tim anderson rick parker mark gastineau Poison, Bribes, and Murder in the Seedy Underbelly of 90s Heavyweight Boxing
Mark Gastineau, Rick Parker, Tim Anderson (L-R). Photos via Sharp Photography and Getty.

Poison, Bribes, and Murder in the Seedy Underbelly of 90s Heavyweight Boxing

Tim “Doc” Anderson, once a respected boxer, is in prison for killing the promoter he believes poisoned him in the ring.

Tim “Doc” Anderson didn’t know his stand-in cornermen on fight night at the Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City on December 3, 1992. Before the match, the 34-year-old heavyweight was given water from paper cups, but it tasted strangely sweet. He was assured it was sugar. He was made to wait inside the ring for his rookie opponent, Mark Gastineau, for 45 minutes, perhaps long enough for drugs to take effect. It felt like an eternity. His vision started to play tricks. Lights and objects left tracers. In the ring, his adversary became three, and a straight right became several. 


Anderson hung in there, drawing on that honest determination that made him who he was. He’d been a journeyman on the pro boxing circuit for nearly a decade, fighting the likes of George Foreman and Larry Holmes for modest pay as he dreamed of a secure future. But that match, for the man in charge of his opponent’s boxing career, was one Anderson had to lose by any means. At last, Gastineau managed to sock Anderson with something hard enough to send him down to the canvas and keep him down. People were smiling. Anderson was still falling. 

Anderson always wanted to be an athlete. Blonde, handsome, and sweet-natured, he was born in Chicago in 1958. He excelled at baseball, but elbow surgery on his pitching arm in high school meant his fastball didn’t quite have the same zip. Instead, he threw all sorts of junk balls that checked, dipped, and swerved. 

He had Crohn’s disease, so his life was ascetic; he maintained a special diet to limit his stomach problems and tried to do everything the right way. His younger sister, Erin, had quadriplegia following a diving accident when she was 16; he was her protector. 

He signed with the Chicago Cubs out of college, but his dream of playing at Wrigley Field faded as he found his ceiling pitching for one of their A teams in South Florida. In the offseasons, he dabbled in other things. He got the nickname “Doc” after earning a degree in kinesiology. To make ends meet, he worked security at Hallandale Beach’s Agora Ballroom, where he met big Jim Murphy. Murphy was going through a divorce and needed a roommate. Anderson moved in. They became best friends.


Since high school, Anderson had boxed regularly as an amateur, winning three coveted Golden Gloves competitions. The sport’s discipline appealed to him. But when the Cubs found out he was fighting on the side, they gave him an ultimatum: baseball or boxing. He chose boxing and turned pro in 1983. 

For a few years, Anderson tooled around at cruiserweight, picking up more wins than losses. In his late 20s, he met a man who would change his life. Two years his senior, quick-talking Rick “Elvis” Parker was the kind of strange beast that only boxing could throw up, later described by journalist Jack Newfield as “the missing link between boxing and professional wrestling.” Originally from Missouri, Parker rocked a red hairpiece and facial hair. He was heavily obese, with a high-pitched Southern accent with a slight lisp. And he loved Elvis, affecting The King’s speech and often sporting tinted Elvis shades.

Parker had made his fortune selling cleaning products and first used the proceeds to bankroll a career as a rock concert promoter. But he dreamed of something bigger. Shortly before meeting Anderson, he’d had a chance encounter on an airplane with Don King, the boxing promoter. Known for his ruthless business savvy and “Only in America” tagline, King told Parker that boxing was where he’d make the real money, especially if he could find himself a Great White Hope heavyweight. 


When a mutual friend introduced Parker to Anderson, they went for dinner. Parker, with his big body and small eyes, dressed nicely in a blue bomber jacket, arrived in a limousine. Anderson remembers wearing a sweatsuit. Parker was charming, “flamboyant” in Anderson’s telling. While Anderson wasn’t exactly a Great White Hope, he said he’d help find fighters for Parker and introduce him to people. In turn, Parker would be Anderson’s promoter. They made a deal: 50/50 partners, splitting everything down the middle.

