Convicted killer Brenda Andrew sentenced to death in murder of husband

Friday, July 16th 2004, 5:58 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A 40-year-old mother of two and former Sunday school teacher is now the only woman in Oklahoma facing the death penalty.

Brenda Andrew was sentenced to death Thursday for the shotgun killing of her estranged husband in what prosecutors said was a plot with her lover to collect on the businessman's $800,000 life insurance policy.

A seven-man, five-woman Oklahoma County jury recommended the sentence after convicting Andrew on Tuesday of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Jurors deliberated about seven hours before agreeing on the sentence.

Her lover, James Pavatt, was earlier convicted of the November 2001 killing of Rob Andrew and was sentenced to death in October. Formal sentencing for Andrew is scheduled for Sept. 22.

She will ultimately be transferred to the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, home of the state's death row for women. She would be the fourth woman executed in Oklahoma. The previous three were all executed in 2001.

Jurors recommended the death sentence despite emotional pleas from Brenda Andrew's family, including her 13-year-old daughter, Tricity.

"Obviously, Ms. Andrew and her family are extremely disappointed with both verdicts," defense attorney Greg McCracken said. After the sentence was announced, Brenda Andrew's family members were taken out the side door of the courthouse by a defense attorney and they refused to comment.

However, McCracken said he's confident Andrew will be granted a new trial based on media coverage of the proceedings. He said the case had led to 100 front-page newspaper articles and 2,000 television stories since the murder.

"When it takes 125 jurors to get 12 who can sit in the box, I think that kind of tells you the amount of media pressure and the effect it has on the jury pool."

Prosecutor Gayland Gieger he was confident media coverage was not an issue in the case.

"I think Judge (Susan) Bragg took extraordinary steps to prevent any type of unfair prejudice entering into this jury," Gieger said. "There was never an indication from start to finish in this case that the coverage of this case in the media had anything to do with the outcome."

Rob Andrew's brother, Tom Andrew, even thanked the media for keeping people aware of what happened. Rob Andrew's parents, E.R. Andrew and Lou Andrew, smiled as Tom Andrew spoke on behalf of the family.

"Rob's friends and family would like to say thank you for everyone's thoughts and prayers," Tom Andrew, said. "We are ready now to get back to our daily lives and go about the task of raising his two children, Parker and Tricity."

Rob Andrew, an Oklahoma City advertising executive, had gone to the couple's home to pick up their two children for the Thanksgiving Day holiday when he went into the garage to light a gas heater pilot, authorities testified. He was hit by two shotgun blasts and Brenda Andrew, who was shot in the arm, told authorities that two masked gunmen attacked them.

Investigators testified that Brenda Andrew, who was in the process of divorcing Rob Andrew, did not ask about her husband's well-being after the shooting and showed "no emotion" when told he had died.

Prosecutors argued that Brenda Andrew had little concern for her husband's death.

They brought before jurors testimony that Andrew and her children didn't attend Rob Andrew's funeral, and instead left with Pavatt for Mexico. More than three months later, the couple was arrested in Hidalgo, Texas, in February 2002 as they returned to the United States.

Defense attorneys contended that Pavatt carried out the murder on his own and introduced a letter he wrote that exonerated Andrew. Prosecutors alleged the letter was concocted in an effort to clear Brenda Andrew. Pavatt refused to testify because his appeal is still pending.

Jurors refused to comment as they were escorted from the building by sheriff's deputies, but Gieger said jury members told him they thought the evidence against Brenda Andrew was "overwhelming" and their choice was more difficult on the sentencing than on determining her guilt.

"This has been a long fight for justice," Gieger said. "Rob Andrew was a man who did not deserve to die. We set out in this case to prove the killers in this case deserved the punishment that this jury and Mr. Pavatt's jury imposed upon them.

"It's been over two and a half years and finally Rob Andrew can rest in peace and his family can go on with their lives. He was a remarkable man and they are remarkable people."