Professional gambler on trial, accused of bludgeoning wife to death with hammer in Azle

Mark Phelps Andrews, right, talks with an attorney at his murder trial Tuesday. He is accused of bludgeoning his wife to death with a hammer inside their Azle home on Jan. 8, 2016.
Mark Phelps Andrews, right, talks with an attorney at his murder trial Tuesday. He is accused of bludgeoning his wife to death with a hammer inside their Azle home on Jan. 8, 2016. Special to the Star-Telegram

On Facebook, Doris and Mark Andrews appeared a loving, happy couple.

In reality, the Azle couple had been having serious problems, according to Amy Skaggs, a close friend of Doris Andrews.

They argued a lot, often about money, Amy Skaggs said.

Doris Andrews, 43, had confided to Amy Skaggs that her husband "didn’t know what love was. He was always criticizing her."

As a result, Doris Andrews didn’t want to be intimate with her husband, or cook or clean.

“Why should I when I can’t do anything right?” Skaggs said Doris Andrews told her.

Amy Skaggs’ testimony regarding her friend’s troubled marriage marked the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Andrews, who is accused of bludgeoning his wife to death with a hammer.

Prosecutors Kevin Boneberg and Art Clayton have not offered a motive behind the slaying, but witness testimony Tuesday indicated that the couple was in financial straits and that Doris Andrews had once remarked she was worth more dead than alive.

Doris Andrews.jpg
Doris Jean Andrews Star-Telegram archives

Andrews, a professional gambler, has pleaded not guilty.

He has told investigators that he had left the house early that morning to drive to Oklahoma to gamble but later turned around after realizing he’d forgotten his money. He told officials he returned home to find his wife dead.

His defense attorneys, Walt Cleveland and Patty Tillman, argue that the police investigation never proved that Andrews killed his wife, nor did it eliminate other potential suspects.

Financial problems

Amy Skaggs and her husband, Don Skaggs, had moved into the Andrewses' home in the 600 block of Dunaway Lane about four months prior to the slaying after health problems had left Don Skaggs unable to work.

Amy Skaggs said Andrews paid her to help take care of the Andrewses' adopted special-needs daughter as well as to cook and clean. Initially, the pay was regular, she said, but money later became tight in the household and her pay more erratic.

Doris Andrews' paycheck from her job as teacher for the Keller school district went to paying all the bills. If she wanted extra money, she had to seek permission from her husband, Skaggs testified.

Andrews gambled for a living. He’d often leave the house around 3 a.m. six days a week to drive to the WinStar casino in Oklahoma, Skaggs testified.

Both Amy and Don Skaggs testified that Andrews presumably kept large amounts of money in an antique safe in the home's living room, though neither had ever seen the cash.

Though Andrews had an agreement with his wife not to remove money from the safe, the couple testified that Andrews had commented not long before the slaying that he was going to have to talk to his wife about breaking that rule because he needed money in order to make money.

Unusual behavior

Amy Skaggs testified that Mark Andrews had been acting unusual in the weeks prior to his wife's death. She said the couples were hanging out one evening in early December 2015 when Andrews paused the TV and commented that “something’s not right with my spirit.”

“We said, 'What do you mean?’ He said, 'I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it,'” Amy Skaggs testified.

Days later, while smoking together, Amy Skaggs testified that she asked Andrews how his spirit was doing. She said he replied that it was the same.

“He said, I just feel like Doris is going to die before the end of the year,” Amy Skaggs said.

In the few months before her death, an unhappy Doris Andrews had been trying to improve her appearance , Amy Skaggs testified.

She had gastric bypass surgery, and later hair extension when the surgery caused her to lose chunks of hair. She had laser eye surgery and got invisible braces, Amy Skaggs said.

“Is it fair to say she was trying to make herself look younger and prettier?” Clayton asked.

“Yes,” Amy Skaggs replied.

The crime

On the morning of Jan. 8, 2016, Amy Skaggs said Andrews woke her and her husband around 4:30 a.m. Before that, she testified, she never heard any ruckus inside the house or the household’s multiple rambunctious dogs even bark.

Confused by what was going on, Amy Skaggs said she followed Andrews into the master bedroom.

“He’s standing beside her by her face screaming her name,” Amy Skaggs testified.

Amy Skaggs said Doris' eyes were open but she was not moving. She had blood pooling on her chest, according to her friend's testimony.

Amy Skaggs said she ran to check on the Andrewses’ daughter, who rolled over in bed and looked at her. She said she had walked back into the living room when Andrews emerged from the master bedroom with a gun.

“He points it right at my face. I froze. I’m like, Mark, what are you doing?” Amy Skaggs recalled.

Asked what he looked like when pointing the gun at her, Amy Skaggs replied, “Deranged. I was scared.”

She said Andrews then proceeded to search the house as if looking for the killer, though he never checked his daughter’s bedroom. She said she’d be the one to tell Andrews that she’d check on his daughter and that she was OK.

Don Skaggs testified that he was on the phone with 911 when a distraught and wild-looking Andrews also pointed the gun at him.

When he thinks back to that moment, he testified, he believed the "Lord was protecting me that day."

"Do you think the only reason you weren't shot is because you were on the phone with 911?" Clayton asked.

"I think that's the only reason. That's the feeling I got," Don Skaggs replied.

Amy Skaggs said when she returned to the master bedroom, she found Andrews on top of his wife, doing chest compressions. On a throw rug next to the bed, Amy Skaggs said she noticed a hammer.

“I screamed there’s a hammer on the floor. He got this really shocked look on his face,” she said, demonstrating with wide eyes and and open mouth.

Don Skaggs testified that he recognized the hammer as one that he and Andrews had just recently used to hammer boards while fixing a gap between a shed and gate.

Amy Skaggs testified that Andrews got a similar “dramatic” look when she later pointed out that the door to the couple’s antique safe in the living room was open.

Amy Skaggs testified that while the safe was said to have contained a large amount of money — Andrews told police that $135,000 was missing from it — she never actually saw Andrews put in or take any money out of it. To her knowledge, she said, he was the only one with the combination.

Amy Skaggs testified that while Andrews wailed and screamed inside the house that morning, she never saw any tears.

Though an Azle detective later testified that the Skaggses were eliminated as suspects in the case, Cleveland indicated during cross-examination that the couple and others were not held to the same scrutiny by police as Andrews.

The trial continues this week in Criminal District Court No. 1.