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Andrew and Ruth Ann Madden were happily married for over 25 years. Then, Karen Clowers entered their lives and within months Ruth Ann was dead.
When she was in her 20s, Ruth Ann fell in love with Andrew Madden, a Vietnam War veteran. The couple married in 1975 and settled in Eolia, Missouri, a small town northwest of St. Louis. Ruth Ann worked in housekeeping at area hospitals and Andrew operated heavy machinery at a local quarry.
But over the years, Andrew’s health began to deteriorate and he eventually had to quit his job. He used a wheelchair to get around and his illness affected his mental health as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs sent a home health care aide, Karen Clowers, to help Andrew at his house.
Clowers’ presence made a huge difference in the Maddens' lives. She did the housework, made sure Andrew took the right dosage of his medicines, and cooked for him and Ruth Ann. She even became friends with them and would stay after her shift to socialize with them.
“It was a friendship relationship with all three,” Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad Detective David Pollard told “Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
It all came crashing down on Aug. 9, 2002. A 911 call came into the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office: A person was collapsed in a pool of blood in a commuter parking lot off Highway 61.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found Ruth Ann Madden dead from a gunshot wound to the head, according to a 2020 article in St. Louis Magazine. She was lying face up near her vehicle, which was still running.
Ruth Ann’s murder initially looked like a carjacking or robbery gone wrong — however, her purse and car were left behind, making that scenario unlikely. There were signs of a physical struggle, including human hair clenched in Ruth Ann’s hand. The hair was collected for DNA analysis, as was an empty soda bottle and Doral-brand cigarette butts found at the scene.
Detectives spoke to a couple who said they were driving by when a white Chevrolet Lumina sedan with tinted windows came speeding out of the parking lot, almost hitting them. Police issued a BOLO for the car.
Law enforcement officers drove out to tell Andrew Madden the news. They found him sitting outside in his wheelchair smoking a cigarette.
“They said, ‘Unfortunately, we have to tell you your wife is deceased,'” Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad Detective Marshall Broughton told producers. “He put out his cigarette kind of calmly, then dropped his face down into his hands and began crying.”
A break soon came when one of the Maddens' neighbors contacted authorities.
“He says, ‘Look, the Chevy Lumina that you’re looking for happens to be the vehicle driven by Karen Clowers,'" Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Wood told producers.
Authorities brought the couple who had identified the Lumina to Clowers’ home. Her car was parked outside. They confirmed it was the one they saw.
A search warrant was requested for Clowers’ house and vehicle. While detectives waited, they were approached by one of her neighbors, who said Andrew Madden was a regular visitor to the home.
On the morning of Aug. 20, investigators executed their search warrant. A pack of Doral cigarettes was found inside Clowers’ car, the same brand as those found at the crime scene. Clowers was brought in for questioning.
On the way, they stopped at the crime scene to see her reaction.
“As we're walking up towards where the actual crime took place, she just leans over and vomits all over the place,” Plumb told producers. “There’s things that your body reacts to that’s almost better than a confession.”
At the station, Clowers admitted to being in love with Andrew, but actually implicated her son-in-law, John Lewis, as the killer.
“I was telling him that I was in love with Andy and I wish there was some way that I could have him all the time,” Clowers tells detectives in her videotaped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.” “He said he could think of a way to get her out of the picture.”
Clowers claimed that on Aug. 9, Lewis showed up unexpectedly and asked to use her car. She said he was gone for an hour, around the time Ruth Ann was murdered.
“It's taken care of,” Clowers alleged Lewis told her. “He just told me to keep my mouth shut or I would pay for it later on.”
Detectives apprehended Lewis at his home, who immediately denied killing Ruth Ann. Instead, Lewis said Clowers offered him $5,000 to murder Ruth Ann Madden. He claimed he never intended to go through with it but accepted the cash anyway, knowing Clowers couldn’t tell anyone.
“I just took the money and paid some of my bills off,” he says in his videotaped interview with police obtained by "Snapped."
Eventually, Lewis agreed to meet Clowers at the parking lot at 3 p.m. the day of the murder. Ruth Ann had been lured there to help Clowers, who claimed she was having car trouble. She brought a handgun, which Lewis showed her how to use. When Ruth Ann arrived, Lewis hid behind a truck.
“She’s got the gun in her hand. Ruth Ann shows up,” Lewis tells police. “She said, ‘Oh, did you find out what’s wrong with it?’ Karen says, ‘Yeah, it was a belt,’ and pulled the gun out and shot her in the head,” Lewis told detectives.
Lewis also told detectives Andrew Madden had placed the phone call to Ruth Ann that sent her to her doom. Lewis was subsequently charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and tampering with evidence.
Andrew was brought back for questioning and admitted to calling Ruth Ann. He told her Karen’s car had broken down while she was out running errands for him.
“Some time after that, Karen called me and told me they had took care of her. God help me,” Madden told detectives in his videotaped police interview. “I was stupid ‘cause I could have done something else. I could have got a divorce ... But I did love my wife and in another kind of way, I loved Karen."
Both Karen Clowers and Andrew Madden were charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ruth Ann Madden.
John Lewis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and received a 15-year prison sentence. In Nov. 2003, Andrew Madden pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Now 71, he is currently incarcerated at Jefferson City Correctional Center.
Karen Clowers’ murder trial began in Dec. 2003. Two days in, she pleaded guilty to class A felony murder in the second degree and received a life sentence, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Clowers died in prison in 2011 at the age of 54.
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