Anderson would be operating in an underregulated boxing universe with a timeworn penchant for ripping off and destroying its practitioners. The sport’s underbelly would expose him to extreme violence, addiction, and, ultimately, send him to prison for murder in the Sunshine State. 

Parker wanted to be taken seriously as a promoter and leave his mark on the heavyweight division. He saw an opportunity in George Foreman. Foreman had retired to become a preacher a decade earlier after a near-death experience in the ring and a spiritual reawakening. At 38, his days dismantling Joe Frazier or battling in The Rumble in the Jungle were long behind him, and he had lost his frightening physique. But he was making a comeback, returning to the ring to raise money for a youth center and to show he could still punch, that age was just a number. Most in the sport dismissed his return, but not Parker. 


He offered to promote Foreman and arranged fights for him against low-level opposition. Eventually, they turned to Anderson, who had been touring the country on the undercard of Randall “Tex” Cobb, a tough former heavyweight contender turned Hollywood bad guy. Anderson and Foreman would face off in Orlando on November 21, 1987, in a match televised across the state. 

Anderson’s stomach condition played up in the run-up; everything went through him. On fight night, he was 210 pounds to Foreman’s 243. He made his way to the ring to “Ridin' the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon, accompanied by the Beverly Hills Knockouts, described in the local press as “a collection of centerfold playmates who box at nightclubs,” and many in attendance at the raucous Eddie Graham Sports Complex hooted and howled. Foreman followed, notably larger and ominous in a black robe. Ray Charles’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” played.

“I didn’t get that much action out of Joe Frazier.” —George Foreman on Tim Anderson

Foreman dominated the fight, twice knocking Anderson down before knocking him out with a punch to the back in round 4. Still, Anderson had won his respect for continually getting up. Foreman admired his courage. As they embraced after the match, Anderson recalled, Foreman asked him to be his sparring partner. “I didn’t get that much action out of Joe Frazier,” Foreman told the Tampa Tribune.


By 1989, it was clear Foreman's comeback was more than just a church fundraiser, and he left Parker to work with Bob Arum, Don King’s longtime rival. Scorned, Parker turned his focus to promoting “Smokin” Bert Cooper, who came within a punch of knocking out champion Evander Holyfield in 1991. It was as close as Parker would ever get to controlling the heavyweight division.

Win or lose, though, every night in a hotel was a celebration. Parker would whip out his keyboard and sing Elvis and his other favorites, the hairpiece and Cazal glasses working in tandem. “It was cocaine, Crown Royal, and Neil Diamond,” his bodyguard Jack Solloway remembered. “I'm OK with Neil Diamond. But if you gotta listen to the same five Neil Diamond songs every night played five times each? I mean, it gets kind of sad.” 


Photos via Getty Images

Anderson considered Parker his friend in the early days of their working relationship. But Parker’s drug use wore on him, and he felt it corrupted his decision-making. “Once he started doing it, he loved it,” Anderson said, “and it became crazy after that. Things started to go downhill.” They were supposed to be 50/50 partners on all of Parker’s fights, yet at best, in Anderson’s telling, Parker only ever paid him his fight purse and withheld the rest for “safekeeping.” “I trusted him. Why, I don't know, but I trusted him,” Anderson said.


Other things happened that disturbed him. Once, according to Anderson and another witness, Parker commanded him to beat up a young man in front of a crowd of people in a Los Angeles hotel car park. When Anderson refused, another of Parker’s men emerged holding a rifle, asked the kid to open his mouth, then “slammed it in there,” Anderson said. The boy fell to the ground, blood oozing from his mouth. 

Another time, Anderson arranged a “Just Say No” talk at Fort Myers High School. When Parker’s limo arrived, Anderson said, he found him inside snorting coke. Anderson did the talk, and then he told Parker he was done working with him.

“He told me I was really gonna lose the fight. At that point, I realized what they were talking about.” —Tim Anderson

But he wasn’t done. Parker reminded him that he was bound to a contract and convinced Anderson to fight 39-year-old Jimmy Young, who’d beaten Foreman 11 years prior but was by then a diminished force. Anderson, whose hair was bleached to play Dolf Lundgren’s stunt double in the film Red Scorpion, outpointed Young in Fort Myers, deploying what he described as “constant pressure.” It was his career-best win.

