On the evening of December 11, 2003, Rick and
Suzanna Wamsley, an upper class Mansfield, Texas couple, were shot and
stabbed to death in their home by Andrew Wamsley's friend Susana
Toledano. The murders were part of a scheme orchestrated by Andrew
Wamsley, his girlfriend Chelsea Richardson, and their friend Susana
Toledano to collect on Andrew's parents' $1.65 million estate. The
three conspirators also wanted to kill Andrew's older sister Sarah,
but she was not home on the night of the murders.
Andrew Wamsley (born July 7, 1984) was the second
child born to Rick and Suzanna Wamsley. He began dating Chelsea
Richardson in January 2003. Andrew's parents reportedly disapproved of
their son's relationship with Chelsea and thereby cut him off.
Chelsea Lea Richardson (born March 26, 1984) grew
up in a working class neighborhood of Tarrant County, Texas in
contrast to her boyfriend Andrew Wamsley. She and Andrew started
conspiring to kill Andrew's parents in October 2003. She was also
roommates with Susana Toledano at the time of the murder.
Susana Alejandra Toledano (born September 28, 1984)
was Chelsea Richardson's roommate. Susana was reportedly forced by her
co-defendants to shoot and stab Rick and Suzanna Wamsley on the night
of December 11, 2003. She had also been made to shoot at the gas tank
of the Wamsleys' Jeep Laredo during a failed murder attempt that
occurred on November 9, 2003.
Hilario Cardenas was an IHOP restaurant manager in
Arlington, Texas who conspired with the three other co-defendants on
how to murder the Wamsleys. He provided the gun that was used in the
In order to avoid the death penalty, Susana
Toledano pled guilty to murder in January 2005. On May 26, 2006, she
was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after
30 years. As part of her plea deal, she testified against Chelsea and
Andrew at their subsequent trials. Susana will be eligible for parole
Chelsea Richardson's trial began in May 2005.
Chelsea's fellow prison inmates testified at her trial that she had
admitted her role in the murders. Susana Toledano also testified that
Chelsea told her to kill the Wamsleys so they could share in the
family's estate. After only 3 hours of deliberation, Chelsea was
convicted of capital murder. The jury deliberated for just more than
two hours before unanimously sentencing Chelsea to lethal injection,
on account of the crime's brutal and premeditated nature, and that she
was considered a "danger to society". She became the first female
sentenced to death in Tarrant County, Texas, later followed by Lisa
Coleman. Chelsea's attorneys have filed appeals to get her sentence
commuted to life.
Andrew Wamsley went to trial in 2006. He was
convicted of capital murder on March 5, 2006. However, jurors did not
view Andrew as a future danger to society and sentenced him to life in
prison. His conviction and life sentence were affirmed by the Second
District of Texas Court of Appeals on March 13, 2008. Andrew is
serving his sentence at the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas; Barring a
successful appeal, Andrew will be eligible for parole in 2044.
For his role, Hilario Cardenas pled guilty to
conspiracy to commit murder. On May 26, 2006, he received a 50 year
sentence with parole eligibility in 2014.
Rick and Suzanna Wamsley were strict with their
children. Police say their son paid them back with murder
The last time Patty Clarke talked to Suzanna
Wamsley, the Christmas season was just beginning. Her neighbor was on
her way to purchase some pretty towels for an elderly lady moving into
an assisted living facility. Typical Suzanna. If a neighbor had a
death in the family, sweet, upbeat Suzanna was there with a pie.
"Suzy got along with everybody, and everybody liked
her," Clarke says.
Her husband, Rick, was the same way. When the
Clarkes had needed a ride home after a car accident sent them to the
emergency room, Rick came to the rescue, even though it was almost
midnight. Family and friends came first with the Wamsleys.
And Rick and Suzy seemed like the perfect
neighborhood couple. An accountant, Rick was tall and handsome, a high
school athlete when he met Suzy. He attended Oklahoma State University;
she studied art at Oklahoma Christian College.
The couple married in 1978, two years after her
high school graduation. Their first child, Sarah, was born seven
months later, on Valentine's Day. Suzy gave birth to Andrew in 1984.
