Church and Fate
That would be his last entry. At 6 p.m. that evening, Rob, 39, drove to his old house to pick up his kids for the Thanksgiving weekend. At 6:20 Brenda phoned 911, crying, "I've been shot! My husband and I, we've been shot!" When police arrived at the scene, they found Brenda, 38, nursing a flesh wound to her left arm—and Rob dead on the garage floor. After telling police that two masked men had entered the garage and fired twice at Rob with a shotgun, Brenda was taken to the hospital. Hours later she retreated with her children to a friend's home—leaving Rob's family to learn of his death on the 10 o'clock news.
Since then the case has grown even more sensational. On Nov. 26, as 700 people gathered for Rob's funeral, his widow and Pavatt, 49, fled to Mexico with her kids in tow. Three days later the fugitive lovers were charged with first-degree murder. But three months would pass before the missing foursome was nabbed while trying to cross into Texas. Brenda and Pavatt, who insist they are innocent, were packed off to jail to await trial. (D.A. Wes Lane says he plans to seek the death penalty for both.) Tricity and Parker, placed in the temporary care of their paternal grandparents in Enid, Okla., have become embroiled in a heated custody battle between Brenda's and Rob's relatives.
Nothing could be further from the sunny family life Rob had pictured for his children, the kind he experienced in Enid. The third of four boys, Rob was a bright, creative kid who "always kept people laughing," says his dad, real estate executive E.R. Andrew, 66. Unflinching when it came to goals, Rob made up his mind in third grade that he wanted to be an advertising executive. After he set his sights on Brenda, a former local baton-twirling beauty, in 1982, he never looked back. "One time we were driving by a motel and Rob casually told me he found Brenda at the motel with a former boyfriend after he was engaged to her," says Judi Brown, a colleague at Jordan Associates, the advertising firm where Rob was a vice president. "I said, 'Rob, wake up.' But he was always quick to look for and believe the best." Even Rob's mother, Lou, 65, a property manager, concedes, "Brenda could be a lot of fun when she wanted to be."
After the couple's 1984 wedding, the relationship remained rocky. "Rob told me that on the honeymoon, Brenda told him she wished she hadn't married him," Lou recalls. In 1993 the couple entered counseling. "We all worked together with them," says Lou. "Rob didn't believe in divorce."
During these years the couple often changed churches. Brenda "would always have a confrontation with the church they were attending," says Barbara Green, Rob's confidante at Jordan. Then, in 1999, Rob helped found North Pointe Baptist and seemed to find new meaning in life. "I might look like the old Rob outside," he told friends, "but I'm a brand-new person inside." He focused more on church life and quit drinking with clients. "Brenda hated that," says Green. "She wanted the old Rob back—not that she really wanted the old Rob."
At North Pointe the pair found a mutual friend in Pavatt, who in 1996 had sold Rob an $800,000 life insurance policy. Like Rob, Pavatt was a deacon; with Brenda, he taught a Sunday school class. It is not clear when his friendship with Brenda turned amorous. At a preliminary hearing in June, a local grocery store worker and a second man testified to having had affairs with Brenda, the second of which ended in June '01.
When Pavatt and Brenda began to carry on like teenagers that summer, giggling and passing notes during services, other congregants noticed. The church's pastor Mark Sinor, 35, denies rumors that the pair was asked to leave the congregation. "Jim was going through a divorce, and it was a tough time for him," he says. "We just suggested that he step down as a deacon and Sunday school teacher for a season." When Brenda demanded that Rob defend her to church leaders and quit the church, he refused, noting in his journal, "I will not lie for Brenda."
The ensuing separation was so bitter that Rob grew suspicious when he noticed fluid beneath his car in October. "There is no doubt in my mind that the brake lines were cut," says Det. Mike Klika. "Mr. Andrew told me he was going through a difficult separation pending a divorce and he felt his wife and her boyfriend were responsible." Klika urged Rob not to visit his old home unescorted.
Rob ignored the advice. But he did try to switch the beneficiary on his life insurance policy from Brenda to his children. In his journal he wrote that Pavatt had insisted that Rob could not change the policy since he didn't own it. After Rob was reassured by higher-ups at Prudential that he was the sole owner, his colleague Green recalls notarizing paperwork to change the beneficiary. Prudential subsequently received a document—supposedly signed by Rob and dated March '01—naming Brenda as the policy's owner. "Rob did not remember signing it," says his divorce attorney Craig Box. "Prudential is holding everything in limbo."
But those truly in limbo are Tricity and Parker. When they first returned from Mexico, they spent several days staring blankly and chanting, "I want my mommy's family," prompting their grandparents, the Andrews, to suspect brainwashing. Today, says their psychologist Stephen Close, "they are relating to people dramatically better." They go to school, attend therapy—but still refuse to discuss what they heard or saw that fatal night. "Tricity does know that her mother is accused of murdering her father," says Philip Outhier, the children's court-appointed attorney. "Parker? I don't know how much he really understood." A court is scheduled to decide later this month whether Rob's parents or Brenda's sister Kim Bowlin will get guardianship of them. Custody will be permanent if Brenda is convicted.
When the twin trials begin next year, prosecutor Lane plans to argue two motives: greed and child custody. Noting that Pavatt's adult daughter Janna Larson testified at the preliminary hearing that Pavatt had told her that Brenda asked him to kill Rob, Lane says, "We believe it was James Pavatt, absolutely, who pulled the trigger." As for Brenda's motive, he says, "She could not handle Rob having the children, even for visitation." To all of this, her attorney Greg McCracken has a ready response: "No DNA. No fingerprints. No footprints. It's completely a circumstantial case."
Bob Stewart in Oklahoma City