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Judge hands down maximum sentence to Air Force Major who admitted to killing wife, beating remains with claw hammer

Andre McDonald after being sentenced to 20 years in prison (KSAT screengrab)

Andre McDonald after being sentenced to 20 years in prison (KSAT screengrab)

A Texas judge handed down the maximum sentence to a 43-year-old Air Force Major convicted of brutally killing his 29-year-old wife and later mutilating her body. San Antonio District Court Judge Frank Castro on Monday sentenced Andre McDonald to serve 20 years in prison for beating Andreen McDonald to death in 2019, then lighting her remains on fire and beating her body with a claw hammer.

McDonald was credited with just over two years already served and will be eligible for parole after serving another 8 years.

Following a two-week trial, a Bexar County jury on Friday shocked trial watchers in finding McDonald not guilty on one count of murder in his wife’s death. However, he was found guilty on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Prior to handing down the sentence, Judge Castro laid into McDonald, saying that he did not appear to show any emotion or regret during the duration of the trial.

“You burned her body, beat it with a hammer, and desecrated her corpse. After that it almost seems like the emotion of a serial killer or something,” Castro said. “You didn’t seem to care about the dead mother of your child. You just didn’t seem bothered by that.”

During the trial, the most explosive testimony came from McDonald himself, who described in detail Andreen’s death and the grisly aftermath. Judge Castro again noted that even during that testimony, McDonald showed “no emotion whatsoever,” saying the matter-of-fact description “defied the imagination.”

As previously reported by Law&Crime, McDonald testified that he acted in self-defense when an argument about money and fidelity turned physical, resulting in Andreen’s death.

McDonald said the controversy began when he learned that his wife left his name off of an important document establishing an assisted-living business when reviewing tax files at an H&R Block on Feb. 28, 2019.

“It’s not every day you find out your wife’s ripping you off,” McDonald said in a Bexar County court.

The ill feelings that resulted from that discovery, he added, were particularly bitter because he had also recently learned that Andreen McDonald was talking to an old boyfriend in the couple’s home country of Jamaica. So, he said, he left and went to a nearby park to cool down and listen to music until past midnight.

On March 1, 2019, the defendant said he returned home and was heading to the master bedroom when he unexpectedly saw his wife sitting alone in the living room. The discovery, he told jurors, prompted him to tell her he would file for divorce the next day – and unlike a prior divorce threat, he would go through with it this time.

In turn, McDonald said, his wife cursed him in Jamaican Patois: telling him to perform oral sex on his mother and calling him a term that refers to a homosexual. Both of those curses, he testified, would be considered fighting words among many in Jamaica.

After clarifying what she meant, the defendant said, he tried to retreat to the master bedroom but his wife followed him there. McDonald said he made a comment about splitting up the business in the divorce which incensed his wife further. He repeatedly insisted that his efforts to deescalate the situation went nowhere as the Patois insults continued and that eventually, Andreen McDonald spit in his face.

At that point he said, he reflexively grabbed her face and the couple’s heads made contact – likely resulting in a “cut” on “her lower face” because of the wife being “a bit taller” than the defendant. Then, McDonald told jurors, his wife ran into the master bathroom, inspected her face, saw the blood, and got “extremely angry.”

McDonald said his wife then rushed over, attacked him, and began throwing punches. A scuffle ensued, he said, and he intentionally tripped his wife down to the ground. The defendant then told jurors he “landed, like, a couple of kicks” and upon the second kick, he “heard some type of wheezing coming out of her.”

The fight in all, he said, lasted less than a minute or so.

Around the same time as it ended, McDonald said, he heard “some footsteps running” and discovered that the couple’s special-needs child was out of bed. He then said he went upstairs to take her back to bed. When he returned, he said, McDonald found his wife dead.

“Honestly, man, I became pretty frantic at that point,” the defendant testified on direct examination about when he discovered Andreen McDonald lacked a pulse. “She’s dead on the floor. We just had a fight. Obviously, I’m going to get blamed for this and I’ve got a 7-year-old autistic kid upstairs. Who’s going to take care of her?”

Watch the full sentencing hearing below.

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.