Atascadero man who allegedly shot neighbor to death will plead insanity

Mark Alan Andrews, shown in court May 30, 2013, is charged with murder in the shooting death of his Atascadero neighbor.
Mark Alan Andrews, shown in court May 30, 2013, is charged with murder in the shooting death of his Atascadero neighbor.

An Atascadero man who allegedly gunned down a neighbor because he believed she was evil will pursue an insanity defense, his attorney announced in court Tuesday.

Mark Andrews, 49, is charged with murdering Colleen Barga-Milbury, 52, who was found shot to death at her home on May 22, 2013. While his arraignment Tuesday was postponed, his attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, announced in court that he planned to pursue an insanity defense.

“I think my client needs a lot of treatment,” Funke-Bilu said after the hearing.

Insanity defenses are both extremely rare and notoriously difficult to win. In the past two years, five insanity murder cases have been adjudicated in San Luis Obispo Superior Court — an unusually high number. Of those five defendants, two were found legally insane — both by Judge John Trice, who will hear the Andrews case.

When Andrews returns to court Jan. 28, Funke-Bilu will formally enter pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. At that time, Trice will commission two psychiatric experts to prepare reports on Andrews’ mental health.

“He has an extensive mental history,” Funke-Bilu said. “He started going downhill in his 20s.”

According to court records, Andrews harassed a different neighbor in 2009, claiming she was a vampire. At that time, police considered having him involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital. Andrews allegedly told police then that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia — but that he had not been taking his medication for the illness.

For insanity cases, half of the United States, including California, uses a variation of the 171-year-old M’Naghten Rule, created by the British House of Lords. Using that rule, a defendant is insane if at the time of the crime he either didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong or was unable to understand the nature and quality of his act.

The day after Barga-Milbury was shot to death, Andrews sat outside the home he shares with his mother as police investigated the crime scene. Leah Masuda, a reporter for KCOY, approached Andrews, hoping to interview neighbors about the crime.

Andrews told Masuda his neighbor’s death was “sad” and that the killer had to be an “animalistic person.”

“We were friends for a short while,” he said of the victim, adding, “She was friendly, courteous, outgoing, active.”

“I think the TV interview is clearly evidence in the case,” Funke-Bilu said. “Like any other evidence in a case, I think both sides will probably have different interpretations of its ultimate relevance and its significance.”

Acting on a tip, investigators eventually focused on Andrews, who allegedly had a lever-action .30-30 rifle in his bedroom. According to court records, Andrews told police he felt an “evil” feeling coming from Barga-Milbury so he drove to her home with a loaded gun, intending to kill her.