Air Force reservist who hid his wife’s dead body under cow remains found guilty of manslaughter
Stars and Stripes February 6, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — Air Force Reserve Maj. Andre McDonald told jurors in a San Antonio courtroom that he killed his wife during a fight about finances, but he had only meant to knock the wind out of her.
McDonald, 43, testified last week in his trial on a murder charge for the 2019 death of his wife Andreen McDonald. He was accused of killing his 29-year-old wife and then hiding her body under the remains of a dead cow on a private ranch about 5 miles from the couple’s home.
But jurors on Friday found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Judge Frank Castro sentenced McDonald on Monday to 20 years in prison.
McDonald, who served in the active-duty Air Force from 2004 to 2014, worked as a cyberspace effects operator at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base with the 426th Network Warfare Squadron. Col. Richard Erredge, commander of 960th Cyberspace Wing, said Monday during the sentence hearing that the Air Force has begun the process to discharge McDonald from the service, though it was pending the outcome of the trial.
McDonald testified last week for several hours and told jurors that he killed his wife during a physical fight at their home. He said he was defending himself from a woman who was larger than him and who he thought was trying to steal from him.
The couple had gone to H&R Block on Feb. 28 to sign tax documents, according to evidence and witness testimony during the trial. She owned and operated Starlight Homes Assisted Living. McDonald, who was also listed on the business, helped launch it with his own savings in 2012, about two years after the Air Force moved him to San Antonio.
McDonald said he had wanted a divorce years earlier, but his wife talked him out of it to avoid splitting the value of the business with him as required by state law.
While signing the tax documents, McDonald learned his wife had opened a new corporation without him.
He said he also knew his wife was having an affair.
McDonald told those gathered in the courtroom that he feared his wife was planning to have him killed during a trip to Jamaica that she had proposed.
Once the couple returned home from the H&R Block that day, they began to argue. McDonald said he left the home at one point for several hours to avoid the argument.
When he returned at about midnight, the argument reignited and became explosive, he said.
“When I walked into the bedroom, she follows me there, cursing at me. When I turned around, she comes into my face,” McDonald said on the witness stand. “When she spit in my face, she's right there and I grabbed her face ... that's when the heads collided.”
His wife began to bleed, he said, so she went into the bathroom to examine her injury in the mirror. McDonald said, after she saw the blood, she came toward him throwing punches at his face, so he used her body weight to trip her and bring her to the ground.
He said he kicked her twice while she was on the ground but stopped when he heard the footsteps of their then 7-year-old daughter Alayna.
He said he left his wife on the ground wheezing while he put their daughter back in her bed. He returned about 20 to 30 minutes later and his wife was dead.
“The first thought that I had was, ‘Oh my god, you know, Andreen’s dead. I'm probably going to get blamed for this. Alayna is not going to have any parents.’ The second thought I had was, ‘Why the hell did this have to freaking happen to me?’ ” McDonald said.
He said he did not think to call emergency services because he “never thought about calling anybody to revive a dead person.” He then began to remove her body from the house and send phony text messages to his wife’s phone to make it appear as if she had left the house on her own.
McDonald said he placed her body into two large trash bags, dragged her through the house and into the trunk of his car. He drove out to a private ranch near the couple’s home — leaving his daughter home alone — and left his wife’s body near the remains of a dead cow.
McDonald had stripped his wife’s body, so when he returned home he burned her clothing in the backyard before getting his daughter onto her school bus and he went to work at Lackland Air Force Base, he said.
He returned days later to the site where he had left his wife’s body and got angry again with her for putting him in this situation, he said, so he used a hammer to hit the body in the face and neck. McDonald said, at that point, he attempted to burn her body but he did not have enough gasoline.
So, he moved the bones of a nearby dead cow on top of what remained of his wife.
Investigators found Andreen McDonald’s remains there about five months later, which were mostly bones, and dental records were used to confirm it was her. Medical experts testified an exact cause of death could not be determined because her body had been reduced to 18 pounds of bones.
John Convery, McDonald’s defense attorney, said his client's actions after Andreen McDonald’s death had to do with “panic and fear.”
To find him guilty of murder, the jury would have needed to believe McDonald acted with intention.
“He has taken responsibility,” Convery told the jury. “What happened in that brief time … is simply not murder.”