In August 1988, Parker got Anderson a fight with heavyweight contender Pierre Coetzer in Durban, South Africa. Anderson had no sparring, and despite Parker’s promise, his trainer never came. As he shadow-boxed in his locker room the night of the fight, two police officers came in. “You're gonna lose this fight,” Anderson recalled one of them saying before jabbing his face with the butt of a rifle, breaking his nose and knocking him down. The man pointed the gun at Anderson’s head. “He told me I was really gonna lose the fight,” Anderson said. “At that point, I realized what they were talking about.” (Coetzer declined to comment.)


They escorted him to the ring. Coetzer clocked him in the nose in the second round, knocking Anderson down, and the fight was stopped. Anderson got on the mic and said Coetzer hit harder than Foreman, hoping to appease his minders. 

Except it didn’t. Anderson said the officers bundled him into a plane blindfolded and handcuffed—he thought it was a small plane, going by the racket—and laid him down. He feared what was next and pictured a trap door opening beneath him, so sharks in the ocean below would take care of the rest. Instead, they landed and took him to a windowless room for the night. The next day, they drove him to the airport, gave him his $10,000, and he boarded a flight back to the US. 

Anderson took his contract with Parker to an attorney, who told him it was terrible. When the two men met next, Anderson again said he wanted out and was willing to take it to court. He told Parker all about South Africa, how “everything’s been no good,” and that he’d never fight for him again. 

“Come on, Doc, we'll make lemonade out of lemons,” Anderson remembered Parker saying, turning on that old charm. Parker put his arm on his shoulder, and Anderson said he knocked him unconscious with one punch.

The men went their separate ways in the ensuing years, but it wasn't smooth sailing for Anderson. Money was tight, and he moved back in with his best friend, Murphy. They calculated that Parker owed him $173,000—money that could secure his future and help his sister. Anderson swore he’d get it. 


Meanwhile, Parker finally found his Great White Hope in Mark Gastineau. A hulking giant who’d been a star on the New York Jets defensive line, Gastineau was often in the news for his off-field antics, no less for his on-again-off-again romance with actress Brigitte Nielsen, ex-wife of Sylvester Stallone. By the time Gastineau linked up with Parker, though, in 1991, his pro football prospects had all but dried up. (Gastineau couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Parker told people he had secured an informal agreement from George Foreman’s manager at the time, Ron Weathers, whereby Gastineau could face the former champion if he earned a 12-0 record. Weathers denies this: “That was pure bullshit,” he said. “You couldn’t have sold Gastineau on Foreman in a thousand years, because Gastineau just couldn't fight. He was horrible.” At the time, Gastineau had never boxed a match, amateur or pro. So, deal or no deal, Parker lined up a slew of joke opponents and even paid some of them to lose, as the fighters later admitted to The Miami Herald and Sports Illustrated

Before long, Gastineau made it to 9-0. Parker got him a match in San Francisco to be broadcast live on Tuesday Night Fights on USA Network, but he had to find an opponent. He needed a plausible fighter with names on their record, a real boxer to prove Gastineau was credible. He turned to Anderson. 


The most Anderson had ever earned from a single fight was $10,000. According to Anderson, Parker said he’d pay the $173,000 he was owed plus interest, win or lose. Murphy urged him not to accept, but Anderson knew he could win.

The Saturday before the match, Parker visited his room. According to Anderson, Parker opened up a briefcase lined with notes and told him, “This suitcase is filled with $500,000 dollars, and it is all yours if you let Mark Gastineau knock you out in the first or second round.” Anderson said he wouldn’t accept if it meant he had to take a dive.

Nevertheless, a few days later, Parker returned with Gastineau to go over how Anderson would get knocked out. “I know you've been thinking about it,” Parker said, the offer still on the table. Anderson looked at Gastineau: “I’m gonna kick your ass tomorrow night.” Parker was aghast. 

On fight night, Anderson wore baby blue trunks with gold trim. Gastineau had been arguing with his girlfriend all night and forgot his uniform, so he wore black sweatpants cut off. Parker sat ringside. In the opening rounds, Gastineau seemed stiff, an effect of his musculature and his nerves. He fought with his mouth open. Anderson controlled him like a snake charmer. He gestured to Gastineau to test the strength of his chin, but Gastineau didn’t and couldn’t. In the fourth round, a left hook in the corner connected with Gastineau’s face as he stared into space—“What is Gastineau looking at?” the commentator asked—and he crumpled to the mat. Saved by the bell. 


