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Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history.
The United States’ “Bible Belt” stretches south from the Mason-Dixon Line, and west from the Atlantic coastline to the border of New Mexico. It’s known as a hotbed of religious and conservative values, despite having higher murder, divorce and teen pregnancy rates than the rest of the nation. It was deep in the Bible Belt — at the North Pointe Baptist Church just outside Oklahoma City — where lust turned first to adultery, then to murder. It’s where Sunday School teachers Brenda Andrew and James Pavatt began having an affair, before eventually conspiring to kill Brenda’s husband Rob Andrew in 2004, earning them the name “The Sunday School Killers.”
Born in 1963, Brenda Andrew, née Evers, grew up in a devoutly religious family in Enid, Oklahoma.
“We both went to a Lutheran grade school, went to a lot of youth group activities,” her sister Kimberly Bowlin told Oxygen’s "Snapped." The sisters were members of Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ, an evangelism program for teens, and they also worked at a Lutheran summer camp. Classmates remember Brenda as a straight-A student who dressed conservatively and didn’t party.
In her senior year of high school, Brenda began dating Rob Andrew, who was over a year older than she and studied advertising at Oklahoma State University.
“Brenda met Rob at the swimming pool during the summer time,” said Brenda's sister Kimberly Bowlin. Like Brenda, Rob came from a tight-knit, religious family.
“I think their values were pretty much the same,” Bowlin said. “Even though he was Baptist and she was Lutheran. In their religious beliefs, they were a lot alike.”
After graduating from high school, Brenda attended a Lutheran college in Kansas for a year, but transferred to Oklahoma State University to be closer to Rob. The couple married in 1984, right before Brenda graduated from college.
While Rob built a career as an advertising executive, Brenda got her degree and began working in banking. The couple moved to Texas for a spell, putting down roots. When Rob insisted they move back to Oklahoma, his increasingly confident bride was not happy about it. According to The Oklahoman, Rob sought marital counseling from a local pastor.
Back in Oklahoma, Brenda gave up her banking career to become a stay-at-home mom as the Andrews started a family.
“She really, really enjoyed working in the bank,” Kimberly Bowlin told "Snapped." "But when they started having children, being a mom and being there to raise her kids was top priority.”
There was a girl, Tricity, born in 1990, and later a boy, Parker, born in 1994. With Rob’s six-figure salary, they were able to purchase a large home in the upscale Lansbrook neighborhood.
Even though Brenda liked her new life as a suburban matriarch, she didn't really subscribed to the soccer mom style. Now in her 30s, she maintained her girlish figure and didn’t mind showing it off. David Ostrowe, who knew Rob Andrew from work, was taken aback by the provocative clothing the wife of his openly religious co-worker wore.
"Her dress was very tight, very short, with a lot of cleavage exposed," he told The Oklahoman. She also turned heads at the North Pointe Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday school.
If the people at the North Pointe Baptist Church disapproved of her skintight outfits, they really disapproved of how friendly she’d become with fellow Sunday school teacher James Pavatt.
“At church, people kind of saw them being a little bit closer than what they thought was appropriate,” Detective Roland Garrett told "Snapped."
Pavatt was a recent divorcee and insurance salesman. He also happened to be a friend of Rob Andrew, accompanying him on hunting trips, and had recently sold him an $800,000 life insurance policy.
In October of 2001, against Rob’s wishes, the Andrews separated, with Brenda filing for divorce soon after. Later that month, Rob received a mysterious phone call telling him that Brenda was in the hospital. As he rushed off to her rescue, he immediately experienced dangerous car trouble.
“It was quite obvious that his front brake lines had been cut,” mechanic Phillip Rogers told "Snapped." “And the first thing Robert said to me, he goes ‘Phil, somebody's out to take my life.’”
When he later called the hospital, they told him there was no record of Brenda ever having been admitted.
Two days before that Thanksgiving, while the Andrews worked out the details of their separation, Brenda asked Rob to come over and help her reignite the pilot light on the furnace in their garage. According to Brenda, soon after Rob arrived, two masked gunmen appeared and attacked them. They shot Rob twice, fatally killing him, and shot Brenda in the arm, before fleeing.
