Fort Worth

Attorney: Case of Azle man accused of killing wife with a hammer “very defensible”

The rental home in the 600 block of Dunaway Lane where Doris Andrews was slain.
The rental home in the 600 block of Dunaway Lane where Doris Andrews was slain. Star-Telegram

The attorney for an Azle man accused of bludgeoning his wife to death with a hammer said he knows of no evidence linking his client to the killing.

“From what I know right now, this is a very defensible case,” said Walt Cleveland, who was appointed last week to represent Mark Phelps Andrews. “I don’t think he did it.”

“There are none of the clues in this, none of the flags that you normally look for in a brutal murder like this of a spouse,” Cleveland said. “No real financial problems. No history of fights or anything like that. They seemed to be very normal, very happily married people.”

Azle police officers summoned to the Andrewses’ rental home in the 700 block of Dunaway Lane on Jan. 8 found Doris Jean Andrews, 43, dead in her bed. A hammer believed to have been used to beat Doris Andrews to death was found on the floor nearby. She had worked as a teacher at Basswood Elementary School in the Keller district.

Andrews, who was arrested that same day, has denied killing his wife in interviews with investigators, saying he had left their house about 2 a.m. that morning to drive to the WinStar casino in Oklahoma. He told police he drove back to the house after realizing he had left his money behind, to discover his wife dead.

He also told police that $135,000 was missing from the couple’s safe, which had been opened.

An arrest warrant affidavit accuses Andrews of giving inconsistent statements to a detective about what he did upon arriving home before finding his wife — details that investigators claim don’t match evidence at the scene. It also states there were no signs of forced entry into the safe and that only Andrews and his wife knew the combination.

Azle police Lt. D.D. West has said new evidence has surfaced in the investigation but declined this week to release additional details.

“It’s really still too early,” West said. “This is still a very active investigation with information being added almost on a daily basis.”

Andrews, 45, has been charged with murder and remains held in the Tarrant County Jail with bail set at $500,000.

On Friday, Cleveland filed a motion asking the court for a bond reduction.

Alone in world

Cleveland said he met with Andrews for a few hours Wednesday morning. He said Andrews was calm, but emotional and grieving.

“He seems pretty alone in the world at this point, but he is definitely mourning his wife,” Cleveland said. “This is a very tragic situation, and I’m not judging him at all.”

The couple married in 2010 but had known each other since the second grade when both lived in East Texas, Cleveland said. Doris Andrews had three daughters, including a 9-year-old girl whom the couple formally adopted this past year. The girl was asleep inside the home when the slaying occurred.

Cleveland said Andrews had been interviewed repeatedly by investigators and has never wavered in his insistence that he is innocent.

“His story never changed,” Cleveland said. “Details come and go when you’re trying to recall things, especially from a traumatic situation; that’s only normal. But the substance of his story never changed.”

Cleveland said Andrews had previously worked in the oil and gas field but was working for himself at the time of his arrest.

“He is a professional gambler. That’s what he’s been working at and that’s why he was going to WinStar,” Cleveland said. “He’s good at it. He wins. He has a schedule. He gambles six days a week. That’s his job. He’s been making money at it.”

Cleveland said Andrews usually leaves his house about 2 a.m. to head to the casino to avoid traffic and usually returns home by 1 or 2 p.m. six days a week, “like clockwork.”

“They’ve been putting money away to a buy a house,” Cleveland said. “That’s the money in the safe.”

‘Elephants in the room’

Cleveland called two other adults that were inside the home at the time of the alleged slaying — a live-in nanny and her husband — the “elephants in the room.”

Andrews told police he awoke the couple after finding his wife and told them to call 911. The couple told police they never heard any of the three dogs inside the home barking that night.

“I have no idea who’s involved but I’ve seen no scrutiny of them whatsoever,” Cleveland said.

West said this week he couldn’t comment on whether the couple have been ruled out as suspects. A magistrate ordered this week that Andrews undergo an examination for mental illness and mental retardation. Cleveland called such an order routine and said, to his knowledge, Andrews has no such issues.

Cleveland said he plans to seek a bond reduction for his client.

“My client is a hardworking fellow,” Cleveland said. “He doesn’t have any felony convictions. He had a happy home life. He’s been a leader in his church, an associate pastor and a youth pastor in the past.”