chatty guy who was always ready to help; the kind of person who fixed a flat tire for an elderly neighbor, gave away a Christmas tree to another, and doted on his ailing wife.
So there was shock in his pleasant Canyon Country neighborhood on Wednesday when police arrested Anderson on suspicion of killing his wife, then shooting to death his comatose sister at a Los Angeles nursing home.
The 60-year-old was "the sweetest guy you could ever imagine," neighbor Grace Madrigal said, holding back tears.
The shootings were apparent mercy killings, Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon said.
The family said Anderson's 63-year-old wife had dementia and his sister, Lisa Nave, 58, had been in the Country Villa Sheraton for five years and was in a "vegetative state" when he allegedly walked into the northern Los Angeles nursing home on Wednesday morning and shot her in the head, Vernon said.
"I want people to understand that this man did not randomly walk into a hospital to commit this crime," Vernon said.
A resident, David Chabolla, said the gunshot sounded like a balloon popping. He saw Anderson sitting in the nursing home's courtyard with his head down before police arrested him on suspicion of murder.
A small-caliber handgun was recovered, police said. Anderson remained jailed.
After hearing about the killing, concerned family members contacted authorities and asked them to check on his wife's welfare. Her body was found Wednesday morning in the couple's three-bedroom townhome on a leafy, curving street in the Canyon Country area of Santa Clarita, a northern Los Angeles County suburb.
She had been shot with the gun found at the nursing home, a sheriff's statement said.
It wasn't immediately clear if Anderson had a lawyer who could comment on the case. Calls to home and cellphone numbers listed in public records went unanswered.
Anderson and his wife moved into their home about five or six months ago, neighbors said.
Anderson "was introducing himself to anybody that was going into the driveway" of the townhome complex, Madrigal recalled.
Anderson said the couple had come from Arizona because of his wife's health. While he often left in the mornings, she was more reclusive, exchanging a few words while smoking or drinking coffee on the couple's balcony, Madrigal said.
"He treated her like she was a jewel ... because she was so fragile" and was sometimes seen on the balcony with her, caressing her hand, Madrigal said.
Kristen and Lee Booker said Anderson offered them food and help moving furniture after fire damaged their home in September. Another neighbor recalled Anderson fixing her flat tire.
Two weeks ago, Anderson offered Madrigal his artificial Christmas tree.
He told Madrigal that the couple wouldn't be doing anything for Christmas this year, she said.