Milwaukee man charged with homicide in missing person case

Maxwell Anderson has been in custody as a person of interest in the missing persons and homicide case of Sade Robinson

Police tape at a nighttime crime scene
Tony Webster

A Milwaukee man has been charged in the death of a 19-year-old Milwaukee woman who was reported missing earlier this month. 

Maxwell Anderson, 33, was named a person of interest in the missing persons case of Sade Robinson and has been in custody since April 4. On Friday morning, Anderson was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and arson. 

Robinson was reported as “critically missing” by the Milwaukee Police Department on April 3.

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Sade Robinson. Milwaukee Police Department

In the days that followed, body parts began to be found across the Milwaukee area, including a severed human leg found in a park in Cudahy. In a criminal complaint, police said they believed the leg, found at Warnimont Park, appeared to be “sawn off.”

During a press conference Friday morning, Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball confirmed the leg belonged to Robinson. She called the crime “heinous.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Robinson family, friends and the Milwaukee community who have embraced this family,” Ball said. “We are sorry for your loss — it’s such a tragic incident.” 

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman called the incident a “horrendous tragedy.” 

A GoFundMe page set up for Robinson said she was attending the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

“Sade was a loving daughter, a cherished sister, and a dear friend to many,” the page said.

Anderson made his initial appearance at the Milwaukee County Courthouse Friday morning. His bail was set at $5 million.

In a statement, Anderson’s attorney Anthony Cotton said, “Maxwell Anderson is presumed innocent and we will fight the matter vigorously in court.”

Maxwell Anderson. Milwaukee County Sherriff’s Office

What the complaint said

According to the criminal complaint, detectives using phone records learned Anderson and Robinson had met for a date on the night of April 1 at Twisted Fisherman. They viewed video footage from the restaurant which showed them meeting for dinner and drinks. After that, phone records and video surveillance footage revealed they went to a bar in downtown Milwaukee and then later to Anderson’s home on the city’s south side.

After Robinson went missing, her friend was able to access a location-based services app on her phone, which allows users to share their location with others. After she checked the app, she found that Robinson’s phone was at Warnimont Park on the morning of April 2.  That app revealed she was near Anderson’s home on the city’s south side before that.

On the morning of April 2, the Milwaukee Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire on the city’s north side. That vehicle belonged to Robinson, according to the complaint.

Investigators gathered video footage from a Milwaukee County Transit System bus that showed Anderson getting on a nearby bus shortly after Robinson’s car was set on fire. Investigators used video footage from other buses that showed a person, which they believe to be Anderson, walking away from the vehicle shortly after the car was lit on fire.

The home of Maxwell Anderson as seen on Friday, April 12, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

On April 4, police executed a search warrant at Anderson’s home. The complaint said, “blood was located on bedding in one of the bedrooms and on the walls leading towards the basement. Several gasoline containers were located in the garage/storage area.”

Police also searched the area near where Robinson’s car was set on fire. The complaint said investigators “located a human foot in the wooded area adjacent to the train tracks that border the playground to the east. Investigators located, in addition to the foot, another piece of what appeared to be human flesh in the same area.”

Police used video surveillance from a nearby neighbor which showed “on and off” movement at Anderson’s house on the night of April 1 until 12:45 a.m. on April 2. At that time, phone records show Robinson’s phone began to travel around the city of Milwaukee before “eventually ending up apparently stationary near Warnimont Park, where the severed leg was recovered,” the complaint said.

Police arrested Anderson during a traffic stop near his home on the morning of April 4. He’s been in custody since.

Police still trying to identify other human remains

During the Friday press conference, Norman said it’s still unknown if the other body parts located near where Robinson’s car was set on fire belong to Robinson.

“The identification of human remains recovered by MPD (Milwaukee Police Department) are still pending,” Norman said. 

Ball was asked by reporters Friday if police believe Anderson is connected to any other crimes or missing person cases in the city.

“So far, there hasn’t been any evidence that there is any other victims,” Ball said.

There are several other unknowns as well, including a motive for the crime and how or when Robinson was killed.

Ball said investigators are still searching for more human remains. She also declined to say whether a murder weapon has been located. Ball did not say what else was found at Anderson’s home, citing the ongoing investigation.

Anderson will appear in court on April 22 for a preliminary hearing.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball speaks at a press conference on Friday, April 12, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR