Could You Be More Obvious?


When Rob Andrew discovered that someone had cut the brake lines in his car, he had no doubt who did it and why.
His fear that his estranged wife, Brenda Andrew, and her lover, James Pavatt, were trying to kill him to collect on an $800,000 insurance policy was common knowledge.
“He shared with me statements and concerns of a man who felt like Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt were trying to kill him,” said Michael Fetters, pastor of North Pointe Baptist Church in Oklahoma City where Rob attended services and where Brenda and James had served as Sunday school teachers until they were relieved of duties because of their suspected affair.
Fetters’s successor at North Pointe, Mark Sinor, after hearing that Rob’s car had been sabotaged, told Rob to avoid contact with Brenda.
Brenda was not reluctant to share her feelings about Rob.
“I hate him. I hate him. I hate him,” one friend recalled Brenda saying. “I was shocked the way she said she hated him.”
One of Brenda’s former lovers was more succinct.
“She wished he would die so she could get his money and go on with her life,” he said.
The Andrews’ marriage had been rocky for some time and was in the early stages of divorce proceedings in October 2001. Rob had moved out of the family home and the couple was engaged in a very contentious divorce. The two main issues were custody of the couple’s two young children and ownership of the $800,000 insurance policy that Pavatt, an insurance agent, had sold Rob and Brenda.
Brenda was relentless, letting Rob know in one recorded phone conversation that she had a take-no-prisoners attitude.
“I will get sole custody,” she said. “I guarantee it. You will get nothing. I will win.”
Rob’s fears for his safety were not enough to keep him from seeing his children after he moved out of the family home, and on November 20, 2001, he arrived at his former residence to pick up the 10-year-old girl and her 7-year-old brother for the Thanksgiving weekend. Normally Rob waited in his car while Brenda ushered the children out of the house; this time, Brenda told police, she asked him to help her with the furnace in the garage.
According to Brenda, as Rob was relighting the furnace pilot light two masked men dressed all in black burst into the garage. Without warning, one opened fire with a shotgun, hitting Rob twice. The other man shot Brenda in the arm with a .22 handgun. Rob had had enough time between the blasts to grab a plastic bag of aluminum cans in a desperate attempt to shield himself.
The first shot struck Rob’s right lung, trachea and liver. The second shot cut into his neck, tearing his aorta. It probably took Rob ten minutes to bleed to death from the two shots from the 16-gauge shotgun, the medical examiner reported.
Brenda’s wound was a superficial flesh wound.
Questioned the night of the murder, Brenda appeared to be unruffled by Rob’s death. She was asked during a videotaped interview whether she loved or hated her husband.
“Both,” she replied, explaining that she loved him because they were married and had children, but that she hated him because he was mean to her. The videotape inexplicably cuts out as Brenda begins to expound on her statements.
Although there was no direct evidence linking Brenda to Rob’s murder, police quickly homed in on her and her lover as their chief suspects.
The murder of Rob Andrew was not hard to solve, but investigators did have to work hard to build the case — Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt were so clumsy in their execution of the crime that police were run ragged collecting the overwhelming mountain of circumstantial evidence linking the lovers to the killing.
Brenda’s account of the shootings was not supported by evidence at the crime scene. She told police that after the attack she ran from the garage to the house to call 911 and to check on the welfare of the children. However, Brenda did not leave the trail of blood that one would expect from bullet wound. Her injury did not match her statement, either. She claimed that one of the shooters hit her from a distance while it was clear her wound was inflicted at close range.
Brenda, who is right-handed, was shot in the left bicep, so police expected to find blood on the telephone receiver as a right-handed person would normally hold the phone in the left hand and dial with the right. There was no blood on the phone.
The children were safe inside the home, calmly watching television. There was no luggage or packing activity visible, despite the fact that the children were supposed to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend with Rob and his family.
Just as curious to police was the absence of Rob’s 16-gauge shotgun. That gun, after all, had been one of the items that Brenda refused to let Rob take from the home when he left, a friend of his told the cops. Brenda was unable to explain its disappearance.
About a week prior to the murder Pavatt bought a .22-caliber pistol, and on the morning following Rob’s murder, Pavatt’s daughter found a .22 bullet on the floor of her car, which her father had driven the night before. When she confronted him with the bullet, he told her not to tell anyone that Brenda had asked him to kill Rob, and threatening her life if she did tell, he ordered her to dispose of the bullet.
