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Midlife Murder: The Rob Andrew Story

            On November 20th, 2001, just before Thanksgiving, Brenda Andrew called 911. She explained that both she and her estranged husband, Rob Andrew, had been shot by masked intruders. When the police arrived, Rob Andrew was dead. Brenda was injured, with a gunshot wound to her arm. She was transferred to the hospital for emergency treatment. The couple’s two young children were inside the home watching television with the volume up high. They were oblivious to the tragedy that had just occurred and how it would change their young lives.

            Robert Dale Andrew was born September 19th, 1962, in Enid, Oklahoma. He grew up in a rather traditional and conservative household. He began studying at Oklahoma State University. His brother relayed the message to him that a high school girl had a crush on him. Brenda Evers was born December 16th, 1963, in Enid, Oklahoma. She had also grown up in a conservative household. As a senior in high school, she had a huge crush on Rob Andrew. Eventually the two started dating and became inseparable. After a year at another college, Brenda transferred to Oklahoma State University to be closer to Rob.

            Rob and Brenda married in 1984. Rob and Brenda had both graduated from college. Brenda worked in banking and Rob in advertising. The young couple moved to Texas for Rob’s work where Brenda took a job in banking. Soon, Rob decided the family needed to move back to Oklahoma to be near family. Brenda was not happy about the situation and the couple sought counseling.

 In 1990, the couple welcomed a daughter, followed by a son in 1994. Brenda was a stay-at-home mom. Brenda and Rob had both been raised in conservative households where religion was very important. This continued when they became parents, and they were both involved in the church. In fact, Brenda was a Sunday school teacher. Rob was very successful as an advertising executive, making six figures. The family bought a nice home in the Oklahoma City suburb of Lansbrook.

Despite growing up very religious, Brenda became much less conservative as she grew older. She would often wear clothing that others considered inappropriate and risqué. Her husband was openly devoutly religious, confusing those who met Brenda. Brenda was known to wear very tight and revealing clothing. She also began to have affairs. She had affairs with at least two other men before she started an affair with a fellow Sunday school teacher, James Pavatt. The congregation at the church became very aware of Brenda and James’s affair. They asked the two to step down as Sunday school teachers.

By 2001, much to Rob’s dismay, Brenda had grown tired of her marriage and her husband. She was having an affair with a friend of Rob’s, James Pavatt. James was born November 10th, 1953. He had been married when the affair began, but he divorced his wife in 2001. James and Rob had previously gone on hunting trips together. James, an insurance salesman, also helped Rob purchase an $800,000 life insurance policy in early 2001. By the fall of 2001, however, Brenda had separated from Rob in order to be with James.

Brenda was very outspoken about her hatred for her husband. She told many people that she hated him and wanted to divorce him. She had filed for divorce in September of 2001. Rob, who was known to be a great provider and loving husband and father, hoped to reconcile with his wife despite her affair with his friend. In October of 2001, Rob began to realize that his marriage was likely not salvageable.

Rob found his brake fluid leaking on the driveway. He took the car to a mechanic, who showed Rob that his brake lines had been cut. Later that day, while at work, a man called Rob’s office and told him that his wife and daughter had been in an accident, and he needed to come right away. However, the caller did not identify himself and Rob was suspicious. He called hospitals and determined his wife and daughter had not been in any sort of accident. That’s when he called 911.

In the 911 call, Rob explains that his brake lines had been cut. He says, “That sounds like attempted murder don’t you think?”. He went on to explain that his estranged wife and her lover, James Pavatt, were likely the ones trying to kill him. He was afraid of his wife and her boyfriend. It doesn’t seem as if any charges were filed in relation to this incident.

The very next month, Rob had seemingly accepted the end of his marriage. He came to the home he once shared with his wife and children on November 20th, 2001. It was two days before Thanksgiving, and he was picking his children up for the holiday. Typically, Brenda would take the kids out to Rob’s car. This time, however, she asked Rob to help her light the pilot light of the furnace, which was located in their garage. Rob, being the person he was, agreed to help his estranged wife.

Rob bent down next to the furnace; at which time he was shot. According to Brenda, two masked gunmen entered the garage and shot both herself and Rob. While Rob was shot twice and deceased by the time first responders arrived, Brenda had only a superficial wound to her arm. She was treated at a local hospital for her injuries while a friend of the family cared for her children. Investigators noted that there was nothing missing from the home and Rob still had his wallet on him, eliminating the motive of robbery.

            Following her treatment for her gunshot wound, police signed Brenda Andrew’s discharge papers and escorted her to the police station. Brenda was dressed in only two hospital gowns, as her clothing had been taken into evidence. While she was not under arrest, investigators allegedly ignored her request to go be with her children. They interrogated her for several hours. While she was not considered to be in custody, Brenda claims she did not believe she was allowed to leave. Despite this, no confession was made by Brenda.

            Police were suspicious of Brenda and James given the 911 call that Rob had made just the month before. Brenda and James admitted they were having a relationship but denied being involved in the murder. Brenda insisted that two masked gunmen killed her husband. The forensic evidence did not support her story, however. Rob’s two shots were determined to be inflicted at different angles, with one of the shots being inflicted at close range. This contradicted Brenda’s story that the men shot her husband from across the garage.

            Investigators also found a ring of gun powder on Brenda’s clothing, indicating that her wound had also been inflicted at close range, not from a distance as she said. While both shots that killed Rob were from a shot gun, Brenda was shot with a pistol. Brenda stated that one intruder had the shotgun while the other had a pistol and shot her. Rob had told his friends that he owned a shot gun, but his wife would not allow him to take the gun. Rob’s shotgun was not found in the house. James Pavatt had purchased a pistol of the same caliber as the one that was used to shoot Brenda just weeks before the crime. He was unable to produce his pistol and it has never been found.