There was what the commentator termed “shock treatment” as Gastineau’s corner attempted to get his head straight for the final round: Parker slammed his hand on the ring apron, shouting, “You gotta tear his head off! Don’t stop! Get on him! And I do mean get on him!” Gastineau commanded, “Shut up!” Gastineau staggered a bit more in the fifth, then the final bell tolled. Anderson thrust his hands up triumphantly, then bopped the camera with his gloved fist, flashing that puppy dog smile. The crowd rose to greet him. 

In the post-fight interview, Gastineau sat on the ring steps, saying he needed to find another girlfriend, but he wasn’t giving up on boxing. Parker lurked behind him, listening. Plotting.

According to Parker’s half-sister, Diane McVay, Parker believed Foreman-Gastineau might still happen if Gastineau beat Anderson in a rematch. He dreamed up his approach, his big sell. He had it. 

“Hey, Doc, I want you to beat Gastineau,” Anderson remembered Parker saying over the phone. Parker told him Gastineau was costing him too much—$5,000 per fight—plus he was paying all his bills. He said their contract stipulated that Parker wouldn’t have to pay Gastineau’s expenses if he lost twice. Even though Parker had only paid him a few thousand dollars for their last fight, not the $173,000 offered, Parker said he’d give him everything he was owed this time. 

Anderson mulled it over with Murphy and his father, George. They were incredulous: “This thing stinks to high heaven,” Murphy told him. But Anderson said he needed his money, that Parker would give it to him. Besides, he figured there was no way Gastineau could beat him. 


“Whatever you do, don't eat anything, don't drink anything, don't hang out around these people,” Murphy remembered telling him.

“Whatever you do, don't eat anything, don't drink anything, don't hang out around these people.” —Jim Murphy

The rematch was in a blizzarding Oklahoma City. It wasn’t televised. Unlike Florida, Oklahoma didn’t have a boxing commission—the perfect place for an event meant to be forgotten, away from prying eyes. Anderson caught a cold. Parker told him his trainer was coming from Canada, but he never showed up. Anderson trained himself; he was in better shape than the first fight. Only 200 or so fans braved the conditions to attend.

In just over an hour, the fight was over. Anderson was finally knocked out in the sixth round. He was placed on a table in the changing room; he vomited endlessly. Ringside physician Doc Chumley injected him with Compazine, a drug used to treat nausea and vomiting. Eventually, everyone else left. A janitor found Anderson at 3 AM. “He called an ambulance,” Anderson said gratefully. “He basically saved my life.”

The tale is as old as boxing: Two men get in a ring, and one of them emerges destroyed. Few know for sure what happened. Anderson's belief that he was poisoned—while not knowing exactly with what—would lead him on a quest that would change the course of his life.

The following months were a blur of inertia, vomit, and half-remembered Oklahoman vignettes. Anderson’s girlfriend, Susan Scully, and Murphy collected him from the airport. When they returned to Murphy’s place, Anderson shuffled in, head spinning, puked, and went to bed. Murphy took Anderson—bedridden, constantly falling through some abyss—to multiple doctors who suspected poisoning. It wasn’t until the seventh doctor diagnosed him with vertigo and suggested some exercises that he found minor relief. 


Anderson couldn’t work for over a year. Eventually, he took a job as a personal trainer and as a coach for the foxy boxers at Pure Platinum strip club. A shambling shell weighing no more than 180 pounds, he showed the girls how to throw slow-as-molasses punches. He started writing a book to blow the lid on boxing’s rotten core. He’d call it Liars, Cheats, and Whores: the liars were the promoters, the cheats were the managers, and the whores were the fighters. 

Meanwhile, Murphy contacted Ellis Rubin, a Miami attorney known for taking on highly publicized, no-hoper cases—the more bizarre, the better. He told the media before a press conference announcing a lawsuit over the unpaid money that Parker had sought to fix the first Gastineau fight and poisoned Anderson in the rematch. “What Tim Anderson wants to do is tell the story of the fight game,” he said. “The record will show that a doctor at the time suspected drugs but couldn’t find any.”

