From the Belly of the Beast
Doc Anderson recalls him and Tex Cobb encountering the young and still unknown Charlie Sheen on the Las Vegas Strip…
Even in a sport where unhappy endings abound, the saga of former journeyman heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson is sadder than most. In May 1996, after a jury trial in Orange County, Florida, Anderson, who had fought the likes of George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Jimmy Young in compiling a 27-16-1 (13 KOs) record, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Anderson never denied shooting his former promoter, the behemoth Rick Parker — who was generally regarded as being disreputable, corrupt and dangerous — nine times in an Orlando hotel room in April 1995. But his reasons for the shooting have raised many questions related to his being found guilty of such a serious offense.
Anderson is currently housed at the Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown, Florida. Although he has “been down” for over 16 years, and his beloved sister Erin recently passed away, he was his usual upbeat self when I visited him in early March. The 52-year-old Anderson has the inexplicable gift of making the people around him feel good, even if he’s behind the walls of a maximum security prison.
“There are a lot of bad people in here,” said Anderson, “but I try to associate with the good ones. There actually are a lot of decent people here; people who made a wrong turn or one bad mistake.”
The back-story to Parker’s murder is what makes Anderson such a sympathetic killer. Two jurors have publicly expressed outrage over the fact that they were never told that mandatory sentencing guidelines would keep Anderson in prison forever. If they had known those were the terms, the two jurors said they would have reached a different conclusion.
“Immediately after reaching our verdict, another unanimous decision was made,” wrote jury foreman Vincent Runfola in a letter to the judge. “We were all going to write you a letter during the pre-sentence investigation requesting leniency for Mr. Anderson. We now know that we never had that chance. Most of the jury members walked out of the courtroom feeling blindsided.”
Another juror, Felicia Walters, wrote to the judge, “Once we agreed on the verdict, many of us cried and silence filled the room for what seemed like an eternity. It was then that we all decided to write you a letter, prior to Mr. Anderson’s sentencing, to request leniency. At the time, we had no idea that upon returning to the courtroom that Mr. Anderson would be sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole. Most of us left that evening feeling shocked and misled.”
Besides his immediate family, Anderson has an unlikely ally in Diane McVey, Parker’s half-sister, who visits Doc regularly and says she loves him. As a result, she has been ostracized by many in her family.
“Over the years there were so many people who might have wanted Rick dead,” McVey said. “He wasn’t a very nice person, and he took advantage of a lot of people. I’m not surprised someone killed him. I’m just surprised that Tim did.”
Anderson is the unlikeliest of killers and grew up in a solid two-parent, four-child home in Chicago. Although a standout athlete, he was afflicted with Crohn’s disease, which causes incessant diarrhea, and had to wear a diaper until he was nine. That was a secret he shared with his mother. When she died of a lung disease while Anderson was a teenager, he was devastated. Anderson admits that that his childhood malady, coupled with his mother’s love and understanding, as well as her untimely death, made him more sensitive than he would have liked.
Participating in sports was a great equalizer for Anderson, who was as adept on the pitching mound as he was in the ring. After teenage success in kickboxing, as well as high school honors for baseball, he began playing pro ball for the Chicago Cubs organization. He was sent to their farm team in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1981. He also took up boxing at a local gym and moonlighted as a security guard at a club where he met Jim Murphy, a fellow bouncer who was into holistic healing.
“I gave Tim an herbal mix for his problems, and the results came quickly,” laughed Murphy. “Tim was so proud; he even called me into the bathroom to show me what he did. When he’d go to the beach, he would put suntan lotion on himself, then spend five minutes in one position, move his body a few degrees for another five minutes, and on and on. He was a wonderful guy, so innocent and naïve with a quirky personality and a witty sense of humor.”
The baseball team was not happy with Anderson boxing, and forced him to choose between the sports. Anderson chose boxing, and was an enigma from the moment he turned pro in June 1983. He had dyed blond hair, a buff body, wore garish attire, was a vegetarian, and had studied kinesiology (muscular movement), which earned him the nickname “Doc.”
Rugged former heavyweight title challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb, with whom Anderson often trained and lived, once told Anderson, “I know you can fight because the way you dress you’d embarrass the Puerto Ricans and the faggots.”
One person against Anderson fighting was his sister Erin, who became a quadriplegic at age 16 after a 1976 diving accident. Her feelings were justified when her brother hooked up with Parker, who was determined to become the “white Don King.” In order to bankroll his foray into boxing, Parker recruited disenfranchised youngsters to go door to door across the country selling a cleaning concoction called Sun-Sensational. The sales kids would knock on the door of a prospective customer, drop dirt on the carpet, and demonstrate how sensational Sun-Sensational was. Diane McVey was involved in the business with her brother until he cheated her out of her earnings.
“Tim isn’t stupid, but he trusted a lot of people he shouldn’t [have],” Erin said in a 2005 interview. “Parker was very flashy and addicted to drugs, which couldn’t have been more different than Tim. I don’t think Tim was ever high on anything, except life and exercise.”
Anderson bought into Parker’s hype. He agreed to fight for Parker and work as his bodyguard. Anderson was told that his $750 weekly paycheck would be held in escrow as he barnstormed the country, often with stable mate Tex Cobb.
“Tex and I trained together, which was not one of his favorite things to do,” joked Anderson. “We also ate together, which was one of his favorite things to do.”
Because Cobb was getting regular work as a Hollywood actor, Anderson met a teenaged blonde named Pamela Anderson “before she was famous and before she got her boobs done.”
