The son of an Atascadero woman shot to death by a neighbor with severe mental illness will receive $1 million after settling a lawsuit with the killer’s mother, who the victim’s son argued should not have allowed her son to possess a cache of guns and other deadly weapons.
Colleen Barga-Milbury, 52, was shot and killed by Mark Alan Andrews, 53, on May 22, 2013, after she opened the front door of her Tranquilla Avenue home to him.
During Andrews’ murder trial, a District Attorney’s investigator testified that weapons found in Andrews’ room included 10 daggers, seven swords, a spike-tipped hammer, a machete, a large battle ax, armor, helmets, rifle shells and a rifle cabinet with several rifles, including the one used to kill Barga-Milbury.
A former Atascadero State Hospital employee, Barga-Milbury was described by friends and family at the time as living a quiet life caring for her then 15-year-old son with autism. Her son found her lifeless body, shot twice, when he returned home from school.
According to court documents, Andrews knocked on Barga-Milbury’s door and shot her in the abdomen when she answered. After she fell to the floor, he cycled the weapon’s action and shot her in the head. Afterward, he went home and returned the gun — a lever-action .30-30 rifle typically used for deer hunting — to the cabinet in his bedroom.
This was a preventable tragedy. Any kind of effort to secure these weapons and this would not have happened.
Robert Barga’s attorney, Louis Koory
Andrews was found guilty of first-degree murder in Barga-Milbury’s death after less than a day of deliberations following a weekslong trial in February 2015. The same jury later found that he was sane at the time of the killing, and Andrews was sentenced to 50 years in state prison.
He is currently serving his sentence at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
During Andrews’ trial, a forensic psychologist testified that the defendant long-believed he was a werewolf and that God commanded him to kill Barga-Milbury, who he believed was a vampire. Andrews had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to testimony.
Andrews had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital several times, including in 2009 after a similar incident in which he allegedly harassed another neighbor he believed to be a vampire, court records show. While investigating that case, police found two lists of names in Andrews’ home, according to police reports, several of which were marked with the words “hate with death.”
By law, involuntarily committed patients considered a danger to themselves or others — known as 5150 patients — cannot own guns for five years after their release from a hospital.
Andrews’ mother testified that he had once called police during an episode and threatened to kill someone. However, while Andrews’ mother said her son exhibited signs of dangerous mentally ill behavior, neither she nor her late husband ever removed the stocked gun cabinet from their son’s bedroom.
“It’s been there for 30 years,” Carol Andrews testified in February 2015, adding that at the time of the killing she was dealing with her husband’s failing health and later death and that she did not think to remove it.
Barga-Milbury’s son, Robert Barga, turns 19 in May and currently lives with his aunt in New York, his San Luis Obispo-based attorney Louis Koory said Thursday.
Barga filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carol Andrews in May 2015, arguing that she was negligent in allowing her son access to the weapons given his 20-year history of mental health problems, which included “psychotic episodes, hallucinations and paranoia coupled with hostile and threatening behavior toward others, including his own family,” the lawsuit reads.
Barga sought compensation for loss of financial support plus the loss of love, care, comfort, protection, moral support and advice from his mother.
On Friday, Barga and Carol Andrews reached a pretrial settlement, under the terms of which Barga will receive $1 million — the policy limit of Andrews’ homeowner’s coverage — invested in annuities that will provide Barga an income for life.
“Irregardless of whether or not Mr. Andrews had a 5150 hold, common sense would dictate that those weapons be secured from someone with a serious mental illness. This was a preventable tragedy,” Koory said. “Any kind of effort to secure these weapons and this would not have happened.”
Koory said Barga is doing well in New York and is preparing to graduate high school.
“It’s a real heart-breaker, but he’s in good hands,” Koory said.