Brenda Andrew: Sunday School Killer Revisited

This Oklahoma Tale Is No Musical
(“Sunday School Ambush,” Forensic Files)

Who can resist a story about a Sunday School teacher gone homicidal?

Rob, Tricity, Parker, and Brenda Andrew

And we’re not talking about someone who suffers from psychosis and snaps one day.

Brenda Andrew was a sane, high-functioning mother of two who nonetheless formulated at least two plots to murder her husband.

Try, try again. The first was staged in such a way that it could have killed not just him but also any number of incidental motorists and pedestrians.

Fortunately, that attempt on Rob Andrew’s life failed. But her second try succeeded. She devised both murder plans with the help of boyfriend and fellow Sunday School teacher James Pavatt.

The case is intriguing because it involves two killers who most certainly believed in God.

I don’t have a strong opinion about whether or not a divine entity exists. But just the same, when I dispose of a recyclable container in the regular garbage, I worry a tiny bit that someone’s up there judging me.

Forging their way. It’s a curious occasion when avid worshippers commit murders. Do they persuade themselves that the intended victim is so horrible that God has deputized them to banish him from this earth?

Or maybe they think God is conveniently distracted by March Madness or The Bachelor: After the Final Rose while they’re practicing the victim’s signature for the insurance paperwork.

Whatever the case, here’s a recap of the episode along with an epilogue and additional intelligence culled from online sources:

The pretty, petite Brenda Evers was born in 1963 and grew up in a conservative family in Enid, Oklahoma, where she enrolled in baton-twirling class, was known for being quiet, and “always buttoned her clothes all the way up,” according to a former classmate interviewed by Ken Raymond for The Oklahoman.

Likable victim. It’s not clear what kind of work she did after high school, but she married before turning 21, to Rob Andrew, a tall young man who would go on to snag a high-paying job with Jordan Advertising, which counts Oklahoma State University and and energy giant OneOK among its clients.

Rob sounded like a sweet guy. As another Oklahoman story by Ken Raymond noted:

No one would’ve described Rob Andrew as crazy, although he did do fun things like bringing slushes to everyone at work because he’d decided July 11 should be 7-Eleven day. Or like naming his daughter Tricity because if she ever ran for public office, her slogan could be “Elect Tricity.”

He also was a church deacon and did missionary work in South America. At the time of the murder, the couple had a son, Parker, 7, as well as Tricity, 11. Rob, 39, remained smitten with Brenda, 38, even as she grew more dissatisfied with him.

Perhaps she felt resentful about hitching up at such a young age or about having parents who made sure she always conformed. At some point after marrying Rob, Brenda began to wear alluring clothing and embarked on a series of affairs.

She and Rob separated and got back together at least once during this time. Rob was an optimist and didn’t believe in divorce.

Still, the abuse Brenda dished out must have tested his forgiving nature. “Sunday School Ambush,” the Forensic Files episode about the case, plays a rehearsed, insulting message that Brenda left on Rob’s answering machine during their troubled relationship. She called him a “half dad.”

By 2001, Brenda had taken up with Pavatt, who served as a deacon as well as a Sunday School teacher at the North Pointe Baptist Church. The two lovebirds went on a vacation to Mexico along with Brenda’s kids.

Sign here. The church gently suggested that the home-wrecking Prudential salesman and the erring wife step away from their teaching posts.

But at some point before everything blew up, Rob had trusted Pavatt enough to purchase from him an $800,000 life insurance policy with Brenda named as the beneficiary.

Brenda and Pavatt hoped to collect that payout via a plot that sounds too clichéed for anything but Hawaii Five-O (the 1970s version). They cut the brakelines of Rob’s car and arranged for a fake “your wife has been in an accident” call summoning him to the hospital immediately.

But Rob realized right away that someone had tampered with his Nissan, and he reported the entire incident to the authorities. Forensic Files played the recording of Rob telling police he thought a murder plot was afoot. It’s not clear whether authorities did any kind of investigation as a result.

Pilot-light ploy. On her next try, Brenda lured Rob, from whom she was then separated, into the garage of their Oklahoma City house when he came to pick up their kids for a visit on November 20, 2001.

She asked him to relight the furnace. When he knelt down to do so, Pavatt sneaked up and shot him in the abdomen with a 16-gauge shotgun. According to Forensic Files, Rob grabbed a bag of metal cans from the garage floor to shield himself before Brenda fired a second, fatal bullet.

Then, more cliché. She had Pavatt shoot her in the proverbial fleshy part of a limb (an arm in this case) to make it look as though a couple of robbers had attacked both Andrews.

Scene of the crime

To ensure no one saw him dashing from the crime scene, Pavatt hid out in the house of the Andrews’ neighbors, the Gigstads, for a couple days. They were out of town and Judy Gigstad had given Brenda their spare key for safekeeping.