He also recalls him and Cobb encountering the young and still unknown Charlie Sheen on the Las Vegas Strip. “Tex knew him from the business and he (Sheen) was a real mess,” recalled Anderson. “He told us he had no place to stay, so we took him to our suite. He was there for a few days, but he was sick most of the time. He and Tex would smoke a lot of pot, which I didn’t do. When Sheen found out that I had played professional baseball, he was very interested and asked me a lot of questions. He said he had always dreamed of playing pro ball, and had been a very good high school player.”
While in Florida for a 1990 fight, Parker arranged for Anderson to give an anti-drug speech at a local school. When they arrived at the location in separate limousines, Anderson opened Parker’s door and saw him inhaling a small mountain of cocaine. Outraged, Doc decided he had had enough and demanded the $150,000 that Parker owed him so he could go off on his own. Anderson had a lifelong aversion to drugs, and wouldn’t even take prescribed painkillers after Larry Holmes broke two of his ribs in 1991.
Anderson went his own way, with limited success. Parker, in the meantime, took over the boxing promotional duties for Mark Gastineau, a former pro football star with a long history of drug abuse and erratic behavior. Parker said he had a handshake agreement for Gastineau to fight George Foreman for millions of dollars if he could get the lumbering former gridiron great to 12-0.
Anderson says Parker promised he would pay him the money he owed him, plus interest, if he took a dive against Gastineau. Their fight was to be televised live from San Francisco in June 1992. Referee Marty Sammon said talk of a fix was rampant, and he warned both boxers beforehand that there better be no monkey business.
“I told them if there was anything suspicious, they weren’t getting paid,” said Sammon. “Anderson then went out and beat the crap out of Gastineau. It was no contest: Man against boy.”
“I never saw my brother so mad,” said McVey. “I knew there’d be trouble. His nostrils were flaring.”
Six months later Anderson agreed to a rematch with Gastineau, this time in Oklahoma City, where there was no state commission. Anderson says he was once again asked to take a dive, and once again he was against it. He says he waited in the ring for 45 minutes until Gastineau arrived. It was then, Anderson believes, that he was given tainted water. Although no official video exists of the rematch, Anderson thinks there is video evidence to support his allegations.
By the third round Anderson was light-headed, nauseous, and hallucinating. Unable to defend himself, he was stopped in the sixth round. The referee later testified at Anderson’s trial that he never saw him get hit with a solid punch. Yet hours later, recalled the ref, Anderson was found on the floor of the dressing room lying in his own vomit. A doctor suggested that Anderson had been drugged, but could not offer proof. Anderson returned to Florida a broken man.
“He was never the same,” said Murphy. “He couldn’t get out of bed. And when he did, he would bump into things. He had vertigo, and all these doctors tried to pinpoint his problem, but couldn’t find anything.”
Anderson retained an attorney to sue Parker, as well as the fight venue in Oklahoma. Shortly afterwards he was attacked and seriously injured by two masked, bat-wielding men. They showed him a photograph of his sister Erin, as well as her two small daughters, and told him to stop making trouble.
Convinced he was dying, but determined to find out what substance had changed his life so dramatically, Anderson used McVey to contact her brother under the pretense of paying him for an interview for a book Anderson was writing. After the meeting was scheduled, it was Murphy who insisted Anderson go there with a gun. Murphy had listened in on numerous phone conversations where Parker threatened Anderson and his family, so he accompanied Anderson to a gun store where he purchased a .38 caliber revolver.
Anderson, who never told McVey about the gun, drove to meet Parker accompanied by her and Parker’s 14-year-old son Chris, who had not seen his father for years. After a few minutes of getting reacquainted, Parker asked his sister and son to leave the room so he and Anderson could talk business.
Anderson says he demanded to know what drugs were used to poison him, but Parker disavowed any knowledge. The desperate Anderson pointed the gun at Parker, but got the same answer. Satisfied with the response, Anderson put the gun by his side. At that time, recalls Anderson, Parker told him, “For that stunt you just pulled, your sister Erin is dead.”
The next thing Anderson remembers is “rolling [Parker] over and counting the bullets. I counted eight. He was sideways and I rolled him on his back. I counted the bullets in his thigh, his groin.”
Anderson sat on the bed and said, “Forgive me Lord.” He tried to take his own life. But the gun jammed. He then went to the front desk, told the clerk what happened, and calmly waited for the police. Later, while being questioned by detectives without an attorney present, he told them he waived his right to a trial and wanted a quick date with the electric chair.
“I was not myself back then,” Anderson said. “I was a very sick man.”
It is still a bit mystifying how Anderson was convicted of pre-meditated murder. Why, for example, did he travel to the hotel with witnesses? Why did he have no escape plan? Why did he tell the hotel desk clerk what he had done, and then wait calmly for the police?
Barring a miracle, Anderson will die in prison. He isn’t prone to getting depressed, and exercises constantly to stay positive. Besides doing scores of pushups and pull-ups, Anderson does a regular regimen of 6,000 stomach crunches, 1,500 at a time, four times a day. At 195 pounds, he is ultra-lean and rock hard.
Not long ago a fellow inmate who was into karate boasted about his acumen with his feet. The man insisted that Anderson’s gut could not withstand one of his kicks, while Anderson countered that the man’s stomach could not endure one of his punches. When they got down to business, Anderson barely flinched when he was kicked, but doubled his nemesis over with one punch.
Anderson works as a sweeper, but reads lots of books, writes very colorful and creative short stories, and looks forward to visits from his family and friends, including musician Doug Wilder who has played with the Allman Brothers Band.
However his story ends, Anderson won’t let despair and hopelessness get the best of him.
“Whatever’s going to happen will happen,” he said. “I’m just riding the storm out one day at a time.”
Anderson welcomes correspondence from readers, and is great about writing back if stamps are included. His mailing address is:
Florida State Prison
7819 NW 228th Street
Raiford, Florida 32026-1190