Convicted Air Force major blames wife for fight that led to her death

They were the picture of the American dream. Andreen McDonald, described as a "rising star," and Andre McDonald, a major in the U.S. Air Force, were a San Antonio power couple who ran a successful business that funded a lavish lifestyle. Their seemingly perfect world came crashing down in the winter of 2019 when Andreen suddenly disappeared.

"I remember … like a panic set in," says friend Mandy Hall. "Andreen is not the person to go take off somewhere and no one knows where she is."

Andreen McDonald became a successful entrepreneur and found her purpose in serving others. / Credit: Instagram
Andreen McDonald became a successful entrepreneur and found her purpose in serving others. / Credit: Instagram

Investigator Frank Stubbs tells "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant, "Her purse was still there, her keys were on the counter and her vehicles were still there." Stubbs saw something startling while searching the home. "I found there was blood on the wall in an area that was kind of odd, there was blood and hair on a light switch," he says.

AN AMERICAN DREAM TURNED NIGHTMARE

In the afternoon of March 1, 2019, after 29-year-old Andreen McDonald was reported missing by her mother Maureen, a Bexar County sheriff's deputy arrived at the McDonald home in an upscale gated community in San Antonio.

Within minutes, the deputy saw that blood and hair on the light switch.  And in the backyard, normally beautifully landscaped, another troubling clue: a random burn pile.

A zipper from Andreen McDonald's blouse was discovered in a burn pile in the backyard of her home. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
A zipper from Andreen McDonald's blouse was discovered in a burn pile in the backyard of her home. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

Maureen Smith: We found a … zipper from uh, Andreen's blouse.

Peter Van Sant: It was Andreen's blouse?

Maureen Smith: Mm hmm (affirms).

Andreen's husband, Andre "Andy" McDonald, told the deputy that when he woke up, he got their daughter Alayna to school before reporting to Lackland Air Force Base, where he served as a cyber warfare analyst.

Once he learned Andreen was missing, Andre rushed back home. But he quickly headed out the door again to act on a hunch that Andreen, who suffered from migraines, might have gone to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Andre's arrival to the hospital was captured by surveillance cameras, says lead investigator Frank Stubbs.

Frank Stubbs: On that tape … he comes in, you can see him … asking for McDonald … and they tell him … there's somebody in Room 3 named McDonald.

Peter Van Sant: He arrives back to the house. What does he tell them?

Frank Stubbs: He tells them that she's in the hospital.

But when the deputy called the hospital, he discovered that the McDonald who had checked in was not Andreen McDonald.

Andre told deputies that he rushed back home before seeing his wife because he had left his cellphone at home and wanted to let Maureen know he had found Andreen.

Sheriff Javier Salazar of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office:

Sheriff Javier Salazar: There was some indication to him that she was there and injured to some extent.

Unfortunately, the major's hunch turned out to be wrong.

Maureen Smith: When I heard, I was — oh, God, I was so upset … I was just thinking that she's someplace that we can find her.

And for Andreen's mother-in-law, Jackie Horne, who lived in Florida, there was uncertainty.

Jackie Horne: I had called Andreen's phone about a thousand times already, saying, "Andreen, whatever it is, please, please, just call me back."

What concerned everyone was the fact Andreen would never just disappear. She was known for her sense of responsibility and dedication to her family and business.

Peter Van Sant: How would you describe Andreen?

Maureen Smith: She knows what she wants. And she would never stop until she get it.

ANDREEN (video): I did come in before he did. Way —

ANDRE: Right, Andreen did defeat me, and she is so excited.

Andreen created an assisted living business in San Antonio called Starlight Homes when she was just 22. And, according to Andre's close friend Andrew Russell, Andre bankrolled her dreams.

Andrew Russell: In order to start the business, Andre, he liquidated his 401K. … And .. he sold the BMW that he owned.

Jackie Horne: They were doing so well. They were doing everything that would make any mother proud.

Starlight Homes thrived, and under Andreen's watch the tiny home-based business transformed into a multimillion-dollar enterprise in just seven years.

