Anna Catherine Cardwell is a young woman who was murdered in 2012. Her case is being featured on a new Investigation Discovery show called Murder Comes Home, episode “Stuck in the Middle,” on Tuesday, February 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ID. Here’s what you need to know about Cardwell’s case and the man who killed her, Josh Caspari.
1. Anna Catherine Cardwell Grew Up in Wetumpka, Alabama
Anna Catherine Cardwell was born June 18, 1991, in Wetumpka, Alabama, a small town about 90 minutes southeast of Birmingham. She was the daughter of Paula and Joe Cardwell and had one brother named Lyle. Cardwell graduated from Holtville High School in 2010 and was attending Southern Union Junior College at the time of her death. She was a popular girl, with her mother Paula telling the Wetumpka Herald in 2018 that she was the kind of person who never met a stranger.
“Anna Catherine loved this community, and the community loved her. She was one of those outgoing, bubbly, never-met-a-stranger, cool person,” Cardwell said.
The day of her funeral, Cardwell’s best friend Brett Wilson told local station WSFA 12 that he spoke to her the night before her murder and she seemed happy.
“I mean, it was normal; nothing out of the ordinary. We were such close friends, we told each other everything and she would have told if something was wrong and she didn’t. She seemed like her happy self,” Wilson said, adding, “She will be missed.”
2. Cardwell Was Shot Four Times
On the morning of February 15, 2012, Cardwell was home alone when an acquaintance named Josh Caspari came to her house. According to Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin, Caspari rang the doorbell and Cardwell let him in. They argued over the fact that Cardwell had been advising a female mutual acquaintance not to become involved with Caspari. They argued and he killed her.
According to investigators, Cardwell was shot twice in the back and once in the shoulder as she tried to run through the kitchen to the back door. Caspari caught up with her, pulled her back into the house and shot her in the head, killing her. Caspari then took Cardwell’s Honda Civic, which he later left in the parking lot of a local grocery store.
When Anna Catherine’s mother Paula arrived home from running errands, she found her daughter dead in the kitchen. She later told WSFA 12 that knowing how violently her daughter died only magnified her grief.
“To know your child died in such a violent way, it magnifies the grief and makes it even harder to deal with,” said Paula.
Melisa Flowers, the mother of one of Cardwell’s friends, told WSFA that the murder was hard on everyone in their small community.
“She was just very friendly, very well-liked, this one hurts bad. It has really hit our community hard,” Flowers said. “This could have been any of our children.”
3. Two Men Were Charged in Connection with Cardwell’s Murder
Caspari, 22, from nearby Tallassee, was arrested and charged with the murder after confessing to the killing two days after it happened. Additionally, Cody Abernathy, 22, also of Tallassee, was arrested and charged with first-degree hindering prosecution.
Sheriff Franklin told AL.com that Caspari admitted to being dropped off in the woods near Cardwell’s house on Hickory Drive and waiting for Cardwell’s mother to leave. Once he knew Cardwell was alone, he approached the house, Cardwell let him in and he killed her. He admitted to having staked out the house two days before the murder. He brought a mask, knife, gun and gas can to the area that day but did not approach the house because Cardwell was never left alone in the home.
Caspari confessed to the crime after a search of his apartment yielded evidence in the form of muddy clothing, a 9 mm pistol that was visually similar to the one used in the murder and illegal steroids from Caspari’s bodybuilding hobby. Franklin told AL.com that he believed several other charges would be filed as a result of the search. Several other guns found in Caspari’s apartment were reported stolen in a home invasion the previous fall, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Abernathy’s charges stemmed from him lying to authorities during questioning on two separate occasions; Abernathy was the one who drove Caspari to the wooded area on both February 10 and February 12, but he denied that twice before he finally admitted to his part in the crime.
4. Caspari Is Serving Life In Prison
Caspari was indicted in July 2012 and then in August, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and reason of mental defect to the charges of capital murder, theft of property first degree, escape third degree and promoting prison contraband.
“Even though we believe Anna allowed Caspari to enter the house, we feel like we can prove to a jury that her consent was rescinded after Caspari fired that first shot,” District Attorney Randall Houston told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2012. “So we feel we have evidence that proves Anna was murdered in the commission of a burglary and that would meet the guidelines for a capital charge.”
In October 2013, with Caspari’s trial fast approaching, he changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In the courtroom, Paula addressed Caspari for the first time, telling him he “caused a great deal of pain and changed many lives.”
Caspari was transferred to the state prison that same month as his sentencing and he still resides there. Abernathy received five years for his part in Cardwell’s murder; he was incarcerated in October 2014 and was released in July 2019.
During the investigation and ensuing court appearances, Caspari’s sister Jessica was also charged with paying another inmate $500 to smuggle hacksaw blades to her brother inside the Elmore County Jail to facilitate his escape. Jessica was arrested twice for trying to facilitate an escape for her brother; the second time a woman named Brittany Penn was arrested alongside Jessica.
5. Anna Catherine’s Mother Opened a Restaurant in Her Daughter’s Honor
Six years after her daughter was murdered, Paula opened “Anna’s Place,” a restaurant dedicated to her daughter’s memory. All of the dining rooms are named after Anna Catherine’s animals — Abigail was her horse, Bella was her dog, Chloe was her cat. Paula previously managed a local pharmacy and got the idea for the restaurant from one of her customers.
“I was talking to a customer one day, and she mentioned that she had this property. It used to be a daycare, but she wanted to do something with it,” Cardwell told the Wetumpka Herald. “I thought, with the restaurants in this town, you’ve got pizza, Mexican and Subway. And the community’s growing like crazy.”
She added, “I just wanted a place where you could come in and have a good meal and visit with the other people in the community. I wanted something that was comfortable … That’s the most horrible thing, to lose a child. After she died, I kept saying, ‘God, there’s got to be something good that comes from this. It can’t just all be bad. It can’t just be the memory of her being killed. Something good has got to come. I feel like this is the something good that comes from it.”
Murder Comes Home airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Investigation Discovery.