But if motherhood and time had broadened her waistline, it hadn't
diminished her good looks. Tall, with a shoulder-length coif of
vibrant red curls, Suzy still turned heads in her 40s.
"People would stop her and say, 'What color do you
use on your hair?'" Clarke says. "She loved it. She didn't use
Rick had worked for oil companies in Houston, Salt
Lake City and then Dallas. Wherever they lived, their activities
revolved around their children and their home. Even more than most of
their friends, the Wamsleys' house on Turnberry Drive in Mansfield was
a reflection of their personalities. Rick, a CPA, practiced from a
home office and liked to work in the yard. He built a flagstone patio
and tiered fountain in the back yard with his own hands.
Suzy had once leased a booth at a local antiques
mall to sell her finds. Clarke says she gave it up to spend more time
at home. When Sarah was a cheerleader at Mansfield High School, Suzy
went to pep rallies, taking photos of her dark-haired daughter in her
uniform. She and Andrew often went fishing.
An excellent cook, Suzy would make separate meals
if one family member didn't like what was offered that night. "Suzy
was the perfect homemaker," Clarke says. She made sure Andrew's
favorite brownies were always on hand and ordered pizza for his
friends when they came over to play video games.
The Wamsleys had become such close friends with the
Clarkes and neighbor Mickey Legg and her husband that they often
celebrated holidays together. When it was the Wamsleys' turn to host,
Clarke and Legg knew that Suzy's home would be beautifully decorated
for the occasion.
Legg went to the Wamsleys' house on December 9,
2003, to see Suzy's meticulously trimmed Christmas tree. Rick was
putting the finishing touches on the outside lights lining the eaves.
"They were in great spirits that night," Legg says. The women talked
about when the three couples would get together for their traditional
holiday party to exchange gifts.
On December 11, when Patty Clarke arrived home at
about 9 p.m., she was surprised to see that the Christmas lights at
the Wamsleys' were not blazing as usual. She assumed Rick and Suzy had
gone out for the evening.
Clarke was still up in the early morning hours of
December 12 when one of her son's friends arrived and asked, "What's
going on next door?" Squad cars were parked in front of the Wamsley
house, cherry tops spinning. Clarke learned from police officers that
the Wamsleys had been found dead. Barely able to process the
terrifying news, Clarke tried to help when officers came by later to
see if she knew how to contact the Wamsleys' children. But she had no
Someone had made a 911 call from the Wamsley home
at 11:40 p.m. but had either said nothing or put down the phone. When
Mansfield police arrived at 11:44, they knocked on the front door but
got no response. Officers found the garage door open; the door leading
from the garage into the house was open, too.
Suzy was lying on the living-room couch. The
attackers had shot her in the left ear with a large-caliber weapon,
according to an autopsy report, and then stabbed her at least 18 times
in the chest and neck.
Rick--6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, wearing only boxer
shorts--had been shot in the face and back and stabbed numerous times.
Police found two sets of bloody shoeprints throughout the living room,
dining room and entryway. There was no sign of forced entry, and
nothing appeared to be missing.
The news of the Wamsley murders hit Walnut Estates
like a storm slamming into an opulent cruise ship. Had they surprised
a burglar looking for Christmas loot? Was a maniac on the loose in
their little enclave? Where would he strike next? Free-floating
paranoia reigned throughout the holiday season.
The Mansfield police said the killings were
isolated crimes, but offered so little information that a rumor began
circulating in the tension-filled neighborhood that the Wamsleys were
in the federal witness protection program and the murders were
professional "hits." To Clarke, that seemed far-fetched. But so did
every other explanation of the gruesome crime.
On April 5, residents of Walnut Estates heard that
authorities in Illinois had arrested 19-year-old Susana Toledano, a
high school student in Everman, a suburb of Fort Worth, alleging she
was involved in the Wamsley murders. The next day police arrested
Hilario Cardenas, a 24-year-old night manager at an Arlington IHOP; a
police affidavit for his arrest warrant says Toledano implicated him
in the slayings.
But the biggest shock came two days later when
Mansfield police arrested Toledano's best friend, 20-year-old Chelsea
Richardson, and Richardson's boyfriend--Andrew Wamsley, the couple's
19-year-old son--and charged them with solicitation of capital murder,
based on circumstantial evidence, including Cardenas' claim at the
time that he was induced by Andrew and Richardson to kill the Wamsleys.
