Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt

Just the other day I did a blog about a spouse on spouse crime and proclaimed I do not do them very often and yet here I am again sitting at my computer composing a story about a murder that was orchestrated by the spouse of the victim.  So what was it about this case that struck me that so many others similar to this crime do not?  To be honest, I made the ultimate decision to research and blog about this case when I found my way to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections website and I saw a 2013 mug shot of Brenda Andrew. I do not generally go to those sites until first I have firmly decided on the case I am going to do and I want to know what the status of their incarceration is.  However, I went to it this time because so much I read stated that Brenda Andrew was the only woman on Oklahoma's death row and I was curious as to if this was still true or if she had possibly received a change of sentence.  And then up popped her picture and I was stunned.  Not only did Brenda Andrew seem to look well in her mug shot, she looked fabulous!   There was not a hair out of place on her now long wavy hair (in her original mug shot her hair was about shoulder length and very straight), her lipstick was flawless (yes... a bright red), and her smile would light up a room.  I do not use these phrases about her because I am envious in any way, so please do not read it as that.  I use these phrases because I am totally appalled that this woman is on death row for planning and executing the murder of her children's father and she looks like a million dollars!  I became irate and obviously the thought of that picture still angers me.  

Before I saw the mug shot I recalled or knew very little about the crime.  As I said it was a spouse on spouse crime in which Brenda Andrew was accused of conspiring with her lover, James Pavatt, in the murder of her estranged husband.  I knew that prosecutors had claimed at her trial that not only did she help Pavatt murder her husband after she lured him into her home but they believed the gunshot injury she received at the time was a self inflicted injury to throw suspicion off herself.

Robert Andrew and his wife Brenda had met in high school.  They were both deeply religious people and had not spent their teen years at parties and socializing a whole lot.  When Robert went off to college Brenda followed him and before he graduated the two were married.  By 2001 they had two children, a 10 year old daughter and a 7 year old son,  and what appeared to be a nice life.  But, it seemed that as Brenda aged and got closer and closer to 40 she had started to change (she turned 38 in 2001 for the record).  It would later be revealed that she apparently started having more than one affair but by the end of 2001 James Pavatt seemed to be her man.  He was a fellow Sunday School teacher at the church the Andrew family attended and an insurance agent.  The Pavatt's and the Andrew's were friends, or at least James was and apparently despite rumors within the church even after Pavatt was divorced in the summer of 2001 Robert Andrew remained friends with him.

In October of 2001 Brenda herself filed for divorce.  It seems that soon after neither Brenda or James were teaching Sunday School any longer as the rumors of their affair were being more and more exposed, although, it does not seem that they did a lot to hide it before then. By the end of October the divorce had already become highly contentious.  Robert had moved out of the home, but apparently he had not been "allowed" to take all of his things. It appears there were two things Brenda and Robert were fighting over the most.... custody of their children and an $800,000 (some reports say it was a million dollars) life insurance policy.  

On October 26th Robert received a phone call stating that his estranged wife and his two children had been in an auto accident and were at a local hospital.  He got into his car but thankfully he realized something was terribly wrong.  His break line had been cut.  He then later found out that Brenda, nor his children had been at the hospital he had been directed to go to, let alone in an accident at all.  This raised Robert's suspicions to the point that first he called the police and secondly he talked to James Pavatt.  The police informed Robert there was nothing they could do or prove.  His call to Pavatt was to see about having Brenda removed as the beneficiary of the large life insurance policy.  Reports state that Pavatt told Robert that was not possible because Brenda was the "owner" of the policy which was not true.  But, in playing devils advocate here, and knowing from experience, when a divorce is going on judges frown on one spouse taking another off their insurance, whether it be health or life insurance.  However, it seems that soon after Robert called Pavatt's supervisor at the insurance company to confirm.  Presumably the company intended to look into it.  It was discovered later that in early November, apparently fearing that Robert would discover he was the owner of the policy and did have the right to change the beneficiary, Pavatt had back dated a document and had Brenda forge Robert's signature making her the owner of the policy.  

On November 20th Robert showed up at the home he had once shared with Brenda to pick up his children for the Thanksgiving weekend.  Generally Brenda would send the children out and they were ready, but not this time.  Brenda asked Robert to come into the garage with her and look at the furnace as she was convinced the pilot light had gone out. Being the gentleman that most everyone who knew Robert says he was, he went in to help.  Just as he leaned over to look at the furnace he was shot.

Just a short time later 9-1-1 dispatchers would receive a call from Brenda Andrew.  She would claim that two masked men had come into her garage while she and Robert were inside and that they had both been shot.  She was right on one account...both she and Robert had gunshot wounds, then again maybe not.  By the time officers arrived they both had gunshot wounds but investigators would believe that Brenda's wound to the arm was self inflicted and occurred after she had made the emergency call.  There was no blood trail leading from the garage to where she claimed to use the phone. Nor was there any blood on the phone and yet her hand was bloody.  

