Relatives feared for the safety of U.S. Army Sgt.Joseph Anderson during each of the three tours of duty the 12-year veteran served in Iraq, worried that warfare in a foreign land would claim his life.
But they had no such anxieties when he arrived home to Marrero two weeks ago on holiday leave -- and were all the more devastated when someone gunned down the 31-year-old father of three in the driveway of a relative's home Wednesday (Jan. 1) night.
"I thought he'd get shot up over there," Anderson's mother, Kathleen Anderson, 57, said. "He came home on leave and got shot."
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has said a gunman killed Joseph Anderson in the 6100 block Ray Street in Marrero about 9:45 p.m. and then stole his mother's green, 2001 Toyota 4-Runner. Anderson had just dropped off his children, ages 7, 11, and 12, at the home of their maternal grandparents.
A passerby spotted Anderson lying outside in front of the home and knocked on the door. The residents inside told authorities they overheard a loud popping sound, but thought it was just fireworks. The murder was the first in unincorporated Jefferson Parish in 2014.
Sheriff's Office detectives found the 4-Runner Thursday morning about two miles from the scene of the shooting near the corner of Rue Louis Phillippe and Tuskegee Drive in Marrero. No arrests have been made in the case.
Anderson was dropping off his children ahead of his flight back to Maryland, where he worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Relatives, including his father, brother, sister, and ex-wife and other in-laws, gathered at his Marrero home, the news of his unexpected death still raw.
"He loved his kids," his father, David Anderson Sr., said.
Joseph Anderson was born and raised in Marrero, the youngest of three siblings. Kathleen Anderson said her son was definitely a boy, all rough and tumble. He graduated from John Ehret High School in 2000.
Sgt. Joseph Anderson with his mother, Kathleen Anderson, while hiking in Oahu, H.I.Kathleen Anderson
But Anderson didn't decide to enter the Army until he turned 20, shortly after becoming a father, relatives said. He wanted to be able to take care of his family.
He completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and was stationed at several bases including Fort Hood and Fort Sam Houston, both in Texas, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
He spent three years stationed in Oahu, Hawaii. Kathleen and David Anderson Sr. visited several times. She beamed as she recalled tackling the .8-mile Diamond Head trail around a non-active volcano.
Anderson had recently taken up deer hunting after his move to Maryland. He loved the sport. When David Anderson Sr. paid a recent visit up north, he said his son wouldn't let him leave until he'd had his own successful hunt.
David Anderson Sr. often teased about his son's resemblance to actor Channing Tatum. The two looked alike and carried themselves much the same. "He'd get aggravated with me," David Anderson Sr. said, smiling.
Members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office investigate the first homicide in the parish for 2014 after a man who they suspect had just dropped off his children at his in-laws was gunned down in a driveway in the 6100 block of Ray Street in Marrero. The vehicle he was driving was no longer at the scene. They had yet to positively confirm the man's identity. Wednesday, January 1, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, Nola.com / The Times-Picayune)
While home on leave, the sergeant spent time with his children. He attended Christmas plays, took in the lights at Celebration in the Oaks in City Park and watched the holiday fireworks. He also caught up with old friends.
"He wasn't a troublemaker," David Anderson Sr., said. "He just wanted to have fun."
In addition to his mother, father and three children, Joseph Anderson is survived by his sister, Veronica Mowery, and his brother, David Anderson Jr.
When asked what they'll remember most, Kathleen Anderson said, "He was a good daddy. He loved his kids."
Anyone with information about the murder of Joseph Anderson is asked to call the Sheriff's Office investigations bureau at 504.364.5300. The public can also call Crimestoppers at 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 877.903.7867. Tips can be texted to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637); text TELLCS then the crime information. Callers or texters do not have to give their names or testify and can earn a $2,500 reward for information that leads to an indictment.