Cellphone records showed that Brenda and Pavatt made nearly 30 calls back and forth on the day before the murder, which on its face indicates nothing, but when combined with the other evidence implies that they were busily making plans for the murder the next night.
As the evidence continued to mount against the pair, Brenda and Pavatt saw the handwriting on the wall and made plans to flee the country. Reading on the web that as of 2001 the United States had no extradition treaty with Argentina (that’s since changed, so don’t get any ideas), Pavatt made plans for him and Brenda, along with her children, to leave the United States.
They made their escape sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend in a car belonging to Pavatt’s ex-wife and were not discovered to be missing until Brenda and the children failed to show up for Rob’s funeral.
“It certainly complicates the investigation and arouses suspicion, but our focus is sticking to the facts and looking at evidence and developing probable cause for who is responsible for Rob Andrew’s murder,” a police spokeswoman told the press.
Focusing on the facts was keeping the Oklahoma City police busy enough.
When they looked at a motive for the killing, the insurance policy stood out like a whore waving a red lantern.
Not only had Pavatt sold the Andrews the policy, after the brake line incident he refused Rob’s request to remove Brenda as the beneficiary. Rob told Pavatt’s supervisor that he had been told that he could not make changes to the policy because he was not the owner. Although Rob was the owner, in early November Pavatt submitted a backdated change-of-ownership form to the insurer with Rob’s signature forged by Brenda.
More evidence surfaced to implicate the pair when Brenda’s next-door neighbor found some 16-gauge shells and .22 bullets in the attic of his house. He had been away over the holiday and Brenda had a key to his home. There was no sign of forced entry.
On November 29, 2001, first-degree murder charges were filed against Brenda and Pavatt.
While the Oklahoma City PD put together a murder case against Brenda and Pavatt, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the search for the fugitives. The feds became involved after a federal grand jury indicted the pair for Interstate Flight to Avoid Prosecution.
They supplied Pavatt’s adult daughter with a cell phone and she received some 15 to 25 calls from Brenda or Pavatt seeking money. Shortly before he fled the country Pavatt added his daughter as a signatory to his checking account. The woman knew her father planned to flee because he expected to be arrested, she told authorities.
Pavatt had placed his daughter in a precarious position. She told investigators her father told her that he and Brenda had discussed killing Rob, which could have subjected her to prosecution for aiding and abetting the crime. Accessories before the fact and those who aid and abet, or induce another to commit a crime are penalized to the same extent as the person who commits the crime.
At the very least, by involving her in his flight to avoid prosecution Pavatt made her risk being charged as an accessory after the fact — still a significant crime.
Furthermore, she admitted to police that she called Rob the day his brake lines were cut, telling him that his wife and children had been in an accident in Norman, Oklahoma, and that he had to get to the hospital there right away. Rob received several calls that morning stressing the urgency of the situation. Brenda and the children were never in an accident.
The woman, however, said she cooperated with authorities not because of her sensitive legal situation, but because she believed her father to be innocent and wanted to help clear him.
“It was the right thing to do,” she said later. “A man’s family deserved to know what happened. I didn’t think he would leave the country. I thought he would stay and talk to police and this would be sorted out.”
At the behest of the FBI, the woman delayed wiring money to Pavatt and Brenda. The recorded phone calls reveal an increasingly desperate and hostile pair of fugitives running out of options.
They managed to stay out of the country for three months, and in February 2002 Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt were arrested at the Mexican-American border as they tried to reenter the United States.
Brenda quickly turned on Pavatt, producing a letter written by Pavatt in which he claimed that he and an unidentified friend carried out the killing without Brenda’s knowledge. Pavatt’s ex-wife shed some light on why he would write such a letter.
“If he was in love with someone, he would do anything for that person,” she said.
Pavatt was tried first and the jury had no trouble accepting the state’s theory that he was the shooter. In September 2002, after a little over 2 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Pavatt of first-degree murder. The next day jurors recommended that Pavatt should be executed for the crime.
Shortly after Pavatt arrived on death row, Brenda Andrew went on trial for her husband’s murder. She was also convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Brenda Andrew is the only woman on Oklahoma’s death row.