Extradited to Texas, Toledano joined the others
being held on a $1 million bond while police continued the
investigation. On April 19, the complaint against Andrew was amended
to say that he--not Cardenas--shot and stabbed his mother and father
to death. The motive, police claimed, was the Wamsleys' $1 million
life insurance policy and other assets.
At least one family member was already convinced
that Andrew did it. Though few people knew it, in March, Sarah Wamsley,
25, had filed papers in probate court to block her brother's
inheritance of any family assets, blaming Andrew for the murders and
accusing him of trying to kill her as well. She asked the judge to
prevent Andrew from spending any of the estate's money. Andrew's
attorney filed papers denying the accusations.
On July 1, almost seven months after the crime, a
Tarrant County grand jury indicted Andrew Wamsley, Richardson and
Toledano for capital murder and Cardenas on conspiracy to commit
capital murder. No trial dates have been set.
Mansfield Detective Ralph Standefer says the
biggest break in the case came in late March when DNA tests matched a
clump of hair found in Rick's fist to Susana Toledano. According to a
series of police affidavits, her arrest triggered a domino effect,
with the subsequent arrests of Cardenas, then Richardson and Andrew
Wamsley. Their statements and evidence gathered by police paint a
harrowing picture of what happened to Rick and Suzy Wamsley.
By the time the 911 call was made, Standefer says,
the Wamsleys had been dead at least eight to 12 hours. He believes
Andrew, Richardson and Toledano had arrived at the home sometime early
on December 11. Police would later estimate that the attacks occurred
at 3 a.m., based on a neighbor's report of hearing gunshots around
Using a garage door opener, the trio entered the
dark house through the garage, police say. Suzy, wearing a T-shirt and
panties, was asleep on a couch, covered with a blanket. One of them
shot Suzy in the head at close range; the bullet pierced her left ear,
killing her instantly. "She never knew what happened," Standefer says.
Rick apparently was sleeping in the master bedroom.
He heard the shots and jumped out of bed. The shooter fired at him
from the door of the bedroom, missing twice. Nearly naked and faced
with a gun, Rick didn't back down.
"He goes for these people," Standefer says.
In the hallway between the bedroom and living room,
a third bullet struck Rick. But Rick kept fighting. "There was a
horrible struggle," the detective says. Stabbed repeatedly with a
knife in the chest, arms, back and face, Rick grappled with his
"He fights them all the way through the living room,"
Standefer says. "He fought them to his very last breath." Shot in the
head and back, stabbed more than 21 times, Rick finally collapsed in
the front entryway.
Standefer believes that after killing Rick, Andrew
and his accomplices returned to Suzy's body to see if one gunshot had
done the job. "I don't think they realized how hard it was to kill
somebody," Standefer says. "So they went back and stabbed Suzy to make
sure she was dead." Standefer declined to say which of the three he
believes actually fired the shots or stabbed the victims. No weapons
have been found.
The 911 call wasn't made until the night of
December 11. Standefer says police don't know who dialed the phone,
but he guesses from fingerprints that it was Andrew, impatient for
someone to find the bodies. "It's not because he feels bad, but he
wants to speed the process up," Standefer says. "He was so focused on
the money aspect; the longer it dragged on, he wasn't going to get his
"I think he had a really skewed concept of how that
happened, like your parents are deceased, and the next week you get a
The Dallas Observer spoke to several friends
of the alleged attackers; they painted a picture of young people
utterly adrift in life--who had either lost a parent or held deep
animosity toward them--gathering at the IHOP to engage in a kids'
role-playing card game. That's where early versions of the murder plot
supposedly were hatched--versions that also targeted Andrew's sister
Initially, police had little physical evidence
linking Andrew and his girlfriend to the crime. But Rick's last act,
described in a police affidavit after Toledano's arrest, would break
the case wide open. Screaming, "No, God, no!" Rick lunged in the dark
for one of the killers, grabbing a small piece of scalp--no more than
five to 10 strands of hair--as he fell to the floor. Police found a
broken blue hair clip nearby.
"Had he not had that hair in his hand, I don't
think we would have ever got there," Standefer says.