Rubin helped line up an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS. But during the course of research, 60 Minutes saw the scale of Parker’s fight-fixing, and their story shifted. In addition to Anderson, they interviewed Parker, Florida’s boxing commissioner Don Hazelton, and Parker’s former partner Rob Russen. The episode, which aired in April 1994, was Parker-centric. Hazelton was asked if Parker was a conman. “One of the finest,” he replied. Wrestler Derrick Dukes, Gastineau’s first opponent, and Sonny Barch, who’d blown the whistle to Sports Illustrated, admitted taking dives. Parker—Elvis get-up, golden boxing glove-adorned necklace—came out swinging and denied everything.


Anderson was cut out of his own story, glimpsed only in the coda knocking Gastineau down and introduced merely as “someone who knew how to box and wasn’t interested in taking a dive.” Rubin dropped Anderson. All momentum was lost. 

Later that year, Anderson was walking in the car park of Pure Platinum when something struck his back, knocking him to the ground. As Anderson remembered it, four men in balaclavas, two with bats, stood over him. One said he needed to forget everything to do with Parker and showed him a picture of his sister playing with her young daughters on their front porch. The vertigo came back. The hopelessness too.

Anderson was in the doldrums. In the winter of 1994, a toxicologist told him he needed to find out what he’d been poisoned with or he’d die. Anderson knew he had to get a hold of Parker, who was by then living with his second family in Houston. He had been driven out of boxing, and the FBI was reportedly investigating him over his fight-fixing. Working under the pretense he was writing his book about boxing, which he was, and that he had a publishing deal, which he didn't, Anderson offered Parker $45,000 for an interview. Parker heard the fee and agreed. 

Murphy thought Anderson needed a gun for protection, so he drove him to P&D Discount Guns near Fort Lauderdale. Anderson didn’t know a thing about guns and picked out a .22 pistol for ladies that looked like a lighter. Murphy pointed him in the direction of the .38 Special 5-shot revolver. The assumption was Parker would come armed with his Glock, as he always did, and “maybe three or four of his thugs, all armed,” Murphy remembered.


A few days before the meet-up, Anderson stayed with Diane McVay, Parker’s half-sister. McVay didn’t know about the gun or that Anderson—convinced he was dying—had written letters to his sister Erin, his girlfriend Scully, and the rest of his family telling them about the pain he’d been in, how he loved them, and put them in a Bible in case anything happened to him. He called his friend, boxing trainer Steve Canton, and told him about his plan to get answers.

rick parker boxing promoter murdered tim anderson

Rick Parker. Photos via Getty Images

On April 28, 1995, McVay drove Anderson and Parker's 14-year-old son, Chris—who hadn’t seen Parker for two years—to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Orlando, where Parker was staying. Anderson had the gun in his waistband; Chris remembered that Anderson told McVay she needed to care for him, speaking strangely as if he wouldn't be around. He said Anderson seemed “kind of disturbed.”

They met Parker in Room 250. It was congenial, happy even, then Anderson recalled McVay turning to Chris and saying, “Why don't we walk around the hotel and let these two talk business?” 

Parker and Anderson sat down at the table. Anderson thought he glimpsed the bottom of a gun holster around Parker’s ankle beneath his trouser leg. They talked, Anderson turned his tape recorder on, and they talked some more. The tape is no longer accessible; twenty-seven years later, Anderson recalls the events this way.

“I need to know exactly what the drugs and poison were,” he said. “Otherwise, I'm going to die.”


“I don't exactly know. I think we got it from Ron Weathers in Texas,” Anderson recalled Parker saying. 

(When VICE put the allegation to him, Weathers said, “That’s fucking ridiculous. I'm sure Parker did drug him, so maybe he was trying to lay this shit off on somebody else.")

Anderson pulled out the gun and pointed it at Parker. “Rick, I'm not joking.” 

Parker went into salesman mode: “We'll go to the doctors. I'll get you whatever you need. We'll find out exactly what's going on, and we'll get you better again.”

