Jurors heard opening statements Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial against Brandon Andrews.
Andrews, 30, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder while armed, assault with intent to kill, and several threat and firearm charges in connection with the Aug. 2011 shooting death of 43-year-old Leonard Alphonso Bigelow.
Prosecutors believe Andrews was upset that Bigelow’s sister had ended their ten-month long relationship, and that the sister’s unwillingness to speak to Andrews pushed him over the edge. Andrews’ defense attorney argued Andrews was defending himself against a knife-wielding Bigelow.
“[Andrews] demanded the attention he couldn’t get from her, so he shot the person she loved more than him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shana Fulton told jurors.
During opening statements, Fulton told the court that the sister decided to end her relationship with Andrews on Aug. 22, 2011, after Andrews threatened to kill her.
Fulton said the argument between the couple began during a car ride home. The sister felt that Andrews’ threatening comments were inappropriate with her daughter in the car, so she pulled the vehicle over and asked nearby police to remove Andrews from the car. Later that night, Fulton said, Andrews sent the woman text messages in which he threatened to kill her.
Over the next four days, Andrews continued to send the sister threatening text messages, which Fulton said she repeatedly ignored.
But Andrews told her that he wanted his clothes back, so the sister decided to return his belongings in the safest way she knew: she dropped his clothes on a street corner near a D.C. shelter where she knew Andrews to be staying. This, Fulton told the jury, made Andrews furious.
“He cursed her out and he threatened her,” Fulton said.
According to Fulton, on the night of Aug. 26, 2011, Andrews decided to call the sister’s house. Home with her was her daughter, her father, and her brother, Leonard Bigelow. Bigelow answered the phone and told Andrews that his sister did not want to see Andrews, but Andrews insisted that he was going to stop by their house at 10 p.m.
Fulton told the jury that Andrews didn’t show up at the house until 10:43 p.m. As they saw him approaching, Bigelow and his sister went outside, but his sister turned around to go call police. In the seconds that it took for the call to be picked up by police, Andrews fired a single shot into Bigelow’s chest. Andrews also shot the sister’s father, Fulton said.
Two .25 caliber shell casings were found in front of the Bigelow’s home; the gun used to fire the bullets was found in Andrews’ pocket when he was arrested the next day, according to Fulton.
But Andrews’ defense attorney, Tejal Kothari, argued that Bigelow was the aggressor.
“Mr. Andrews was confronted and forced to make a split second decision,” Kothari said during opening arguments.
Kothari told the court that after the phone conversation with Andrews, Bigelow was “looking to fight.”
Kothari said that when Bigelow saw Andrews approaching the house he rushed outside and charged at him armed with a knife.
On the porch steps, just a few feet from Bigelow’s body, police recovered two knives: an open switchblade and a nine-inch kitchen knife Kothari said.
“Those knives were out there that night to be used on Mr. Andrews,” Kothari told the jury. “Mr. Andrews acted that night simply to protect himself.”
The trial is scheduled to resume in Judge Robert Morin’s courtroom Thursday.