In 1995, when the Wamsleys moved into the large two-story
home on Turnberry Drive, the country-club neighborhood of Walnut
Estates was expanding. Once a mostly rural, blue-collar town south of
Arlington, Mansfield was benefiting from white flight. Custom
homebuilders had flocked to the town, catering to well-to-do parents
anxious to escape blighted urban schools in Dallas and Fort Worth.
In the last decade, Walnut Estates had become
the place to live in Mansfield. Now the streets that border the
Walnut Creek Country Club are lined with two-story brick and stone
houses encircled by manicured yards. It's common to see residents
tooling around in golf carts.
The city has struggled to keep up with its growth.
The Mansfield school district is building schools as fast as it can,
and at times, there's a collision between the children of the newly
arrived, upwardly mobile parents and working-class families with deep
roots in southern Tarrant County.
If Andrew Wamsley came from one world, then his
girlfriend, Chelsea Richardson, decidedly came from the other.
When the teenagers and their friends showed up at
the IHOP behind the Parks at Arlington Mall, the waitresses could
count on three things: They'd take up a big booth for hours, and
they'd battle with Yu-Gi-Oh cards, the Japanese trading cards
collected by kids. And they'd complain. Night manager Hilario Cardenas
began stopping by during his shift to make sure the food was
Bubbly, blond and a bit overweight, Chelsea was
attending Joe C. Bean High School in blue-collar Everman. In late
2002, the middle of her senior year, Chelsea had started going to the
IHOP with her older brother, a Yu-Gi-Oh aficionado who worked as a
security guard. They lived in a small, run-down tract home. The
Richardsons' father, an ironworker and former Marine named Thaddeus "Tank"
Richardson, had died in 1999 in his 40s. Their mother, Celia, worked
several jobs to make ends meet.
For the young Richardsons and their friends, the
IHOP was a home away from home. That's where Chelsea met Andrew, who
had graduated in May 2002 from Mansfield High School.
Like Chelsea's brother, Andrew loved Yu-Gi-Oh,
which attracts some of the same teens and young adults who love
Dungeons & Dragons and computer gaming. "We'd sit there eight hours
straight and play," says one of Andrew's friends. "It's a lot safer
than drugs but just as expensive. We'd stay there until 6 in the
Chelsea didn't care for Yu-Gi-Oh, in which players
use a deck of 40 cards to duel, pitting various "monsters" against
each other by way of traps and spells. Skilled players wait for the
right time to play certain cards, like "Pot of Greed," which allows
them to outdraw their opponents. At the store where Andrew often
bought Yu-Gi-Oh cards to strengthen his collection, Chelsea would find
someone to talk to. Chelsea loved to talk.
"She could make friends with the devil himself,"
says Ruth Brustrom, a family friend who'd known Chelsea since she was
9. Her husband, Ray, had taken over the role of father to the
Richardson siblings after their dad died. Then Ray, who worked
construction and raised fighting roosters, passed away in August 2002.
If Chelsea's life seemed aimless, losing two father figures hadn't
Andrew Wamsley's home had every comfort, but he
loved Brustrom's place in the country, where double-wide trailers on a
few acres are the norm.
Andrew and Chelsea began coming to Brustrom's five-acre
spread just outside Burleson in the spring of 2003 to hang out,
enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. Brustrom's house started as a
mobile home; several additions later, it still has plywood walls and
floors in some rooms and no air conditioning. The Confederate flag
flaps from several barn-red outbuildings. At the back of the property
sit a couple of junked cars and a shallow pond.
Andrew would sit and talk for hours to the
easygoing Brustrom. Except for the large tattoo of a rose, surrounded
by the words "In Loving Memory of Ray," on her right arm, Brustrom,
37, looked remarkably like Andrew's mother: same smile, same freckles
and the same curly red hair. "Andrew seemed like a real sweet kid,"
Brustrom says, "the best guy she'd brought out here. He seemed real
Andrew had been working at Putt-Putt Golf in
Arlington; Chelsea was looking for a job. She talked about becoming a
lawyer or maybe a nurse but was making no strides in that direction.
Rick and Suzy had planned for Andrew to attend college, wanting him to
become a CPA. But Andrew was more interested in cars. Though he was
enrolled at Tarrant County College, he often skipped class.