“Rick, do you understand I'm gonna die from this?”

“No. Oh, we’ll really help you with everything,” Parker promised. 

Anderson wasn’t getting answers. Defeated, he sat back down and placed the gun beside him. Parker stood up, got angry, and started admonishing Anderson. 

“How dare you point a gun at me and threaten me like that? Just for that stunt, your sister’s dead.”

“How dare you point a gun at me and threaten me like that?” he barked. “Just for that stunt, your sister’s dead.” 

Anderson’s mind went blank. When he came to, he’d shot Parker between 11 and 13 times, reloading at least twice, shooting him from the bottom up—including in the dick, which the prosecution later argued was “intentionally torturous.” Anderson didn’t know what he’d done. Big Rick Parker was down, but there wasn’t much blood. Somehow, he started talking: “I can’t believe you shot me. Please help me!” 


“OK, I didn't even realize,” Anderson told him. He called 911, he called Steve Canton, then he went to Parker, who’d stopped talking. 

He rolled Parker’s 344-pound body over and saw the exit wounds. Unsure of what to do, he saw two bullets in the gun, said, “Forgive me, Lord,” put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. But nothing happened; one bullet jammed in the chamber.

He stepped outside to the din of people swimming in the pool, behind some bushes. He threw the gun to the ground, picked it up, and successfully shot the earth. He tried to shoot himself again—still nothing. He was still in the bushes. The crickets were still whirring. He thought he heard a voice telling him it wasn’t his time, but he couldn't be sure. 

He walked down to reception and admitted to everything. He wanted to die. The police came. No gun of Parker's was ever found.

People weren’t surprised Parker had been murdered. They were shocked it was by Anderson.

The trial was held in Orlando a year later. Anderson had court-appointed attorneys who successfully got the death penalty off the table, but the trial was a struggle.

Anderson’s lawyers argued the shooting was self-defense. They said Anderson blacked out when Parker threatened his sister and, in that state, reacted instinctively to stop him. They tried to show how Parker’s threats often had real-life follow-through. They tried to show how Anderson had been ground down by years of abuse at Parker’s hands, that he only met up with him to cure an illness Parker had caused and only carried a gun due to the threat Parker posed. 


They were unsuccessful. The trial lasted four days; much time was spent considering Anderson’s mindset when he pulled the trigger, though the jury never got the full picture of Parker. Without conclusive proof of the poisoning, it barely figured into the trial. The state argued that it never happened.

No member of Anderson’s family was called as a witness or even allowed in the Orlando courtroom because they were all, perhaps tactically, placed on the prosecution’s witness list. “Jurors care whether you have family support or not, and they look out in the audience to see who's on your side,” said Patricia Cashman, one of Anderson’s attorneys. “I think it was deliberate to leave the family in the hallway and make it look like Tim’s family was not supporting him.” His other lawyer, Bill McLellan, agreed that the family’s presence—particularly Erin’s—would have helped immeasurably. 

What swayed the jury when they had to decide whether the killing was premeditated was that Anderson reloaded his gun and kept shooting, according to jury member Felicia Finizia. Finizia said she and other jurors intended on writing Judge Conrad to ask for leniency, but they didn’t realize that in Florida, a first-degree murder verdict meant he had no choice but to sentence the condemned to life without parole. 

McLellan said he almost passed out when the verdict was read out. Anderson just stood there.


Anderson received visits from his family, from Murphy, and, eventually, even McLellan and Cashman while in the various Florida correctional facilities he called home over the following years. His health improved. In 1999, he had surgery on cancerous nodes in his throat, which damaged his vocal cords, leaving him with a hoarse, quiet voice. He had another operation on his neck to fix problems he attributes to the bat-wielding henchmen. 

In the end, the toxicologist’s warning proved incorrect. Anderson still doesn’t know what he was given; a spinal tap around the turn of the century found arsenic in his system, although high levels of arsenic have been detected in American correctional facility drinking water. 

It was serendipity how Anderson found his most effective advocates for his freedom. In Erin’s eyes, he could do no wrong. “She knew the real man he was,” said Paige, her now 32-year-old daughter. “She had no shame in it. She didn't believe what they judged him on and what his verdict was.”  