ANDREEN MCDONALD SPEECH: When I started my assisted living, I only started with three residents … Today, Starlight Homes Assisted Living, we have two locations in the San Antonio area.

Childhood friend, Mandy Hall, says Andreen's success was born out of humble beginnings.

Mandy Hall: Growing up in Portland, Jamaica … we didn't have a lot. … And, so, we figured if we wanted to get somewhere in life … it would be in America. … That's where the dream was.

Andreen's dream of coming to America came true at 19, when she met Andre. He was also a native of Jamaica, who at the time was a captain in the U.S. Air Force. Andre had returned home to Port Antonio, Jamaica, in May 2009 to attend a funeral where he met Andreen, who was 10 years younger.

Andreen and Andre McDonald / Credit: Jacqueline Horne
Andreen and Andre McDonald / Credit: Jacqueline Horne

Peter Van Sant: Was there an attraction right from the beginning?

Maureen Smith: She was excited when she met him. … excited about the captain in the Air Force. … they both decide for her to come to America.

They married that July.

Jackie Horne: I was happy to know he had met somebody that he could have a life with.

That life would soon include a baby girl, Alayna. Alayna was at the center of Andreen's world, which made her disappearance so perplexing, says Horne.

Jackie Horne: I don't think Andreen would just get up and walk away and leave Alayna, and nobody would hear from her.

That evening, a forensic crime unit examined those stains in the bathroom and confirmed the initial belief that they were blood.

Peter Van Sant: While you were going through the house, was Andre there?

Frank Stubbs: Yes, he was.

Peter Van Sant: Did you see any signs of bruising on his body, any signs of — of any injuries that perhaps he'd been in a struggle?

Frank Stubbs: Nothing that we could — that we could determine.

Investigators were hoping Andre had some answers. But he said the last time he had seen his wife was the night before, and they said what Andre described raised more questions than answers.

Frank Stubbs: He had told them they had come home from the tax preparers office, and that they had argued over the business and … he went up the road … got some gas and just cooled off.

On Feb. 28, 2019, after a heated argument with his wife, Andre McDonald says he left the house to cool off. He is seen on surveillance video at a gas station. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
On Feb. 28, 2019, after a heated argument with his wife, Andre McDonald says he left the house to cool off. He is seen on surveillance video at a gas station. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

Frank Stubbs: We were able to obtain video evidence of him going to the Shell station.

Andre said when he returned home, he and Andreen went to separate bedrooms.

But according to investigators, what Andre didn't mention was the text exchange that happened at the gas station.

TATTOOS, TEXTS, AND A MARRAGE IN TURMOIL

For investigators, the text messages found on Andre's phone revealed a marriage in turmoil, including allegations of betrayal.

Peter Van Sant: Accusations of unfaithfulness in these text messages, correct?

Frank Stubbs: That's correct.

Peter Van Sant: We have a printed copy. Would you mind reading these from his phone?

Frank Stubbs (reading the text): Andreen responds … "If you bring up Aubyn again, I will divorce you myself."

Aubyn Hall, a businessman living in Port Antonio, Jamaica, who according to investigators, was Andreen's ex-boyfriend and, potentially, her current lover.

In response to Andreen's threat of divorce, Andre texts: "I don't care if you get a divorce. You brought Aubyn into our life."

Aubyn dated Andreen when she was a teenager, say investigators. Andreen's close friend Mandy Hall says the two rekindled their romance in 2017 during one of her philanthropic trips to the island.

Mandy Hall: Aubyn has always been that first love … It wasn't something Andreen got over, emotionally.

Hall says they carried on their affair in secret until the summer of 2018 when Andreen got two new tattoos: an initial "A" tattooed on her hand and a date tattooed on her wrist.

Mandy Hall: Andy was definitely suspicious of what it meant.

With a suspicious mind, Hall says Andre went to work to solve this tattoo mystery.

Mandy Hall: He went, and he did his own digging.

It was on social media where Andre discovered an interesting photograph of Aubyn branded with the same exact tattoo that was also on Andreen's hand.

