More than 20 years before he was charged with killing a neighbor, Atascadero resident Mark Andrews called police during a manic episode and threatened to kill someone, his mother testified Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
“He said, ‘This is Mark Andrews, and I need some help,’ ” Carol Andrews told a jury during her son’s trial. “‘I’m going to commit murder if you don’t come and help me now.’ ”
Yet, while the defendant’s mother said her son exhibited signs of dangerous mentally ill behavior, neither she nor her late husband ever removed a stocked gun cabinet from their son’s bedroom.
“It’s been there for 30 years,” she testified.
Investigators said Andrews removed a lever-action .30-30 rifle from that cabinet, drove to neighbor Colleen Barga-Milbury’s home on May 22, 2013, and shot her twice.
Andrews, 51, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
During his opening statement to jurors, defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu conceded that Andrews killed Barga-Milbury, 52, but he said his client was suffering from schizophrenic hallucinations. Andrews believed that he was a werewolf, Funke-Bilu said, and that Barga-Milbury was a vampire.
“The spirit of the wolf residing within my client, Mark Andrews, received a message from God: Kill the vampire and rid the evil of this world,” Funke-Bilu said.
Barga-Milbury had been a family friend, the defendant’s sister, Sherri Roberts, testified. Roberts said she and Barga-Milbury, who both worked at Atascadero State Hospital, were especially close.
While Barga-Milbury had lived in Atascadero many years, she lived in Idaho from 2010 until 2013 so her teenage son could attend a special school for his autism. Mark Andrews had also mostly lived in Atascadero — although his family lived in Montana for a time, including his first three years of high school.
Carol Andrews, a retired registered nurse, said her son had a “fairly normal” childhood, participating in sports and jazz band while attending high school in Montana.
Mark Andrews graduated from Atascadero High School and then Cuesta College, she said. But in 1993, he had his first psychotic episode.
During that incident, Carol Andrews said, her son threatened her with a scalpel before calling police and saying he was going to commit a murder.
He was committed to a mental health hospital numerous times, both in Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, she said.
In 1994, she said, he called her from Ventura, where he lived at the time, and said Martians were coming to get him.
“(He said) they were at his door and should he let them in?” she testified.
Closer to the time of the shooting, his mother said, Andrews was “sporadic” about taking his medications.
Given her son’s mental health issues, deputy district attorney Matt Kraut asked Carol Andrews why they kept a cabinet stocked with rifles in her son’s bedroom. She said the guns had come from her late husband, Jan, a former Atascadero State Hospital psychiatric technician and security guard who died of an illness eight months before the shooting.
While in Montana, she said, they owned a sporting goods store where her husband repaired guns.
When Kraut asked again why she allowed her son to have guns in his room, Carol Andrews said she was busy tending to her dying husband and didn’t think of it.
“The guns were not the most prominent thing on my mind,” she said.
Through his examination, Kraut attempted to show that the defendant’s mental illness didn’t make him appear dangerous enough for his parents to remove the guns from his room. Some of the defendant’s odd behavior, he suggested, might have been caused by drug use.
During his cross examination of Carol Andrews, Kraut said Mark Andrews had used methamphetamine the week before the killing and marijuana the night before. During his first psychotic episode, Kraut said, blood samples showed Andrews had methamphetamine and alcohol in his body.
Still, Funke-Bilu said, his client’s behavior after the shooting — neglecting to flee or clear evidence from his room — is proof of mental illness. And the shooting only makes sense, he told jurors, if Andrews was delusional.
“Only a werewolf had a motive to kill a vampire on May 22,” Funke-Bilu said in his opening statement. “Mark Andrews had no motive whatsoever.”