Crime

Mother of Atascadero man who shot neighbor is sued for wrongful death

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

The mother of a mentally ill man who claimed he was a werewolf should not have allowed her son to have access to guns, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Friday.

The lawsuit was filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on behalf of Robert Barga, 18, whose mother, Colleen Barga-Milbury, was shot to death in her Atascadero home after opening her front door to a neighbor on May 22, 2013.

The suit claims that Carol Andrews contributed to the death by keeping weapons in the house she shared with her adult son even after he exhibited signs of dangerous behavior related to his schizophrenia.

Mark Andrews, 53, was sentenced this week to 50 years to life in prison for Barga-Milbury’s murder. According to trial testimony and court records, Andrews said he was a werewolf who had to kill Barga-Milbury because she was a vampire.

During his trial, law enforcement witnesses testified that there was a cabinet stocked with rifles in Mark Andrews’ bedroom. Other witnesses testified that Andrews had a long history of mental illness and had been previously detained on multiple “5150” holds, a section of California law that allows authorities to involuntarily hold someone who is a threat to himself and/or others.

“The family knew he had a 20-year history of serious mental illness,” said attorney Louis Koory, who is representing Barga.

A 5150 hold from 2009 occurred, according to court records, when Andrews accused another neighbor of being a vampire who had molested him. Under state law, persons involuntarily committed under the 5150 law cannot have access to guns for five years.

During her son’s criminal trial, Carol Andrews, a former nurse, said Mark Andrews moved back in with his parents after the 5150 hold in 2009. Yet, the lawsuit notes, there were multiple weapons in the home.

The guns had previously belonged to Mark Andrews’ father, Jan Andrews, a former psychiatric technician at Atascadero State Hospital who was also a gunsmith, according to court records.

“Why did you allow the defendant to live in a bedroom that had rifles, given the fact that his mental illness has caused him to be violent in the past?” asked deputy district attorney Matt Kraut during the criminal trial.

“The guns were not the most prominent thing on my mind,” Carol Andrews testified, according to a transcript of the testimony. “That summer when Mark moved in with us, I was running around trying to find him an apartment. My husband had three surgeries, I was busy doing IV medications at home with him and changing dressings, doing wound irrigations, all this stuff. I did not even consider those guns, you know.”

Kraut then mentioned it had been four years between the time Mark Andrews was put on involuntary hold and the time of the murder.

“To me, it wasn’t a problem,” she said. “My husband was still around. He, you know, sort of monitored all that stuff. But, you know, I didn’t think of them.”

After Jan Andrews died in August 2012, the guns remained in his son’s room.

At times, Carol Andrews testified, her son could be stable when medicated.

“But that can change within 24 hours,” Carol Andrews testified, adding that at times he could be really dangerous.

When her son’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, questioned her about the 5150 incident, Carol Andrews acknowledged she knew her son wasn’t supposed to have guns in his room, having viewed the paperwork related to his commitment.

“It was on the papers,” she testified.

While a jury found Mark Andrews legally sane when the murder occurred, multiple psychiatric witnesses testified about his mental illness.

According to Barga’s lawsuit, Carol Andrews knew about her son’s illness, “including psychotic episodes, hallucinations and paranoia coupled with hostile and threatening behavior towards others including his own family.”

After his 2009 commitment, police found a bizarre assortment of weapons in Mark Andrews’ apartment, including 10 daggers, seven swords, a spike-tipped hammer, a machete and a large battle axe. They also found two lists of names, several of the names marked “hate with death,” according to police reports.

Four years later, according to court records, he told investigators he had felt “evil” coming from Barga-Milbury. Following instructions from the voice of God, he said, he grabbed a .30-30 lever-action rifle from the cabinet in his room, knocked on Barga-Milbury’s door and shot her twice.

Typical of wrongful-death lawsuits involving children, Barga’s suit seeks compensation for loss of financial support plus the loss of love, care, comfort protection, moral support and advice.

Barga lives with his aunt, her husband and three daughters in New York.

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