Audreen McDonald's tattoos --   an initial
Audreen McDonald's tattoos -- an initial

And those numbers 14-3-76? They're Aubyn's birthday — day, month and year.

Mandy Hall: She told me that she impulsively got the tattoo … she knew it was something stupid to do.

Enraged, Hall says Andre threatened divorce unless Andreen cut off contact with Aubyn, covered up her tattoos, and promised to never travel to Jamaica without him.

Mandy Hall: She did cover up the tattoos. … She didn't want to lose half of everything she worked hard for.

At Andre's 40th birthday party, Hall says by all outward appearances, the McDonalds seemed to be getting along. But just 13 days later, on March 1, 2019, that's when Andreen disappeared.

The once festive home had transformed into a crime scene as investigators worked the McDonald residence until 2 a.m. the next morning. When they couldn't locate Andreen's cellphone, investigators checked to see if her credit cards or passport had been used — all dead ends.

Frank Stubbs: We came up dry on — on all of these inquiries. … At this point, all we had was a missing person.

Within hours of his wife's disappearance, Andre McDonald was a person of interest. He stopped answering questions and lawyered up.

At 2 p.m. the next day, an undercover investigator assigned to watch the McDonalds' house noticed that the garage had been damaged and Andre was backing out of the driveway.

Surveillance video of Andre McDonald purchasing a 9mm handgun and ammunition.  / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
Surveillance video of Andre McDonald purchasing a 9mm handgun and ammunition. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

The investigator followed him to a nearby gun shop where additional investigators, who were called to the scene, observed Andre purchasing a 9mm handgun and ammunition.

Frank Stubbs: We were under the assumption that he was purchasing a gun to probably harm himself.

When Andre walked back to his car, investigators confronted him in a violent takedown.

Investigators moved to detain the Air Force major and turned him over to military authorities for a mental evaluation.

Meanwhile, investigators returned to the house with a search warrant and checked Andreen's car. While there, some objects caught their eye.

Peter Van Sant: There was a shovel. There was an ax.

Items found in Andreen McDonald's car included a shovel and ax, as well as a hatchet, heavy-duty large trash bags, gloves and two 5-gallon gas cans. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
Items found in Andreen McDonald's car included a shovel and ax, as well as a hatchet, heavy-duty large trash bags, gloves and two 5-gallon gas cans. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

Frank Stubbs: An ax. There was a — like a hatchet kind of maul. There was … trash bags, there were gloves … And a couple of gas cans.

And there was more.

Frank Stubbs: Inside … the garbage can in the house was … a receipt from Lowe's that had been torn up.

Detectives were able to obtain surveillance footage from the hardware store —items that were purchased the day after Andreen went missing.

Andre McDonald is seen at the checkout of a Lowes store. Two red gas cans can be seen on the counter. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
Andre McDonald is seen at the checkout of a Lowes store. Two red gas cans can be seen on the counter. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

Frank Stubbs (watching surveillance video): This is Andre McDonald coming into the Lowe's …he's going to purchase several items. … You can see him with a basket here. You can see there's a shovel in the basket … And now, he comes up here … there's two gas cans. … There's a maul —

Peter Van Sant: There's the hatchet.

Frank Stubbs: — or a hatchet … Here's that ax.

Peter Van Sant: What's at play here?

Frank Stubbs: It appeared to us that … now that his wife was missing. It pointed to the disposal of her body.

Peter Van Sant: Look at that cart full of ill will, right?

Frank Stubbs: Yes.

And in the corner of the garage, investigators would uncover what they say was the most damning evidence of all.

Frank Stubbs: We found a hammer and clothing … in the garbage. …  The clothing that we found … appeared to be Andre's clothing.

Investigators say they found traces of blood on the pocket of a pair of jeans.

Peter Van Sant: What's on the claw hammer that's of interest?

Frank Stubbs: The lab determined that there was the presence of … blood on … the hammer. … And the DNA that they … obtained from that — that blood sample was from Andreen.

Frank Stubbs: We concluded that that hammer was probably used as the murder weapon.

Peter Van Sant: This is significant.

