Friday, November 21, 2014

A Family Tragedy - "Shock, Confusion, Grief"

Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

     Prosecutors called it "a bloody massacre."
     The March 5, 2011, brutal murders of 70-year-old Joseph C. McAndrew, his wife, 64-year-old Susan C. McAndrew, and their son, 23-year-old James McAndrew, in the family's Holstein Road home in Upper Merion stunned the local community. The arrest of the couple's other son, Joseph Jr., sent additional shockwaves through the community.
Convicted killer Joseph McAndrew Jr./Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
     "He snuffed out the lives of three people who were wonderful people who were having great impacts in their community and that's the tragedy of what occurred," Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said this week when Joseph McAndrew Jr., 27, was sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms after he was found guilty but mentally ill of three counts of first-degree murder.
     "The family is devastated by what happened. The far-reaching impacts of what occurred are unimaginable," Steele added, referring to the grief suffered by the victims' relatives.
     That grief, that loss, was palpatable in the courtroom when Steele, with a sorrowful tone in his voice, read to Judge Gary S. Silow a heart-wrenching letter written by the killer's half-sisters, who are the daughters of the elder, slain McAndrew. You could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom as deep sadness flowed from the pages of the victim impact statement and was soaked in by all who listened. One could not help but be moved by the revealing, candid words.

Montco First Asst. DA Kevin Steele & co-prosecutor Kathleen McLaughlin
Excerpts of the McAndrew family's victim impact statement appeared in daily newspaper accounts about the sentencing hearing. However, because of limited space in daily papers, the entirety of the statement could not be included in the typical news accounts. So I am sharing the poignant statement, as read in open court to Judge Silow, to provide readers with a better understanding of the confusion and anguish suffered by those in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy.

Honorable Judge Silow:

This statement is being made on behalf of Joseph McAndrew Sr.'s daughters and their husbands.

There are no words that can adequately describe the full impact of the horrific actions that took place during the evening of March 5, 2011. Those actions abruptly altered the path of our lives forever. The past three and half years have been filled with shock, confusion, disbelief, grief, depression, anger and anxiety. Everything we thought we understood in our lives, had to be reexamined. Simple things in life became great challenges, for example:
  • being able to go alone into the basement at night
  • having dinner in a restaurant and not anxiously be watching the door to make sure the defendant isn't entering
  • focusing on the blessings in life, when all you want to do is cry
We had to rebuild our confidence in the things that most people take for granted everyday; all while trying to deal with and accept the loss of our dearest loved ones, Joe Sr., Sue, and Jimmy. We know life is not easy, but no family should have to go on the path we have encountered and will continue to encounter.
  • The defendant didn't have to go through and clean out the home, which was once filled with so many wonderful memories, but now stands as an awful reminder of the tragic actions that took place.
  • The defendant will not have to explain to our children why they won't be able to see their Nana, Pop Pop McAndrew or their Uncle Jimmy.
There is absolutely no justifiable reason for the actions that resulted in the loss of our father, mother and brother. Those actions can only be accounted for by true evil, nothing else.

By the grace of God, our family has begun picking up the pieces. We continue to pray that God will work in our hearts to be able to forgive the defendant for this horrific act. However, we will never forget what happened by the hands of the defendant.

Your Honor, while this victim impact statement conveys some of the impact of the defendant's actions to our lives, this statement isn't really about us. If it were, we would have elected not to make a statement. This statement is really about our obligation to confront evil. This obligation requires us to give you some insight into the far reaching, long lasting effects of that night that are beyond the scope of this trial. In doing so, we encourage you to sentence the defendant to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. It is imperative that the defendant never again has the opportunity to harm another person.

The McAndrew Family

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