Initially while investigators were suspicious of Brenda's story and behavior they tried to give her the benefit of the doubt because some felt her immediate emotions seemed valid.  It took very little time for investigators to hear about James Pavatt and his relationship with Brenda and about the infamous life insurance policy.  They also found it odd that despite the fact that the children were scheduled to spend a long holiday weekend with their father, they were found inside the home that night watching television and nothing seemed to be packed for them to leave the home.  They absolutely knew they were on the right track when the day of Roberts funeral arrived and Brenda and the children never showed.  

It was soon discovered that Brenda and James had done a search on the computer looking to find countries that did not have an extradition treaty with the United States.  It had appeared that they had settled on Argentina.  Although, to be fair to the reader it was stated several times in my research that this was the case in 2001 but is no longer true concerning Argentina.  The problem was it seems they did not want to go directly there or get too far until they had more money, but they apparently did not think hanging around the Oklahoma City area was a smart thing to do.  

Just prior to leaving James had added his daughter to his bank account.  This was only one of many things that James had done that put his grown daughter in a very bad position. First, she would later admit to authorities that she was the person who had called Robert Andrew on October 26th and told him that his wife and children were in an accident and headed to the hospital.  It seems that she never admitted knowing that Robert's brakes had been tampered with but had only made the call at the behest of her father.  Then on the day following Robert's murder she had gone out to her car and found a .22 caliber bullet in the floorboard.  Her father had driven her car the night before.  She would later claim that when she confronted him about the bullet he had told her that Brenda had asked him to kill Robert, told her discard the bullet and by her accounted threatened her life if she told.  And so now he has added her to his bank account and he and Brenda are calling her often asking her to wire them money.  James' daughter would cooperate with authorities obviously in the end.  Although, I have to say her stories, or at least the accounts of them through the media have me feeling rather wishy washy about her.  After being put in all these positions she would apparently claim that she worked with authorities not to save her own behind since she could have been charged with probably a few things but because she believed in her father's innocence and believed that the authorities would discover the truth.  I am unsure how this was a legitimate stance to take when she has already admitted that her father told her that he had murdered Robert for Brenda.  Authorities were able to get her to put off sending money to the couple hoping it would force them to return home, although I hardly think it likely took them much to convince her.  

In the meantime the FBI also got involved in the case because fugitives were on the run and because they had taken the children with them.  By now they knew that the couple had taken a car belonging to James' ex-wife. While some investigators were on the hunt for the couple, others were still gathering evidence against them.  A next door neighbor of Brenda's contacted authorities and told them that they had been out of town the weekend of the murder but that Brenda had a key to their home.  Apparently they had found shells 16 gauge and .22 caliber shells hidden in their attic.  Detectives recovered them as they knew both had been used in the shooting.  Robert had been shot with a 16 gauge rifle while Brenda's injury was made by a .22 caliber revolver.  Investigators would learn that James Pavatt had bought a .22 caliber revolver just one week before the murder.  They also knew that Robert Andrew had owned a 16 gauge shotgun but that when he moved out of the home Brenda had refused to allow him to have it.  Later Brenda would have no explanation as to where that gun was or what happened to it.

On February 28, 2002 Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt were finally taken into custody when they crossed the border from Mexico.  Almost immediately Brenda turned on James showing them a letter she claimed he had written saying that he and another man had killed Robert without Brenda's knowledge.  It seems as if he did really write the letter but just because he did, did not mean it was the truth.  When his ex-wife was asked why he would have written a letter exonerating Brenda her only explanation was that "this James" was not the James that she had known and been married to for so many years but that writing the letter is something he would have done if he truly loved someone.  

Both James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder in the 1st degree as well as Murder in the 1st degree.  James would go to trial first in October of 2013.  Brenda would follow in September of 2014.  Both were convicted on all charges and given the exact same sentence.  On the conspiracy charge they were each given a ten year sentence.  On the charge of 1st degree murder they were each given death.

Throughout her trial and her sentencing Brenda was described as without remorse, flippant and arrogant.  She refused to admit having any part in the murder of her husband.  When she spoke to the courtroom she criticized those who had celebrated her sentence.  Many felt this was one last dig at the Andrew family.  Her attorney's did not fair well at her sentencing hearing either.  They had put Brenda's now 13 year old daughter on the stand to all but beg for her mothers life.  It was said that the girl could not really speak but only answered questions about statements she had previously made through her tears and that the jury was crying with her.  One juror had mouthed to the defense "Please do not do this" as they called her name to the stand.  In his closing argument the prosecutor also criticized the defense for this move stating that the young girl had not wanted to be present in the courtroom and had apparently expressed this not just to the attorney's but also her mother.  The prosecutors pointed to this say this was one more incident in which Brenda Andrew only cared about herself.  

In my research I read something that said it was discovered throughout the investigation that while Brenda was the beneficiary on the policy for Robert, that she also had a policy on James Pavatt.  What was unclear was whether or not James Pavatt knew this and was naive enough to believe she would never convince someone to kill him for his money too.  

In October of 2014 executions were delayed in Oklahoma due to complications associated with one that had been carried out.  I am unsure if they have begun again. At any rate both James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew remain on death row.


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