Crime

Atascadero man was sane when he killed neighbor, jury decides

Mark Andrews, left, was in court Feb. 6 for a murder trial in the shooting death of his neighbor, Colleen Barga-Milbury. At right is his attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu.
Mark Andrews, left, was in court Feb. 6 for a murder trial in the shooting death of his neighbor, Colleen Barga-Milbury. At right is his attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

An Atascadero man who claimed he killed his neighbor because she was a vampire faces 50 years to life in prison after a jury found him legally sane when he committed the murder.

Mark Andrews, 51, didn’t react when a court clerk announced the jury’s verdict Tuesday afternoon. The same jury had previously found that he had killed Colleen Barga-Milbury, a 52-year-old widowed mother.

Andrews, who has a 20-year history of mental illness, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2013 killing, prompting a two-phase trial. After the jury determined Andrews had killed Barga-Milbury, the defense had to show that Andrews either didn’t know what he was doing when he shot Barga-Milbury or that he didn’t know it was wrong.

That burden is difficult to establish, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said after the verdict.

“It’s a pretty rare situation where a person is truly insane,” to the extent that mental illness caused them to commit the crime, he said.

There have been five insanity murder trials in the county in less than five years. In all but one of those cases, the defendant was found to be sane at the time of the murder.

Andrew Downs, who killed two sisters in Santa Margarita, was declared legally insane in 2012. After the verdict, Downs was sent to Atascadero State Hospital, where Barga-Milbury had worked as a food services supervisor.

According to trial testimony, Andrews said he believed he was a werewolf who had received a message from the voice of God to kill Barga-Milbury. So he drove to her residence and shot her twice with a .30-30 lever-action rifle that had belonged to his late father, a former psychiatric technician at ASH.

As the jury read its verdict, defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu shook his head. Later, many in the audience stood as the jury exited the room. Andrews’ family, who normally stood for the jury, remained seated.

“I’m not standing for them,” said the defendant’s sister, Sherri Roberts.

Andrews, who showed no emotion throughout the trial, turned to his family and slightly shrugged before being led back to the jail. Later, his mother sat distraught with her head in her hands in the courthouse cafeteria.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Matt Kraut agreed that Andrews suffered from schizophrenia. But, he said, he was not delusional or psychotic at the time of the murder. And his actions, the prosecution argued, showed he knew what he was doing and that it was wrong.

“We believe the sanity verdict is well supported by the evidence,” Cunningham said.

In an interview with KCOY news a day after the murder, Andrews said the person responsible was an “animalistic bastard.” After his arrest, he told his mother he wanted to be executed. No one reported him being delusional or psychotic around the time of the murder.

But Andrews had been psychotic in the past, witnesses testified, telling people he was a warlock, Jesus Christ and a werewolf who had fathered several cubs.

After the verdict, Funke-Bilu expressed disappointment in the jury’s decision.

“Mark Andrews murdered his neighbor without reason in the middle of the day ... and the jury found that conduct sane,” he said.

The defense relied much on the testimony of David Fennell, medical director at Atascadero State Hospital, who said Andrews had a fixed delusion, meaning he was always delusional.

“(Fennell) has the ability to look at the evidence and see things that lay people don’t see,” Funke-Bilu said.

Had Andrews been declared insane, Funke-Bilu said, he would have spent the rest of his life getting treatment at a state hospital.

“Juries feel, whether it’s subconscious or conscious, that if someone is found insane, that somehow they’re getting away with murder,” he said.

Andrews will be sentenced to prison April 21.

The most famous local case of a local murderer declared legally insane is Wade McClave, who stabbed his parents to death after believing they were vampires in 1989. After nine years of institutionalization, McClave led a relatively quiet life for six years. In 2004, while driving a friend to an art show that would feature several of their works, McClave, 39, mysteriously crashed his van into a toll plaza on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, killing them both.

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