He told Brustrom that he hated his sister Sarah.
"He said Sarah had once slammed his head into a water heater,"
Brustrom says. "They didn't get along."
Andrew seemed to like his mom and dad OK, but he
didn't tell Brustrom about his sister's stormy adolescence or his own
severe conflicts with his parents. The parents' polished exterior, in
fact, hid troubled relationships with their children that went well
beyond the usual teenage tensions.
Several family acquaintances portray the Wamsleys
as controlling and suspicious of outsiders. Though Suzy was raised in
the Church of Christ, the Wamsleys didn't attend church and seemed to
have adopted the strictures of the church without the religious
moorings. "Both kids believed that people were only nice to them for
their own reasons" or because they wanted something, says one of
Sarah's former boyfriends.
Andrew and Sarah fought constantly. Sarah was sent
to a psychiatric facility for the first time when she was 16. "She was
admitted to Millwood because her parents said she was rebellious," a
former boyfriend says. "They were looking for a pill to fix her."
Later, Sarah would be diagnosed as bipolar, a personality disorder
characterized by extreme mood swings.
In March 1997, only weeks before Sarah's graduation
from high school, Rick and Suzy had enough of her rebellion, kicking
their daughter out of the house and throwing her belongings in their
According to court records, Sarah then moved in
with Todd Cleveland, a Mansfield community college student she'd met
at a party and had dated only briefly. Sarah had a daughter with
Cleveland in January 1999. But the couple split up. Sarah, feeling
unable to care for her child, gave up custody to Cleveland but
retained visitation rights.
She worked as a teller at a finance company but
struggled with alcohol abuse, according to friends and court records.
On March 29, 2002, she was arrested after plowing her car into a fence
and trying to flee from police. Sarah pleaded no contest to DWI.
Several times Sarah told co-workers she was going
to "hurt herself." Once while at work she swallowed a handful of anti-depressants,
but was taken to a hospital in time to have her stomach pumped. On one
such occasion, court records show, the psychiatrist noted that Sarah
suffered from depression and cited possible "emotional abuse by mother"
and "minimal support from family."
In 2001, Sarah filed a lawsuit to regain custody of
her daughter. Later, Cleveland earned his license as a master plumber
and married another young woman. The custody case became very
contentious. Sarah is now living with her paternal grandparents in
Oklahoma. Reached by the Observer, Sarah declined to be
interviewed but said that the comment about emotional abuse by her
mother was "absolutely false."
One family acquaintance notes that Andrew seemed
impulsive and immature. Out to dinner for his father's birthday,
Andrew threw a bowl of queso dip across the room after his
father refused to order an extra one. "He's a jackass," says a
neighbor about the same age. "Andrew used to always say how he hated
his dad." On one occasion, a friend was at their home when Rick
insisted that Andrew give him an overdue video so that he could return
it to the store. Andrew refused to stop watching, even though Rick
promised to rent the movie again. Furious, Andrew threw the video at
his father, hitting him in the head hard enough to draw blood.
One confrontation was serious enough to result in
police visiting the Turnberry house on a domestic disturbance call,
but Standefer says no arrests were made.
Andrew also had conflicts at work; rather than be
fired, he quit his job as a shift manager at Putt-Putt Golf. "He's
kind of a jerk, actually, very arrogant," says Jonathan Aston, a
former co-worker. "He thought highly of himself. He was one of those
managers that nobody wanted to work on his shift."
Andrew told Brustrom little about those conflicts,
though he expressed frustration that his parents wouldn't let him work
on his car, a 1998 white Mustang. They'd given him the car but not the
title. "He wanted to soup up his Mustang," Brustrom says. "His parents
were telling him it was fast enough."
The Wamsleys, Brustrom says, didn't know Andrew was
dating Chelsea. "They knew they were friends, and Chelsea had met his
parents," Brustrom says. "I think Chelsea fell hard for Andrew. They
thought Chelsea was poor white trash."
By the fall of 2003, Andrew had dropped out of
college. His parents had cut him off financially, so he was virtually
living at the Richardson house, which Standefer describes as "filthy,
with roaches crawling on the ceiling." Andrew and Chelsea were
spending lots of time at the IHOP, often joined by Toledano, who
Brustrom says had also moved in with the Richardsons after a conflict
with her mother.