Frank Stubbs: Very significant.

ALL EYES ON MAJOR ANDRE MCDONALD

On March 2, 2019, 48 hours into the investigation, Stubbs believed he had discovered key evidence that implicated Major Andre McDonald in his wife's disappearance. Investigators located those items stained with Andreen's blood inside the family's trash can. This missing person's case had become much more sinister.

Peter Van Sant: And it's pointing toward what?

Frank Stubbs: The evidence … was pointing towards a murder.

But there was a problem. None of the evidence collected proved that a murder had actually occurred.

Frank Stubbs: Turning a missing person's case into a homicide case is very difficult.

On March 3, 2019, the Air Force concluded its evaluation of Andre and released him. Civil authorities quickly moved in and placed him under arrest.

On March 3, 2019, Andre McDonald was arrested for tampering with evidence based on the torn up Lowe's receipt investigators found in the trash. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
On March 3, 2019, Andre McDonald was arrested for tampering with evidence based on the torn up Lowe's receipt investigators found in the trash. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

But it wasn't for murder. Major Andre McDonald was arrested for tampering with evidence based upon that torn receipt found at the house listing the items he had purchased from the hardware store.

Andre's arrest left his mother in a state of shock and disbelief.

Jackie Horne: I saw that Andre was taken into custody. … And I just collapsed. … I know he loved Andreen. Why would he harm her?

Andre and Andreen McDonald / Credit: Instagram
Andre and Andreen McDonald / Credit: Instagram

And for Andreen's mother, Andre's arrest left her head spinning.

Maureen Smith: Oh, God. Andre could not hurt Andreen. That's what I was saying. But who else?

Adding to everyone's sense of shock, confusion and suspicion was Andre's decision to stop cooperating with detectives.

Sheriff Javier Salazar: Andre's face told us … there was no way in hell we were going to break him and make him tell us what had happened.

Sheriff Salazar went on local TV asking for help.

SHERIFF SALAZAR (news conference): We are asking anybody with any information on her whereabouts to give us a call …"

Soon after, the community of San Antonio, along with family and friends came out in droves to look for Andreen, including a volunteer search party formed by former Air Force Airman Bobby Green.

Green took "48 Hours" out to one of the areas where he searched for Andreen.

Bobby Green (walking with Peter Van Sant): Right now, we're behind a … hospital we thought … he might have taken her here to a wooded area.

Peter Van Sant: As you walk through here … what are you looking for?

Bobby Green: You would look at … tree branches that have been pushed away, something that was cut … fresh, uh, tire tracks.

Peter Van Sant: How many miles did you cover?

Bobby Green: It was hundreds of miles.

As search efforts continued, Andre McDonald was released from jail on bond.

With his wife absent, Andre took over the management of Starlight Homes. Search efforts continued, although investigators say Andre didn't take part. Days would eventually turn into months of dead ends.

As the search for Andreen went on, investigators dug further into the couple's relationship, learning that they had business problems as well as romantic ones.

In WhatsApp messages shared with friends, there are arguments over who really was the brains behind their successful business. In one, Andreen tells Andre: "Starlight Homes is my idea, my dream, and would not have happened without my drive."

Back then, friends like Andrew Russell became worried about the potential for violence.

Andrew Russell: And I have text messages from Andreen that's saying …  "someone is going to snap."

Russell told investigators that the couple's war of words turned physical the night before a Christmas party at their home in 2018, where the McDonalds got into a physical altercation.

Andrew Russell: So, when I went into the kitchen, Andy and Andreen were grappling on the floor. … The next morning they were laughing about it. … I did feel uncomfortable after that. I thought the situation had become toxic.

Just over two months later, Andreen's blood was spilled in her home, and she vanished. Finally, on the evening of July 11, 2019, 133 days after Andreen had gone missing, there was a break in the case.

SHERIFF SALAZAR (news conference): About 7:30 this evening, Bexar County Sheriff's Office patrol deputies were dispatched to this location for a report of some human — human remains that were found …

Skeletal remains were located in a farmer's field just six miles from the McDonald home. Clifton Klabunde made the discovery. Klabunde had taken out his tractor to retrieve a cow skull that had been spotted right along the tree line of the property.