Paige, who was 5 years old when her uncle was sentenced, suffered from drug addiction throughout her teens. After Erin passed away on Christmas Eve in 2010, Paige moved in with Frank and Sabrina Sweeney, who ran a non-profit rehab center for women. They eventually adopted her. The Sweeneys are “very giving people, just out to help the next person,” Paige said. 


She told them about her kind uncle who’d been in prison most of her life and how it happened. It didn’t sound right, so the Sweeneys decided to do something. Frank had been involved in local politics, so they went to the Capitol in Tallahassee and got access to the highest-elected officials in Florida, including State Governor Rick Scott.

“We were very naive about how the whole thing works. We had a lot of dead ends, but we kept trying and spending a lot of money,” Frank laughed, “and not getting any results.” Partly, what drove the Sweeneys was their belief Anderson saved Paige by killing Parker. “And we love Paige,” he said. “So we're indebted to him, sorta.”

In early 2020, the Sweeneys were running late for an appointment with a senator when they got lost in the Capitol building. A young lobbyist named Josh Burkett saw them, asked if they needed help, and took them to the appointment, but the senator had already left. Sabrina explained Anderson’s story to Burkett, as she was given to doing, and Burkett gave them his card.

On June 1, 2020, Sabrina passed away unexpectedly. Frank didn’t want to give up on Anderson, whose case was so dear to her, so he hired Burkett to get him out via clemency. “Josh is a great guy. I wish I had met him five years earlier. Tim would be out by now.”

Burkett said Anderson’s case will eventually be heard by the Florida Commission on Offender Review, which is under the Office of Executive Clemency. The decision would be up to Florida’s governor and three cabinet members. The clemency board sits four times a year. There are thousands of clemency appeal cases pending in Florida, Burkett said, but they hope to expedite Anderson’s. The last person to have their sentence for first-degree murder commuted was in 2015. 

Burkett cautioned it’s “1,000 percent a long shot” that Anderson will get out of prison. 

Zephyrhills is a quaint, semi-rural retirement town 40 minutes from Tampa. Drive a mile south of city limits, and you’ll find the prison where Tim Anderson’s been since 2018. The facility is a fenced-off warren of low-rise terracotta-colored buildings, the kind that proliferate across the state. 

It’s said to be the most desirable prison in Florida. The inmates are a little older and typically aren’t in for hardcore crimes, so it’s relatively safe. Even so, one of Anderson’s closest friends, Chuck, was murdered in his cell in September 2022. “He was the nicest guy. There’s no reason somebody would have done what they did to him,” he said.

Since 2018, Anderson has volunteered in the Kairos program, a Christian prison ministry with a global presence. Brad Rampt, an outside volunteer at Kairos, said Anderson is “absolutely one of the all-stars on the campus.” 

“He's a boxer. He's a guy that fought Gastineau,” Rampt said. “The corrections officers almost ask for his autograph. They treat him like royalty. And he's a model, model prisoner. But he has become a very sensitive, spiritual man now. And he's one of the spiritual leaders on the campus. Guys go to him for counseling, advice, and things.”

Anderson thinks about the future sometimes and what it might be like on the outside. He thinks about opening a boxing gym where he can tell kids about God, as Foreman did. He thinks about his father, George (his family desperately wanted to get Anderson out before George died in 2021); his beloved mother, Jaqueline, who passed when he was 18; and Erin. Mostly, he thinks about being a positive influence on Erin’s grandchildren. 

Also, like Foreman, he thinks about fighting again—to show that “age is just a number.” He’s 64, but a jacked 64. He works out five days a week, doing push-ups and crunches by the hundreds. Without the maladies of his youth, he feels fitter than ever. 

Before we spoke, Anderson said he’d not thought much about Parker for 20 years. There was a time when he would try to work out how this all happened: that hairpiece, those shades, Parker’s voice speed talking about boxing inside his mind. 

Now it’s about what comes next, about the things he still can’t control. No one can say when it’ll be his time for clemency, if at all. “If it does happen,” he said, “I’m ready.”

Anyone sympathetic to Anderson’s case can reach out to Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis and request that Anderson’s case be heard before the Clemency Board at GovernorRon.Desantis@eog.myflorida.com.

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