Toledano was struggling to finish high school while
working at a fast-food joint. She and Chelsea had been buddies for
several years. The two had taken out a page in the Everman High School
2003 senior yearbook with photos of them, cartoon drawings of saucy
females and the mottos "Naughty & Nice," "Smile Now, Cry Later" and "Up
to No Good."
Anchoring the page was a poem titled "Friends Are
Forever," written by Chelsea. "Who hold[s] my hand in tragedy/And
stick up in a fallacy/Morals, value, strength, courage and sticking to
you/That's what my friends see."
Toledano occasionally came to Brustrom's with
Chelsea and Andrew. Brustrom saw her as a girl with low self-esteem. "Chelsea
could tell her what to do," Brustrom says.
Andrew, Chelsea and Toledano befriended Cardenas,
who often worked during the hours they came into the restaurant.
Married, with a 4-year-old daughter, Cardenas liked talking with the
teens about everything from Yu-Gi-Oh tactics to tropical fish.
During these late-night sessions, police allege,
the four of them hatched a monstrous plot that had nothing to do with
"Blue Eyes White Dragon" or "Zombra the Dark."
Standefer says the conspiracy started with methods
of murder that required a minimal amount of personal involvement--like
cutting the brake lines on vehicles--and from the beginning targeted
not only Rick and Suzy, but Sarah, too. "Andrew intended on killing
her as well," Standefer says. "That way he wouldn't have to split the
The crime was set in motion, Standefer says, when
Andrew got tired of their failed efforts at sabotaging cars and asked
Cardenas to get them a gun.
On Sunday, November 9, at about 2:30 p.m. Rick
Wamsley was driving north on Interstate 35, taking Suzy and Sarah to a
late lunch at Chili's in Burleson. He was exiting the freeway when
something slammed into the car with a loud thud. In the restaurant
parking lot, the Wamsleys found a bullet hole in the left rear panel
of their Jeep Laredo.
The Wamsleys filed a police report. Rick told a
detective that he remembered a white Mustang like Andrew's passing the
vehicle shortly before he heard the noise. But other cars had also
"The officer didn't think Rick was being
forthcoming," Standefer says. "According to Sarah, immediately after
this happened, Suzy got on the phone to Andrew and said, 'Where the
fuck are you?'"
Over their meal at Chili's, Rick and Suzy refused
to talk about the incident. "It's a traumatic event," Standefer says.
"Sarah wants to talk about it, and they don't."
Police found no witnesses and made no arrests. It
seemed to be a random drive-by shooting.
A jet of water splooshed skyward.
Blam! Blam! Blam!
Ruth Brustrom watched in drizzling rain as Andrew
and Toledano blasted away with a handgun at a target in her pond.
It was a nasty day sometime in mid-November 2003.
Andrew had called, saying that Toledano wanted to practice her aim
with a handgun. Brustrom allowed the target practice but insisted the
teenagers shoot into the water so stray bullets wouldn't hurt her
Andrew and Chelsea had decided to get more
aggressive, Standefer says. "The information I received was that he or
his girlfriend had seen on TV that if you shoot a car's gas tank, it
would blow up," the detective says.
Andrew, Chelsea and Toledano were all in the
Mustang when they took a shot at the Wamsleys for the first time, says
Standefer, who believes that Toledano was probably carrying the weapon.
"Andrew was pretty upset that Susana [Toledano] had
missed," Standefer says. He demanded that all three of them take
target practice. "They went so far as to rank themselves," Standefer
says. "Who was best?"
In order: Andrew, Toledano, then Chelsea.
By mid-December, Andrew and Chelsea hadn't been out
to Brustrom's place in a while; their frequent calls had suddenly
stopped. Concerned, Brustrom finally reached Andrew on his phone.
"He doesn't act like anything's wrong," Brustrom
says. Andrew handed the phone to Chelsea. "She was bawling," Brustrom
says. Between her tears, Chelsea told Brustrom that her boyfriend's
parents had been murdered a few days earlier.
Brustrom had seen the news reports of the Mansfield
slayings, but she hadn't connected the Wamsley name to Chelsea's
boyfriend until now.
