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Thomas resided with his parents, Allen F. Krnak and Donna Krnak, and his 29-year-old brother, Andrew Krnak (who legally changed his name to Derek Nicholas Anderson days after his family disappeared, and is referred to in media accounts by that name), in Helenville, Wisconsin in 1998. Photographs of Allen and Anderson are posted below this case summary. Donna, Thomas and Allen were last seen on July 2, 1998. Anderson, who was the last person known to see them, stated they were headed to the family's summer cabin in Coloma, Wisconsin when they disappeared. The family's dog, a cocker spaniel named Hunter, also went missing. Anderson reported his parents and brother as missing persons seven days after he last saw them; he said he became concerned when they failed to return from the cabin as scheduled. It was later determined that they probably never arrived there.
Anderson legally changed his name to Derek Nicholas Anderson days after his family disappeared. He had previous convictions for theft and breaking and entering, and a month after his family's disappearances he was jailed for drunken driving, driving with a revoked license, and probation violation. In July 1999 he pleaded guilty to federal loan fraud and spent time in federal prison; he had lied on an application for a student loan. He had frequently hiked at Roy Taylor Forest when he was a student at Western Carolina University from 1991 to 1996; he has a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology and subsequently took graduate classes at the university.
On February 1, 2001, shortly after he was released from prison and went to live in a halfway house, Anderson was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with his father's death. He was originally charged in North Carolina, but the charges were dropped in that state and he was charged in Wisconsin after it was determined there was no evidence to indicate Allen was killed in North Carolina.
On the day of his disappearance, Allen got a phone call at work and became very distressed. He left work early, saying he had a family emergency and "may have to go to a funeral." Anderson initially denied having placed the call; he later admitted that he had and said he had done so because he was fixing his parents' car and could not find a tool he needed. Anderson was unemployed and lived with his parents in 1998. He was a student at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and owed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. Allen's co-workers testified that the relationship between him and his son was troubled and that Allen had said Anderson had attacked him and tried to kill him with a club. The family truck also had 2,618 miles unaccounted for, enough to travel to North Carolina and back; the distance between the Krnak home and the location of Allen's remains is approximately 1,560 miles round-trip. Anderson had no explanation for the unaccounted miles but admitted to having driven the car.
Anderson pleaded not guilty to his father's murder and, at his 2006 trial, his lawyers argued that there was no evidence to connect him to the crime or to his mother and brother's disappearances. The prosecution theorized that Anderson murdered his family to gain access to their estate, which is worth an estimated $550,000 to $600,000. In April 2006, he was convicted of his father's murder. Anderson stated he would appeal his conviction.
Left: Allen Krnak, approximate date 1998;
Right: Derek Anderson (Andrew Krnak), approximate date 2001
Jefferson County Sheriff's Department