            Investigators soon learned that Rob had requested to change the beneficiary of his $800,000 life insurance policy from Brenda to his children. James Pavatt, his insurance agent, had informed Rob it was not possible to change the beneficiary. Rob went to James’s supervisor and changed the policy. However, shortly before the murder the beneficiary and ownership of the policy was transferred to Brenda Andrew. It is believed that James assisted Brenda in fraudulently changing the policy.

            Shortly after the murder, the neighbors of Brenda Andrew arrived back at their home. Inside, they found that some items had been disturbed. A shoe rack in the closet had been broken and placed under the couple’s bed. Inside the home, investigators found both shot gun and .22-caliber pistol ammunition. These items did not belong to the homeowners. The attic door had been displaced, with ammunition found in the attic. It appeared that the perpetrator of this crime had hidden inside the home of Brenda’s neighbors while they were out of town. There were no signs of forced entry into the home, but the neighbors stated that Brenda was in possession of a key to the home.

            On the day of Rob’s funeral, Brenda and Rob’s children were not in attendance. This was shocking and disturbing to their friends and family, who now suspected Brenda of being involved. The police were unable to locate Brenda, James, or Brenda’s children. A warrant for the arrest of James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew for the murder of Rob Andrew was issued. The suspects, however, had left the country. James, Brenda, and Brenda’s children were in Mexico. James Pavatt’s daughter stated that her father asked her to send money to the couple in Mexico. She also told investigators that her father told her that Brenda had asked him to kill Rob.

In February 2002, three months after the murder, Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt were taken into custody as they tried to enter back into the United States along the Texas border. Brenda and Rob’s children were with the couple. Brenda and James were arrested, extradited to Oklahoma, and charged with the first-degree murder of Rob Andrew. The state announced they planned to seek the death penalty against both defendants. The children were now in the custody of Rob’s family.

James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew were tried separately. James’ trial went first. The prosecution explained that the army veteran had previously been a sniper. James had purchased a 0.22 caliber pistol just weeks before the crime but was not able to produce the weapon. The 0.22 caliber bullets found in the neighbor’s home matched those used to shoot Brenda Andrew. It was suspected that Brenda’s gunshot was staged to divert suspicion. James Pavatt’s daughter testified against him, sharing that her father told her he was going to bill Rob Andrew at Brenda’s insistence. James Pavatt was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Brenda Andrew’s trial was quite different than James Pavatt’s trial. The prosecution presented the evidence and suggested the motive for murder was the $800,000 life insurance policy that James Pavatt had sold Rob earlier that year. Besides the facts, however, the prosecution focused on Brenda’s affairs and sexual behavior. Multiple men testified that they had affairs with Brenda and that she was sexually provocative. Witnesses testified about the way in which she dressed, implying she was a bad wife and mother. In fact, the prosecutor waived a pair of Brenda’s thong underwear in the air and called her a “slut bunny” in the closing arguments.

Brenda’s defense team presented a letter allegedly written by James Pavatt and given to Brenda’s daughter. In the letter, James takes responsibility for the murder of Rob Andrew and states Brenda was not involved. Handwriting experts, however, believed that the letter was a forgery. The prosecution also presented evidence that Brenda had taken a life insurance policy out on James Pavatt. It was implied that she planned to collect on the life insurance when James Pavatt was executed.

Throughout the trial, Brenda was portrayed as a bad wife and mother. The prosecution showed the jury journal entries detailing sexual encounters that Brenda had. One encounter that was discussed occurred back when Brenda was in college, twenty years before the murder. The prosecutor repeatedly told the jury that Brenda was a poor mother, wife, and housekeeper. Her transgressions during her marriage were presented as evidence that she was a bad person. Although these facts seemed irrelevant to the murder case, the judge allowed the evidence.

Brenda Andrew was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. She was, and is, the only woman on Oklahoma’s death row. Following the verdict, Brenda said, “The verdict which sentenced me to the death penalty is an egregious miscarriage of justice. I am an innocent woman, wrongfully convicted”. However, a former cellmate of Brenda Andrew had testified that she admitted to the crime while awaiting trial.

In 2017, James Pavatt’s death sentence was overturned. The judges cited that the prosecution failed to prove that the murder was “heinous, atrocious, or cruel”. The decision was made with the theory that because Rob died quickly, he did not suffer, and the crime did not meet the qualifications for the death penalty. This decision, however, was later overturned and James Pavatt was placed back on death row.

Both James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew remain on death row. No execution date has been set for either prisoner, but James Pavatt has exhausted all of his appeals. Brenda Andrew has lost all of her appeals so far. Her last appeal, to the United States Supreme Court, was filed in January of 2024. Despite previous appellate court judges dissenting from the final ruling, Brenda has not yet been able to have her sentencing overturned.

Brenda’s petition to the United States Supreme Court cites several errors that her defense believes justifies a new sentencing hearing at the very least. These include that she was not mirandized the night of the murder, but the prosecution insists she was not in custody and was free to leave. The defense cites that it was not appropriate for her to be questioned in only two hospital gowns directly after being treated for her gunshot wound, which included the administration of pain medication. Furthermore, the petition states that the evidence of Brenda’s sexual history and style of dress was irrelevant and should not have been admitted into evidence. The petition claims that the prosecution’s many statements calling Brenda a bad wife, mother, and even a “slut bunny” were prejudicial. Essentially, the defense believes that Brenda was sentenced to death for her sexuality and not conforming to gender norms. There is currently a petition to save Brenda’s life.

 The podcast episode for this story is a Patreon exclusive


People Magazine Investigates “Oklahoma Horror Story” S. 4 Ep. 10

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