"He can't wait to come out," Chelsea told Brustrom.
The young couple needed to get away.
Sometime around Christmas, Chelsea and Andrew
finally visited Brustrom. Andrew seemed normal, as if nothing out of
the ordinary had happened. But he quickly warned Brustrom: "Don't say
anything to anyone about the gun."
Early on, police considered Todd Cleveland a "person
of interest" in the slayings because of the bitter custody dispute in
which Rick and Suzy were increasingly playing a role. Cleveland,
however, passed a polygraph test and was soon cleared.
The Wamsley children remained under suspicion
because they had the most to gain--more than $100,000 in cash and a $1
million life insurance payoff, to be split between the two siblings.
Andrew and Chelsea had driven up to the Turnberry
house at about 8:30 a.m. on December 12, telling police they'd learned
of the murder investigation on television. Both voluntarily went to
the police station.
Standefer thought Andrew showed little emotion for
someone whose parents had been murdered, even if they'd had their
differences. The two said they'd last seen Rick and Suzy on December
9, when they'd asked the Wamsleys' permission to go on a camping trip.
Permission was given, but cold weather prompted them to stay at
Chelsea's house instead. Standefer says the couple described a night
filled with a movie, Putt-Putt golf, then visiting a friend, but they
had no alibi for the estimated time of the murder.
Andrew initially allowed a search of his car but
withdrew his consent, leading police to impound the Mustang. In the
car, police found evidence that a large amount of human blood had once
been there--mostly in the back passenger seat but on the two front
seats as well. But the seats had been thoroughly cleaned; the blood
couldn't be identified further.
Both Sarah and Andrew agreed to take polygraphs.
Sarah passed, Standefer says, but Andrew failed. At that point,
Chelsea and Andrew refused to provide DNA samples. Their cooperation
In January, police issued subpoenas compelling
eight people, including Andrew, Sarah, Chelsea and Toledano, to submit
DNA evidence. The only reason Toledano was included was because she
was Chelsea's roommate and, like Chelsea, her hair was dyed, as were
the strands in Rick's hand. Her DNA test would rip the case open.
Andrew and Chelsea spent the month of February with
Brustrom. "His probate lawyer said for them to go somewhere and have a
vacation," Brustrom says. The couple seemed normal enough, though
concerned about the investigation.
Mansfield police were aggressively pursuing the
case, homing in on Andrew, Chelsea and their friends. According to a
police affidavit, Toledano testified in February before a Tarrant
County grand jury. She claimed that she'd been to the Wamsley house
only once almost a year earlier and had never been inside.
Brustrom tried to get Andrew to talk about his
feelings concerning his parents' deaths. "To me he seemed like he was
in denial, in shock," Brustrom says. "But he would only talk to
Chelsea. She said he would talk and cry at night about his parents."
For a while, they fell into a routine. Andrew
cooked all the meals; Chelsea did the dishes and helped with
Brustrom's kids. They talked of taking a long holiday far away after
they were cleared as suspects. Eventually they'd get married. But
being under suspicion had strained the couple's relationship. "Andrew
would get stressed and get quiet," Brustrom says. "Chelsea would cry."
The tension at Brustrom's home grew thicker.
Roughhousing between Andrew and Chelsea got out of hand; arguments
grew louder and more frequent. Tired of making peace between the two,
Brustrom told them they had to leave.
The couple moved back to Chelsea's house in early
March and began setting up the aquarium Andrew had brought from his
parents' home. "I think they thought everything with the investigation
had calmed down," Brustrom says.
But it was about to accelerate.
In early March, Sarah filed her lawsuit, trying to
block her brother from collecting her father's life insurance or other
funds, alleging that he "was the principal or an accomplice in
willfully bringing about the death" of Rick Wamsley. The judge granted
Sarah's request for a temporary restraining order against her brother.
On March 10, Andrew gave a deposition in the
probate case, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate
himself under oath. The proceeding lasted four minutes. His attorney
filed an answer to Sarah's lawsuit, denying Andrew had anything to do
with the murders.
A day later, Sarah's attorney filed an unusual
letter from Detective Barbara Slayton-Bell, victims assistance
coordinator with the Mansfield police, to the Texas attorney general.
