The Shootist

After the nine-hour flight from London, a weary Terry Anderson walked off the plane at 2 p.m., phoned his office and was surprised to learn Marylynn would be picking him up. Marylynn, a religion teacher at Ursuline Academy and his wife for almost 28 years, never did that.

It was February 20, 2003. For weeks, Anderson had been traveling between Dallas, London and Brisbane, negotiating deals to set up international offices of Data Recovery Services, the company he'd started in 1996 to retrieve data from damaged computer hard drives. Anderson brought to his business the same intense focus that had made him a world-class marksman in rapid-fire pistol. For almost 30 years, Anderson had been a competitive shooter in an event that requires nerves of tungsten steel.

Born into an aristocratic Australian family, Anderson moved to America in 1974 and embraced it in every way. He joined the Army Reserves and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, serving most recently as a liaison from the Pentagon to Congress. As an Army marksman, Anderson had won 17 national championships. Twice chosen for U.S. Olympic teams--though he never got to fire a shot--Anderson, even at age 57, had not given up his dream of winning a gold medal.

He saw the 2004 Olympics as his last chance to achieve the goal he'd set 32 years earlier. After placing second at the nationals in 2002, Anderson planned to compete again in 2003. "I would have trained with a vengeance," Anderson says. Despite the odds, Anderson believes he could have been representing the United States in Athens, putting it all on the firing line.

Instead, Anderson is sitting in federal prison in Seagoville, convicted of possessing a secret cache of deadly weapons, in one of the strangest cases to land in the Dallas federal courthouse in recent years. Far from being just another devoted sportsman, Anderson, Marylynn says, is a trained assassin who killed his first wife and has been involved for years in shady international enterprises. Marylynn says she feared for her life when she turned him in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms after finding machine guns, silencers and other illegal weapons.

Anderson's friends have launched a fierce defense, saying that his wife dreamed up the perfect scheme to screw her rich husband for being unfaithful. His supporters call him a patriot, a man who'd do anything for his adoptive country. They call the hit-man accusation utter nonsense. Anderson describes Marylynn as a damaged woman, lashing out at him to get back at parents who abused her.

Truth is a slippery substance in the Andersons' lives, and it's difficult to determine who's lying and who isn't. But after decades of ricocheting from continent to continent, rubbing shoulders with the elite and the low, what's certain is that Terry Anderson's high-flying life has been destroyed, along with any hopes of ever competing again. "I think it's a tragedy that someone who's contributed so much to this country at great personal risk has to lose everything that mattered most to him in this world," says Barry Sorrels, Anderson's prominent defense attorney.

Maybe Anderson--slick, self-absorbed and often selfish, according to some friends--deserved it. But the collateral damage from the Andersons' "scorched-earth" divorce, as Terry's attorney, Paul Brumley, calls it, has been enormous. The Andersons' all-out fight has damaged their family-owned business, cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and destroyed a father's relationship with his two children--let alone his military career. His daughter, a student at the University of Dallas, and his son, now at West Point, refuse to have anything to do with their father.

It's this last consequence that anguishes Anderson most.

Outside the terminal, Marylynn was waiting in her Mercedes. Anderson threw his two laptop computers and suitcase in the trunk and gave her a kiss.

While Anderson was traveling overseas, they'd kept in contact about the office, bills and the vacations they'd planned through e-mail. They'd end each message with their pet names, "T-Bear" and "M-Lamb," sounding friendly and affectionate. That was about to change.

While they were driving, Marylynn's cell phone rang. "We're almost there," she answered. Anderson assumed it was someone at Data Recovery Services.

They pulled into the DRS parking lot off Walnut Hill Lane and got out, but when Anderson tried to open the trunk, Marylynn beeped the automatic lock. "No," she said. "This man wants to talk to you."

A process server plopped divorce papers in his hand; moments later, a police officer presented Anderson with a restraining order. "You must leave this area at once," the officer said, "or you'll be arrested." Not only was Anderson barred from his office, but from his house, his church and his son's school. He couldn't access his bank accounts or contact his children.

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Glenna Whitley

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