Fort Worth

Gambler accused of killing wife with hammer went from $200K jackpot to 'dire straits'

In June of 2015, gambler Mark Andrews hit a windfall.

In a single day, he brought home more than $200,000 from jackpots won playing Texas hold 'em at WinStar, the casino he frequented in Oklahoma.

But the money seemed to be gone as quickly as it came, according to Jeanette Hanna, a forensic financial analyst with the Tarrant County district attorney's office.

Mark Andrews and his wife, Doris, bought a new Polaris all-terrain vehicle and a trailer. They paid off two vehicles. They took a two-week vacation to Colorado that July.

And Mark Andrews made numerous high-dollar cash withdrawals — $93,000 in August 2015 alone — all while Doris Andrews' student loans, a federal tax lien against Mark Andrews and other bills were left untouched, Hanna testified.

“The facts show that they lived outside the means of what they were earning already before they won the jackpot,” Hanna testified. “When they won the jackpot, they ran through it very quickly and they didn’t spend it wisely.”

By Jan. 8, 2016 — the day prosecutors allege Mark Andrews bludgeoned his wife to death with a hammer inside their Azle home — the couple were in “dire straits,” Hanna testified.

Mark Andrews had lost his job as a trucker, filed for unemployment benefits, refinanced his Lexis and even briefly pawned two guns to get $500. WinStar records, however, show he was still visiting the casino regularly, though had been steadily losing money.

“They were getting calls from collectors and they had no money to pay bills,” Hanna testified.

Through Hanna's testimony and that of a casino official, prosecutors seemed to be painting for jurors a possible motive for why Mark Andrews may have wanted his wife dead.

Mark Andrews was a high-stakes gambler who controlled the couple's money, only transferring funds into his wife's primary account when he deemed it necessary or wanted something bought. In the months before her death, however, the money had dwindled, the couple was in debt and, jurors learned, Doris Andrews had a $115,000 life insurance policy.

Andrews has pleaded not guilt to the killing.

His defense attorney, Walt Cleveland, has argued that the investigation did not prove Mark Andrews killed his wife or rule out other possible suspects.

During cross-examination of witnesses, Cleveland pointed out that because cash can't be traced, officials really have no idea how that money was spent. Nor, Cleveland indicated, could a true picture of Andrews' gambling wins and losses be obtained when officials only looked at the WinStar casino records and have no way of tracking transactions that weren't high enough to trigger formal casino reports.

Later in the day, jurors heard from Dr. Richard Fries, a Tarrant County deputy medical examiner who supervised Doris Andrews' autopsy.

Fries testified that Doris Andrews had at least seven penetrating blunt force injuries to mostly the head area, including two that pierced her skull and traveled well into her brain. A third blow, he testified, went through her neck muscles and into her trachea, making it impossible for her to call out for help.

Fries said that the injuries were consistent with those caused by the claw end of a hammer.

Peggy Le, a forensic biologist with the medical examiner's office, told jurors that tests conducted on bloodstains found on Mark Andrews' shirt, jeans and boots revealed that Doris Andrews was either a contributor or single source of the DNA.

Mark Andrews has told officials that he had left the couple's home early Jan. 8 with plans to drive to the casino but turned back after realizing he'd left his money behind. He has said he found his wife's bloody body in their bed after returning home.

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