Clifton Klabunde: I saw the — what appeared to be a human skull in front of the cow skull.

Peter Van Sant: That must have been a shock.

Clifton Klabunde: A shock. Yes.

After months of searching for Andreen McDonald, her remains were found in July 2019. Her skeletal remains were located in a field six miles from her San Antonio home.  / Credit: Instagram
After months of searching for Andreen McDonald, her remains were found in July 2019. Her skeletal remains were located in a field six miles from her San Antonio home. / Credit: Instagram

Officials determined that the human skeletal remains belong to Andreen McDonald.

Cindy Johnson | Andreen's sister: I was at a church praying for Andreen. …  I couldn't do anything. I broke down.

Maureen Smith: It hit us like a storm because we still wasn't thinking like that.

Jackie Horne (crying, shaking her head) Never. … I never saw this coming.

Less than 48 hours later, Andre McDonald would be arrested and charged with his wife's murder.

MAJOR ANDRE MCDONALD TAKES THE STAND

Andreen's family had waited for justice for four years.

Cindy Johnson: It hurts … every night before I go to my bed, I think about her.

Bexar County Assistant District Attorneys Steve Speir, Lauren Scott and Ryan Groomer would prosecute Andre McDonald for the murder of his wife, Andreen.

But the prosecution would face an uphill battle. Despite the evidence found at the McDonald home — the hammer and the blood — the prosecution could not say for sure how Andreen died.

Lauren Scott: Because … Andreen's body … was out in the elements in that field for all of those days … medical examiner's office was unable to specify what exactly caused Andreen's death.

Peter Van Sant: And does that, Steven, complicate your preparation?

Steven Speir: No, it absolutely does. … we say he caused her death; however, we don't know how.

Andre McDonald was arrested and charged with his wife's murder. He pleaded not guilty. / Credit: Bexar County Sheriff's Office
Andre McDonald was arrested and charged with his wife's murder. He pleaded not guilty. / Credit: Bexar County Sheriff's Office

Peter Van Sant: If Andre murdered his wife, what do you believe was his motive?

Steven Speir: I believe it was largely because he felt emasculated … she was such a rising star, had control of these businesses … And I think he was jealous of that.

Andre McDonald, who pleaded not guilty, was represented by some of the top defense lawyers in San Antonio: John Convery, Zoe Russell and John Hunter.

Peter Van Sant: How would you respond to the notion that … what caused all this was his … envy of his wife's success?

John Hunter: I — I don't see any evidence of that.

Zoe Russell: Andre is a major in the Air Force. I mean, he's incredibly successful on his own right.

Major Andre McDonald had been under house arrest since April 2021. But days before his trial was set to begin on Jan. 17, 2023, Andre, who had remained silent about his wife's death began telling an extraordinary story, beginning with his own mother.

Jackie Horne says her son told her Andreen's death was an accident.

Jackie Horne: He looked at me and … he said, "Mom, I'm going to tell you the truth" … and he started to cry.

McDonald then called Andreen's mother and sister, Cindy, who put the call on speaker phone.

Peter Van Sant: [He] … gave the family, for the first time, details of what happened according to him.

Cindy Johnson: Yes, according to him. Yes.

It was a phone call that stunned his defense team.

Peter Van Sant: Was it shocking to you that he had done this?

John Hunter: Shocking's a good word for it, yeah. … The entire context of the case changed.

Zoe Russell: His best thought would be to tell his story in court.

Andre would get to tell his story, but not before the prosecution laid out its case in opening statements.

STEVEN SPEIR (in court): Inside the trash bin in the garage … a hammer. That hammer has blood on it. It is the victim's blood.

The defense contended that Andreen's death was an accident.

JOHN CONVERY (in court): This is not a murder case. … it is a case about the degree and level of responsibility … With evidence of accident. A mutual fight. All of which happens in the blink of an eye.