As police began to investigate the strange unprovoked attack on the Andrews, they learned of Brenda’s relationship with James Pavatt. Then they learned that two weeks before his murder, Rob Andrew had paid an ominous visit to his insurance company.
“Mr. Andrew expressed to those people how his wife and his insurance agent were in cahoots to try to, he thought to try to kill him,” Oklahoma City prosecutor Gayland Gieger told "Snapped."
Questions surrounded the murder of Rob Andrew as his family planned to lay him to rest. Then on the day of his funeral, his wife and children were nowhere to be found.
“One of the ministers presiding finally got up and said, ‘We're not starting on time because some of the family members are not here,” neighbor Judy Gigstad told "Snapped." This raised alarm bells to police working the case.
“We thought they're on the run,” Detective Roland Garrett told "Snapped."
Police searched for James Pavatt, Brenda Andrew and her two children, but feared they had fled the country. In late February, 2002, after three months on the run, they were apprehended as they tried to re-enter the United States from Mexico. Pavatt and Andrew were subsequently extradited to Oklahoma, where they were charged with first-degree murder and held without bail. Rob and Brenda’s children meanwhile were placed in the custody of their paternal grandparents.
Prosecutors decided to try James Pavatt and Brenda Andrew separately. Pavatt was up first, as prosecutors meticulously built their case against him, detailing his skill with firearms as an ex-Army sniper, his affair with Brenda and his efforts to prevent Rob Andrew from removing Brenda as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
“There was not the anecdotal smoking gun,” Gayland Gieger told "Snapped." “What we had to do was take piece, after piece, after piece of evidence and put it together for this jury to understand how it all played out.”
They succeeded, as the jury found Pavatt guilty and sentenced him to death.
If Pavatt’s trial was a methodical presentation of facts adding up to a clear portrait of motive, means and execution, the 2004 trial of Brenda Andrew was a mess of sordid details, shocking revelations and courtroom intrigue. The prosecution trotted out a string of Brenda’s lovers, whom she had affairs with prior to Pavatt.
“This guy gets on the stand and said ‘Well, I met her over the vegetable bins, we're talking carrots and lettuce and she gives me a motel room key,’” Oklahoma reporter Terri Watkins told "Snapped." “Not something you would normally think of in a conversation associated with a woman who teaches Sunday school and is active in her PTA.”
While Brenda’s defense team tried to portray her as the victim, reminding the jury that she too was shot the day Rob Andrew was killed, forensic experts claimed her wounds were self-inflicted. Evidence at the scene also indicated she had fired the second fatal shotgun blast that killed Rob Andrew. The defense then introduced a letter that Brenda claimed James Pavatt wrote her daughter, taking sole responsibility for the crime. However, handwriting experts said it was mostly likely a fake.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation, though, was that Brenda was planning to get rid of Pavatt at the same time that he was helping her plan to kill her husband.
“Not only had Brenda Andrew obtained a life insurance policy on Rob Andrew, she had also obtained a life insurance policy on Jim Pavatt,” Pavatt’s defense attorney Michael Arnett told "Snapped." “So Brenda would've received both the insurance proceeds from Rob's life insurance policy, as well as the insurance proceeds from Jim Pavatt's life insurance policy once he was executed for the murder of her husband.”
After deliberating for six hours, the jury returned a guilty verdict for Brenda Andrew and sentenced her to death. The Oklahoman reported at the time that a defiant Andrew was smiling as she entered the court for sentencing.
"The verdict which sentenced me to the death penalty is an egregious miscarriage of justice,” she said afterward. "I am an innocent woman, wrongfully convicted.”
In June 2017, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to reverse part of James Pavatt’s death sentence, according to KFOR in Oklahoma City. The state must prove at least one aggravating circumstance when issuing the death penalty, which in the case of James Pavatt was the “heinous, atrocious or cruel” manner of Rob Andrew’s death.
According to two of the three judges, Andrew’s died too quickly for his death to be considered cruel and heinous. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office immediately appealed the decision, and has asked for a new hearing on the case. If the decision stands, it will mean Pavatt will receive a new sentencing trial.
An appeal of Brenda Andrew’s conviction and sentence was denied in 2008. She is currently the only female on death row in the state of Oklahoma.