Family members of a woman charged with murder in Polk County said she is a victim, not a killer.
Kimberly Lightwine, 42, is charged with second-degree murder and elder abuse in connection with the death of her 19-year-old blind and autistic son, Austin Anderson.
Polk County Sheriff's deputies say they found Lightwine and Anderson lying in a field on Aug. 29 wearing nothing but their underwear.
Anderson was dead, and Lightwine said "I killed my kid," according to investigators.
A probable cause statement used to charge Lightwine with murder says she drove her son to the field and let him die, telling investigators, "It's my fault, and you should charge me with murder right now for my son's death, and I'm not joking."
Lightwine's sister, Stephanie Saloga, told the News-Leader this week that Lightwine made those statements while she was recovering from being drugged, and there is more to the story.
Saloga said she has spoken with Lightwine and gotten her side of the story.
Saloga said Lightwine received a call that lured her and Anderson out of the Bolivar apartment where they were staying on Aug. 27.
Once in the parking lot, Lightwine and Anderson were abducted by three people, according to Saloga.
Saloga said those people drugged Lightwine and then took the mother and son out to a field, beat Lightwine — breaking her leg — and then left them there to die.
"When she made the comment that she killed her son, she was meaning that she wasn't able to get up off the ground to care for him and attend to his needs," Saloga said. "Anybody who knows my sister knows that she loves that boy more than life itself. She would never, ever hurt him."
Saloga said Lightwine knows the people who abducted her, but the motivation is unclear.
Saloga said her sister has a history of drug use, and she doesn't know if the abduction might have had something to do with her past.
Saloga said the Polk County Sheriff's Office has been dismissive of her attempts to give information, and she has been frustrated by all of the people making disparaging comments online about her sister.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office has not responded to a request for comment made Thursday morning. Court and police records filed in the case make no mention of any suspects other than Lightwine.
The family of Anderson’s father also believes authorities aren’t telling everything they know, according to Anderson's aunt Diana Cope.
“We believe there’s more to the story,” Cope said. “We hope they don’t stop looking for whoever really did it.”
Lightwine and Anderson's father, Robert Anderson, divorced when Austin was a baby, Cope said, but Robert Anderson still saw his son every couple of weeks.
“(Austin Anderson) never came to his dad’s home abused,” Cope said. “In her right mind she would never harm him — never. Never in a million years.”
Cope said Lightwine was interviewed by police when she was still under the influence of meth and that parts of her testimony are being misconstrued.
For instance, Lightwine told her son to go to “God,” according to police, but Cope said she meant the opposite of what people are assuming.
“She was asking him to go find help,” Cope said.
According to the probable cause statement, Lightwine recalled telling her son to "get out of the car and go reach for help… Put your hands in front of you for help and God is going to take care of you."
Her son had trouble walking, the statement said, but kept coming back to her saying "mom." According to the statement, Lightwine said she would push him away and tell him: "No you don't want to love me, please let God take you."
Cope said the family is also suspicious of how Lightwine’s leg was injured.
“None of the story adds up,” She said. “Her leg was literally crushed — not just broken.”
The family of Robert Anderson knew his ex-wife had been doing drugs over recent years, Cope said, and that might have led to what happened in the Polk County field.
“(Lightwine) chose that lifestyle of drugs,” Cope said. “She got involved with some bad people.”
An initial examination showed Austin Anderson had a swollen brain from dehydration and could have gone into shock after not taking a vital medication, the statement said.
Lightwine worked in child care and baby-sat frequently, Cope said, though much of her time was devoted to taking care of her son.
Cope said she simply wants the investigation to continue.
“I’m hoping they’re trying to bring out the real killer,” she said.
The Polk County Prosecutor said he will be arguing in court that Lightwine caused her son's death in the course of committing a felony — and whether she intended his death is immaterial.
The felony Lightwine was committing at the time of her son's death, prosecutors say, is elder abuse. Even though it has "elder" in the title, the statute can be applied to disabled adults under state law.