Martha Anderson left behind a legacy...a book…called 'Stolen Innocence'...and her two children: Kate And Sean Anderson.
For the first time, Anderson's children are coming forward to talk about their experiences living through 'the nightmare' their mother describes in her book...living through the juvenile justice system...a system Martha Anderson was already very familiar with.
"She worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice for 27 years. Up until the end, she was very passionate about it, and about working with children," says Kate Anderson.
But, Martha's passion would quickly turn into distrust...after her own son, Sean, who was called Michael in her book, would go through the very same system to which she dedicated her career.
In her book, Martha writes..."it all started with a drawing of a pipe bomb. Michael was 15...a freshmen in an Edgefield County school."
Years later, he recalls the moments that changed his life forever. "The particular class that I was in, we were doing all individual research papers...and a friend of mine was doing a paper on a nuclear technician, or something to do with the military, and the discussion just, you know, came into me informing him that I knew how to make simple pipe bombs," says Sean Anderson.
Sean says his friend was interested. "He wanted to know more about it, and he asked me if I could draw him a picture," he says.
The picture ended up in the hands of his friend's father, who brought it to the school...and then to police. Within hours, Sean was suspended from school...and days later...he was arrested.
"Everything just kind of spiraled out of control after that," says Sean.
Accused of planning to blow up the school...Sean was taken to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice's Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
"I remember one of the last things my mother said to me before they took me away was she said, 'mind the guards. Just keep to yourself and don't talk to anyone," Sean says.
Martha was worried. She writes, "Michael...was a good student...and had never been in any trouble before."
Martha says he never had any intention of planting any bomb anywhere...much less in his school. Remember, Martha worked for this juvenile justice system. In her book, she writes...
"I had little faith in the correctional officers, but I couldn't let Michael know that. Sometimes, I thought the department hired just about anybody to fill those positions at the institutions...just plucked them off the street and put them in those facilities."
Sean says his experience at the detention center traumatized him. "It's a jail. That's what it is. Confined spaces, very poor sleeping quarters, you know, you had a big stone slab to sleep on, you know. No windows," he says.
Sean says, and Martha writes, that the hearings to get sean out of the detention center were repeatedly postponed. Sean says, finally...after 2 months inside...a judge granted his release....under one condition...house arrest.
He complied...and Martha writes..."it wasn't until 8 months after Michael was arrested...that a formal hearing on the charges against Michael was scheduled." Michael would finally learn his fate...but she writes, "the damage was already done."
"I would have moments of complete meltdowns. Where I would just cry from the trauma of the whole thing," says Sean.
Now...years later...Martha's children are moving on. Sean has a supervisory job and he's married, with two children. Kate, Sean's protective older sister...who says she too suffered from the pain of the whole experience...is doing well, too. She's a talented artist and is also moving forward with her career as a musician.
Both Kate and Sean say they are telling their story to keep their mother's legacy alive...hoping her book will help other parents and their children understand the juvenile justice system.
Martha Anderson felt the system failed her child...but her book...is about how she would not let them fail.
Martha is no longer here, but her legacy lives on. She died from complications from rheumatoid arthritis...just months after her book was published.
We've contacted the South Carolina Department of Juvenille Justice and we will share their response to this story as soon as we get it.
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