Brenda called 911 and reported that two armed robbers wearing masks shot Rob and her.

The Forensic Files episodes suggests that Brenda’s voice sounds too calm on the 911 tape to be genuine. I don’t necessarily agree with that, because other episodes have pegged 911 calls as suspicious because the voice is overdramatic.

Fugitives. Regardless, investigators got a strong hint when Brenda and Pavatt gathered up Tricity and Parker and fled to Mexico right around the time of Rob’s funeral.

Authorities distributed Wanted posters with the couple’s pictures, and they were caught a few months later as they tried to cross the border into Texas.

Pavatt’s defense lawyer subsequently pointed out that investigators had no DNA or fingerprints, only circumstantial evidence.

But there was plenty of it. First off, everyone knew about the extramarital affair.

Pre-Airbnb. And Gigstad and her husband reported signs that someone had been in their house during their absence. There was a spent shell casing in the bedroom and a damaged shoe rack hidden under a bed.

Police theorized that Pavatt had accidentally stepped on the shoe rack and then left behind the shell casing when the Gigstads’ son stopped in to collect their mail; Pavatt was ready to shoot him if confronted. Fortunately, the son didn’t see him, and departed unharmed.

There was lots more. Brenda’s wound appeared to have come from a gun held just inches away from her arm, which conflicted with the story she gave police.

A handwriting expert determined that Rob’s signature had been forged on insurance papers that renamed Brenda as beneficiary.

Doctored docs. In later years, Rob had begun signing his name with an ichthus — the Christian fish symbol — as a flourish. It was missing from the papers Pavatt claimed as genuine.

(On the valid documents, Rob had changed the beneficiary designation to Tricity and Parker.)

James Pavatt in custody. One of his ex-wives testified that he would do anything for love

The 2004 trials each ended with Brenda and Pavatt found guilty of first-degree murder and given a death sentence. Forensic Files shows them shuffling around in chains and orange uniforms.

It was a sad sight to behold but also a little refreshing to see that upper middle class defendants can’t always buy their way out of justice.

Epilogue to date. So, where are they today?

Brenda hasn’t made a lot of waves inside the Mabel Bass Correctional Facility in McLoud, Oklahoma. As of this writing, she’s on death row, with no execution date specified.

Pavatt has created some rumblings from his cell in Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester — the same prison that spurred headlines by botching the 2014 execution of  Clayton Lockett. The rapist and murderer’s death by lethal injection took 43 minutes, during which he writhed in pain.

Mike Arnett, Pavatt’s attorney, has campaigned to have the prison’s three-drug execution procedure declared cruel and unusual punishment.

Oklahoma resumed executions in June 2015, when the state put to death child murderer Charles Frederick Warner.

But I couldn’t find any execution date scheduled for Pavatt.

In an odd turn, an accused killer named Zjaiton Tyrone Wood confessed to the shooting of Rob Andrew.

Arnett contends Pavatt didn’t receive a fair trial, in part because jurors didn’t see Wood’s confession letter.

No appointment. But Wood’s letter was no bombshell. It contained information about the crime that was already known to the public, and it failed to impress a judge.

As for Brenda, the last time an attractive white woman was facing the execution chamber — nearly 20 years ago — it caused a national uproar, with Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan, and other public figures arguing against carrying out Karla Faye Tucker’s death sentence.

Brenda Andrew on death row in a circa 2013 photo

Tucker’s crime was way more gory than Brenda’s. She and an accomplice used a pickax to hack two people to death.

After stating that he had thought and prayed about it, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush refused to commute Tucker’s death sentence, and it was carried out on February 3, 1998.

I have a feeling Brenda will be luckier. You’ll hear plenty about it via media outlets if the court sets an execution date for her.

Let’s hope the powers that be, divine or secular, settle on the most appropriate punishment for the murder of Rob Andrew, a nice man gone too soon.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. — RR

5 thoughts on “Brenda Andrew: Sunday School Killer Revisited”

  1. They say the devil is in the details. I guess people planning the perfect crime should try not to victimize people who sometimes add an ichthys to their name. Best to watch personal ads, like, “wine, movies, late night walks, signs name with line drawing of fish.”

  2. Any info on what happened to the Andrews’ two children? As an opponent to the death penalty, I hope the two murderers are allowed to rot in jail, confronting the consequences of their crime.

    1. Relatives from both sides of the family were seeking custody of the kids, and it’s not clear who won. The $800,000 life insurance payout was being held in trust for them. They’re both past 18 by this time.

  3. If these two are repentant, and still believers, they’re committed to believing that Satanic temptation got the better of them; and it is indeed hard to see how people with a presumably genuine belief in God, and sin, could do something so terrible, as though their minds (and hearts) were somehow taken over.

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