"During the course of the investigation, suspects were identified to
include both Sarah and Andrew Wamsley (victim's daughter and son).
Sarah Wamsley has cooperated with the Mansfield police department's
investigation in every way and was subsequently eliminated as a
"Evidence obtained during the investigation is vast
and substantial, however at this time not able to produce probable
cause. Considerable reasonable suspicion surrounds Andrew Wamsley as a
suspect in this case and as such he should not be considered for any
type of benefit from the deaths of his parents Rick and Suzanna
On March 30, DNA tests on the hair found in Rick's
hand came back. They matched Toledano, who had disappeared. Tracked to
a relative's home in Addison, Illinois, Toledano was arrested on April
4. Her statement led police to the IHOP and Cardenas, who had not even
been under investigation. Andrew and Chelsea were arrested on April 7
in the parking lot outside a Chicken Express near her home. They've
been in jail since.
As curious neighbors wandered onto her property on
May 9, Brustrom turned them away. Her five acres were crawling with
FBI agents, Texas Rangers, Mansfield police and firefighters from four
different departments--who stayed all day to drain her pond. In the
muck at the bottom, investigators scooped up bullets later matched to
those from the Wamsley killings and the drive-by shooting, Standefer
At the time of his arrest, Andrew listed his assets
as his father's wedding ring, the family silver and $100 in a bank
Andrew Wamsley, Cardenas and Toledano declined the
Observer's requests for interviews. Though Chelsea initially
agreed to an interview, she changed her mind when her attorney Mike
Maloney refused to allow it. A paralegal who works for Maloney says
Chelsea denies having anything to do with the murders. (Attorneys for
Wamsley and Toledano didn't return phone calls from the Observer.)
But in his Fort Worth office, Ray Hall Jr., the
court-appointed attorney who represents Cardenas, says that when the
IHOP manager was arrested, he didn't even know the Wamsleys had been
murdered. Problem is, Cardenas' story has changed a number of times,
Dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a silver-and-turquoise
bolo tie, Hall is a former rodeo bareback rider with a goatee like a
Brillo pad. He describes Cardenas as a man working 12-hour days to
provide for his wife and child. With little time for friends, he
wanted to fit in with Andrew, Chelsea and their buddies.
Hall says their conversations turned to murder.
Andrew and Chelsea wanted certain people dead. Eventually they
explained that the targets were Andrew's parents. "He wasn't sure they
were really serious," Hall says. But according to Standefer, Cardenas
did go along on some car sabotage missions.
When Andrew asked if Cardenas could get him a gun,
he agreed to try. Just before Halloween, Cardenas bought a gun off the
street and sold it to Andrew for $200. As the couple pushed him to
shoot Rick and Suzy, Hall says, Cardenas backed away.
"He kept coming up with excuses that he had to work,"
Hall says. Chelsea and Andrew stopped coming to the IHOP and no longer
called Cardenas on his cell phone.
Not long before the murders, Cardenas was arrested
for possession of marijuana and the unlawful carrying of a weapon (not
the caliber used in the Wamsley murders, Standefer says). Cardenas
lost his job, and his wife left him.
Cardenas flunked one polygraph, Hall says, given
late at night after hours of interrogation. But the restaurant manager
later passed another polygraph, says Hall, who believes that Cardenas
wasn't at the house that night. He hopes to work out a plea bargain
with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in return for
Andrew and Chelsea have declined to talk to
investigators since their arrests. Standefer describes both Andrew and
Chelsea as manipulators who fit well together. "Chelsea never had what
Andrew had, and she was on board from the beginning," Standefer says.
For Andrew, it boiled down to money.
"He's been spoiled rotten all his life," Standefer
says, "given everything on a silver platter. Once he realized he can't
do what he wants to do without having those things, Andrew decides he
doesn't need his parents anymore."
Standefer believes Andrew thought police would
suspect Sarah. "He thought his sister was the wild child, the one with
all the problems," Standefer says. "I think he felt we would naturally
look at her. But the thing about Sarah: As many things as she's gone
through with her parents, things she wasn't so proud of, she never got
into a situation where she got violent."
If he is convicted, Andrew Wamsley may find himself
in prison contemplating the irony: The sister he detests will end up