The prosecution also called forensic pathologist Dr. James Feig who testified that Andreen's skeletal remains had severe injuries consistent with being struck by a blunt object. She had a fractured spinal cord, a broken rib and a split jaw.

Dr. James Feig testified that Andreen's skeletal remains had severe injuries consistent with being struck by a blunt object. She had a fractured spinal cord, a broken rib and a split jaw.
Dr. James Feig testified that Andreen's skeletal remains had severe injuries consistent with being struck by a blunt object. She had a fractured spinal cord, a broken rib and a split jaw.

But the pathologist could not determine what exactly had caused Andreen's death.

DR, JAMES FEIG (in court):  So, the way that I have phrased her cause of death is homicidal violence, including blunt force trauma.

After six days of testimony and 33 witnesses, the prosecution rested. The defense had only one witness.

JOHN CONVERY (in court): Defense calls Major Andre McDonald.

Andre McDonald described the evening of Feb. 28, 2019. While at the tax preparer's office with his wife, he discovered that Andreen had started a new business a year earlier without his knowledge.

JOHN CONVERY (in court): What did that signify to you?

ANDRE MCDONALD: Basically that meant to me pretty much that she was robbing me.

After a heated argument that evening, McDonald says he left the house to cool off at that gas station.  McDonald says they continued their argument over text. And when he returned home, he raised the possibility of divorce and splitting their business in half.

ANDRE MCDONALD (in court): She became extremely irate at the thought of … splitting the business. … and charges into the room to confront me.

ANDRE MCDONALD: So, when she comes into the room, you know, I turned around and she comes like right up in my face. … So at that moment … she spits in my face … So at that point … I grabbed her, because she's like right in front of me, so I like grabbed her head … I think we had like a clash of heads, and I think it opened up like a cut somewhere on her face.

Andre said Andreen ran into the bathroom and turned on the lights. When Andreen saw her bloody face in the mirror, Andre claims she attacked him.

His testimony may be disturbing to some.

ANDRE MCDONALD (in court): When she comes, she's like throwing like some punches, so I'm trying to like duck down to and like keep my head, my face … from getting hit with the blows. I remember like grabbing her and like tripping her … And then she like falls … and that's when I kicked her like twice … The — the second kick, I think I heard like some type of wheezing … and then also like in the background I could hear like some footsteps.

The footsteps of their young daughter, Alayna. Andre said he left to put Alayna back to bed, and when he returned about 30 minutes later, his wife was dead.

ANDRE MCDONALD (in court): I became like pretty frantic at that point because … you know, she's dead on the floor.

STEVEN SPEIR: You never thought I need to call …

In cross-examination, Prosecutor Speir asked if Andre had thought about calling 911.

ANDRE MCDONALD: I never thought about calling anybody to revive a dead person. … My purpose at that point was simply to get her out of the house so that my 7-year-old daughter wouldn't see her mother laying on the floor dead.

After putting Alayna back to bed, Andre said he dumped Andreen's body in the field, stripped her naked and returned home to burn her clothing which left that burn patch in the backyard.

But what about Andreen's blood on the yellow hammer? On the face of it, the evidence doesn't square with Andre's account of an accident.

Andre had an explanation for that. He testified that when investigators finished searching his home, he went back to the field before dawn, angry and armed with the yellow hammer, a can of gasoline and a plan.

ANDRE MCDONALD (in court): My plan was to hit the person that … caused this whole circumstance.

STEVEN SPEIR: You felt it was her fault, right?

ANDRE MCDONALD: It's absolutely her fault.

STEVEN SPEIR: What did you do with gasoline?

ANDRE MCDONALD: I poured it on her and then I used the — the lighter and set it on fire.

Andre McDonald testified he lit Andreen's body on fire and attacked her corpse repeatedly with the yellow hammer. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts
Andre McDonald testified he lit Andreen's body on fire and attacked her corpse repeatedly with the yellow hammer. / Credit: Bexar County District Courts

Andre said when the flames subsided, that's when he attacked his wife's corpse with the yellow hammer.

