Andre McDonald admitted killing his wife, defense attorney says – San Antonio Express-News

Three days before testimony was to start in his murder trial, Maj. Andre McDonald told his in-laws that he stomped his wife to death.

It happened during an argument, he said, after the pair met with a tax preparer and he realized she was cutting him out of an ownership stake in her company.

That revelation came Monday as prosecutors described their case against McDonald, pointing jurors in an opening statement to considerable evidence that the Air Force Reserve officer killed his wife, Andreen McDonald, and gruesomely disposed of her body.

In his opening statement, defense attorney John A. Convery acknowledged that McDonald killed his wife but said he didn’t intend for it to happen.

“This is not a murder case but a case about the level of responsibility of Maj. Andre McDonald for the death of Andreen McDonald,” Convery said. “There’s evidence of a fight, all of which happens in the blink of an eye. Everything after has to do with pain, fear and disposing of a body.”

Andreen McDonald ran a $1 million company that operated assisted living homes, and her husband was a co-owner. The couple had a troubled nine-year marriage, relatives and friends have said. Andre McDonald at one point filed for divorce, but he ended those proceedings. At the time his wife disappeared, she was having an affair with a former boyfriend in Jamaica and wanted to return there, pretrial testimony has shown.

Under almost immediate suspicion when friends and co-workers reported his wife missing March 1, 2019, McDonald was charged with tampering with evidence four months before her burned remains were found on a ranch 6 miles from where the couple lived. He was rearrested on the murder charge and has been on partial house arrest on $200,000 bail, reduced from $2 million.

The tampering charge came because authorities said he tried to destroy a hardware store receipt for a shovel, ax, hatchet, gas cans and other items.

On ExpressNews.com: Video of McDonald’s arrest at gun shop won’t be shown to jury

Prosecutor Steven Speir told the jury that McDonald, a cyberwarfare officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, conducted hundreds of searches on his phone about DNA, fingerprints, burned bodies and decomposition.

“How long does DNA last outdoors?” Speir said the litany of questions included on the searches made from McDonald’s cellphone. “Do you always leave fingerprints? Does fire destroy fingerprints? How long does it take for an unburied body to decompose? Do maggots eat cooked meat?”

Speir then told the panel that on Friday morning, before McDonald was due in court for the conclusion of hearings over efforts by his lawyers to strike evidence from the upcoming trial, he called Andreen McDonald’s mother to explain what happened the night of Feb. 28, 2019.

“He stomped on Andreen in front of their 8-year-old autistic daughter, took the daughter upstairs, left Andreen there on the floor, wheezing in the throes of death, and when he came back, she was dead,” Speir told the panel.

Convery told jurors that the Friday phone call was about his client taking responsibility, and that in the end they would find “it’s not murder.”

Andreen McDonald’s sister, Cindy Johnson, and mother, Hyacinth Maureen Smith, took the witness stand to describe Friday’s call from the defendant, which both heard on speakerphone. Johnson said she returned a call that day and was shocked to realize it was Andre McDonald, who said he wanted to tell both of them what happened before testimony began Monday.

Johnson is living with Smith and helping her care for the McDonalds’ child.

“He wanted us to know the truth,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘You realize Andreen had another business and it’s in her name.’ He was upset. She’s saying terrible stuff to him. He said he pushed her and he caused her to fall on the ground. He used his foot to stomp her. He said (the couple’s daughter) saw him. Then he said Andreen was wheezing when he went to take the child to bed, upstairs.”

When he returned and realized Andreen McDonald was dead, “he took off her clothes, burned them and put her body in the car, don’t know which one,” Johnson continued. “He took the body where the body was found. He made a comment about how Andreen didn’t fight him, she’s not strong enough to fight me. He said he was going to chop up the body but he changed his mind.”

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Smith said she was frightened and shocked at the call, in which McDonald said “he wanted to tell me the truth and I deserve to know the truth of what happened.”

“He explained a little, I don’t think it was much,” Smith said. “He said Andreen was robbing him (of) the business they had. She took his name off the papers, and it had her name alone on it. He was upset.”

Smith said McDonald described the confrontation and argument in which his wife was “telling him curse words, words that hurt him.”

“He pushed her, she fell to the ground, and he slammed her with his feet,” she said. “He said ‘Andreen is not strong enough to fight me.’”

Smith said McDonald told her the child was coming downstairs as they fought, so he took her back upstairs and when he returned to the bathroom, Andreen was dead.

“He said he put her body in the car” afterward and “drove to the place where her remains were found,” Smith said through tears.

Smith also said McDonald asked about his daughter and “broke down” crying as he asked how she was doing.

The jury also heard from Andreen McDonald’s close friend Carol Ann Ghanbar, who described going to the McDonald home when Andreen failed to show up at work, going inside with two of the victim’s co-workers and finding blood and hair on a light switch in a bathroom.

The case is being heard in the 399th District Court. If convicted, McDonald faces up to life in prison.

ezavala@express-news.net| Twitter: @elizabeth2863

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