James Pavatt sentenced to death in Oklahoma City murder

Tuesday, October 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An insurance salesman was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing his lover's estranged husband in a plot to collect on an $800,000 insurance policy.

James Pavatt, chained at the ankles and handcuffed, quietly answered District Judge Susan Bragg's questions as she sentenced him to die by injection.

His attorneys immediately filed notice they will appeal. His co-defendant, Brenda Andrew, is to go on trial Jan. 12.

Pavatt's stepfather, Wade Veteto, wiped tears from his eyes and the condemned man's daughter called, "I love you, daddy," as deputies led him from the courtroom and back to jail.

"We're still counting and waiting on him to come home and be with us," Pavatt's daughter, Janna Larson said after the hearing. "All we can do is wait and pray to see what the Lord has in store for us."

A jury recommended the death penalty for Pavatt, 49, in September after convicting him of gunning down Rob Andrew Nov. 20, 2001, as Andrew went to his wife's home to pick up his children for Thanksgiving weekend.

Prosecutors say Pavatt planned the murder with Rob Andrew's wife.

Pavatt's attorneys hope to win a new trial outside Oklahoma County. Defense attorney Mike Arnett contends Pavatt didn't receive a fair trial, in part because jurors weren't allowed to hear another jail inmate's confession letter.

Zjaiton Tyrone Wood, who is being held on charges he killed a Montana teenager, said in a letter to defense attorneys and prosecutors that he killed Andrew. The letter contained information that had already been carried in media accounts of the crime.

Pavatt has high hopes for a new trial, Arnett said.

"Mr. Pavatt has a great Christian faith," he said. "He believes that everything happens for a reason ... that God is directing his life.

"This isn't the first time an innocent man has been convicted and sentenced to death in Oklahoma County."

Pavatt was guarded by three sheriff's deputies during the hearing. The judge ordered authorities to transfer him from the county jail to the prison in Lexington within 10 days.

"As far as justice can be done in this courtroom, it has been done," Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger said.

Rob Andrew, 39, an advertising executive, was shot twice in his garage with a 16-gauge shotgun. Brenda Andrew, who received a superficial .22-caliber gunshot wound to her left arm, told police two masked men shot them while Rob Andrew was trying to light the pilot on her heating unit.

Pavatt, Brenda Andrew and her two children left Oklahoma City without attending Rob Andrew's funeral. They were the subject of a three-month international search before they were arrested while trying to enter the United States from Mexico.

Jurors heard a confession letter that a handwriting expert testified was written by Pavatt. The letter, addressed to Brenda Andrew's daughter and signed "Love, Jim," said Pavatt and an unidentified friend killed the girl's father and that Brenda Andrew had nothing to do with it.