ANDRE MCDONALD (in court): I hit her in the face, the neck. … and I just like hit her again as I was walking away.

STEVEN SPEIR: Why that last blow?

ANDRE MCDONALD: As I was walking away?

STEVEN SPEIR: Yes.

ANDRE MCDONALD: I guess I was still angry when I was walking away.

After that gruesome testimony, the defense shifted gears and tried to refocus the jury on their theory of the crime. And for the first time, the defense brought up why Andre acted the way he did that night.

JOHN CONVERY (in court): Have you always believed you acted in self-defense?

ANDRE MCDONALD: Yes, I have always believed that from the very beginning.

At trial, the defense team showed videos of Andreen McDonald powerlifting and carrying Andre McDonald on her back to demonstrate that she was stronger than him. / Credit: CBS News
At trial, the defense team showed videos of Andreen McDonald powerlifting and carrying Andre McDonald on her back to demonstrate that she was stronger than him. / Credit: CBS News

The defense played videos showing Andreen giving her husband a piggyback ride and working out.

JOHN CONVERY (in court):  Would you describe Andreen as a very strong, powerful woman?

ANDRE MCDONALD: Yes. I would.

According to Andre, his wife could lift up to 300 pounds.

JOHN CONVERY: When she attacked you, were you in fear?

ANDRE MCDONALD: Yes, I was in fear of, you know, being harmed during that whole situation.

STEVEN SPEIR: They want you to forget and disregard about all his actions.

Then came closing arguments.

STEVEN SPEIR (in court): Defense counsel said that this is self-defense, Folks, this is not self-defense. … It's time to hold this man responsible for what he did. And it's time to find him guilty of murder.

JOHN CONVERY: Andre McDonald did not intentionally or knowingly murder Andreen McDonald. … He acted in self-defense. … and your duty and your obligation is to say not guilty. Thank you.

After six days of testimony, the jury got the case. Approximately 11 hours into their deliberation, the jury sent a note to the judge.

John Convery: That says, "we're hopelessly deadlocked."

A SHOCKING VERDICT

After almost 11 hours of deliberating, the jury was deadlocked— unable to decide if Andre McDonald was guilty of murder, manslaughter or not guilty by self-defense. Andreen's sister, Cindy Johnson, was perplexed.

Cindy Johnson: Everything was said in the courtroom. All the evidence were — were there. … He confessed on the stand what he did … They saw his demeanor. … I don't know what was the problem.

Brandon Medellin: I voted for murder. And I saw that we were six and six.

Rudy Ruiz: At no point did any juror think that he was innocent or that it was self-defense.

For jurors Brandon Medellin and Rudy Ruiz, the problem was wording.

Brandon Medellin: Cause people really picked apart the definitions of murder and recklessness.

The jury of six women and six men spent hours discussing whether Andre McDonald had intentionally murdered Andreen McDonald or if he had recklessly killed her— making it manslaughter. / Credit: David Teran Photography
The jury of six women and six men spent hours discussing whether Andre McDonald had intentionally murdered Andreen McDonald or if he had recklessly killed her— making it manslaughter. / Credit: David Teran Photography

The jury of six women and six men spent hours discussing whether Andre had intentionally murdered Andreen or if he had recklessly killed her— making it manslaughter. Murder carries a life sentence; manslaughter up to 20 years.

Brandon Medellin: I think most of us could agree that whatever happened it was reckless. He left her on the ground, and he did not render aid. … Now, the trick was to try and convince the other jurors that it was murder.

But as the deliberations continued, some of the jurors had been swayed, with nine now for manslaughter. Medellin says the biggest factor in swaying the vote was Andre McDonald's testimony.

Brandon Medellin: There was so little evidence … And so, a lot of people believe, because we don't know anything else other than what he has told us, that we have to take what he told us.

And he was actually able to convince a lot of the jurors.

Randy Ruiz: And we had that one juror that he said, "Well, I've kicked someone, and I never intended to kill them."

Medellin, Ruiz, and a third juror were the staunch holdouts for murder.

Rudy Ruiz: No one was going to change anyone's mind.

The judge then invoked what's called an Allen Charge— urging the holdout jurors to reconsider the evidence and reach a unanimous decision. After another hour of deliberations: a verdict.

JUDGE FRANK CASTRO: Mr. McDonald, please stand with your counsel. … To the count of murder, charged in the indictment, the jury finds the defendant, not guilty of the offense of murder. As charged in the indictment: guilty — guilty of the offense of manslaughter.

Andre McDonald was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of the lesser charge: Manslaughter. Andreen's sister was in disbelief.

Cindy Johnson: Manslaughter. After he spoke with no remorse, no love, nothing at all, and used hammer, stripped her clothes, throw gasoline on her, burned her, and they gave him manslaughter … That's crazy. I am going to struggle with this thought until the day I die.

The prosecution had a mixed reaction to the verdict.

Steven Speir: I was disappointed. … However … the jury … rejected his self-defense argument and held him accountable for at least something.

For the defense, Andre McDonald may not have walked out a free man, but —

John Hunter: This is a win. … Despite how I believe that this is a self-defense case. I do respect the outcome.

Andreen's best friend, Mandy Hall.

Mandy Hall (crying): He's there to tell his story. He's there to make up whatever he wants to make up. …  She — she doesn't — she can't do that because he took that away from her.

Cindy Johnson now sees that phone call from Andre before the trial in a whole new light: as a calculated ploy to deflect blame.

Cindy Johnson: It's four years. It took him four years for him to recognize that he did what he did. … And then all of a sudden … he's reaching out to us. … To let us think that he's being responsible. … He didn't mean anything, he is lying. … All a lie. It's all a lie.

After the verdict, Sheriff Salazar reached out to Andreen's father, a retired member of the Jamaican Army, with an unusual offering.

SHERIFF SALAZAR (post-verdict news conference): I did present Mr. Anderson with a gift. I asked my deputy to remove the handcuffs from— from Andre as they put him back into the cell. And I gave— I presented those cuffs to— to Mr. Anderson.

PAUL ANDERSON: I want to tell you that we really appreciate it. … Thank you very much. God bless you (shakes the sheriff's hand).

Sheriff Salazar: I wanted them to feel some sort of connection to at least sending him away to — to prison.

For Andreen's mother, nothing about this tragedy makes sense — her daughter and the beautiful life she had created are gone. Andreen McDonald, who came to America, became a successful entrepreneur and found her purpose in serving others. Sadly, the business she created is now closed.

Maureen Smith: I miss her very much. Most times when I think about her, I just, it's like I feel like giving up.

Maureen Smith and Cindy Johnson hold hands in front of Andreen McDonald's grave. / Credit: CBS News
Maureen Smith and Cindy Johnson hold hands in front of Andreen McDonald's grave. / Credit: CBS News

And in those times, Maureen and Cindy lean on one another.

Cindy Johnson: We're blessed to have each other to take us through this sad journey. Um, when I'm weak, my mom is strong. When my mom is weak, I am strong.

Maureen Smith: We have to be strong for Alayna.

Alayna— now 12-years-old— is the glue that binds this fractured family. A family that still includes Andre's mother, Jackie— though she is mainly left with the memories and the pain of what once was.

Jackie Horne (crying as she looks at a photo of Andre, Andreen and Alayna): I think I hurt for Alayna more than I hurt for everyone. No child should ever have to go through what she went through.

Andreen's mother and sister are now raising Alayna.

Cindy Johnson: It's bittersweet because we have Alayna.

Maureen Smith: Alayna reminds us so much of Andreen.

Andre McDonald was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He is appealing his manslaughter conviction.

"48 HOURS" POST MORTEM PODCAST

"48 Hours" producers Marie Hegwood and Lauren A. White share their experiences from within the courtroom and discuss everything from Andre McDonald's shocking testimony to the moving victim impact statement from Andreen McDonald's father, Paul Anderson.

Produced  by Marie Hegwood and Lauren A. White. Grayce Arlotta-Berner, Michelle Harris and George Baluzy are the editors. Morgan Canty is the associate producer. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

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