To those on the outside, their life together exemplified the American dream. But in privacy of their home, they were living a nightmare.
Air Force Major Andre McDonald and Andreen McDonald, née Anderson, got married soon after meeting in the small idyllic Jamaican city of Port Antonio in 2009.
They moved to San Antonio, Texas, and a few years later had a daughter, Alayna. Their fortunes flourished, with the couple opening a small home health business. Soon they owned a stately house in Stone Oaks, a well-heeled community in northern San Antonio.
But with success came conflict, and in the late-night hours of February 28, 2019, they argued over text message about a business disagreement.
“All you do is scheme, but I’m no fool,” Andre texted his wife that night.
Shortly after midnight, on March 1, her phone was turned off. That was the last anyone heard from her.
A local discovered her remains five months later.
Why Were Andreen McDonald and Andre McDonald Fighting Before She Disappeared?
By the time of her disappearance, Andreen and Andre’s business had grown to a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
“They were making seven figures,” Steven Speir, the Assistant Criminal District Attorney of Bexar County who was lead prosecutor in Andreen McDonald’s homicide case, tells A&E True Crime, before adding: “Largely through her efforts.”
According to Speir, the couple had launched their company in large part with a loan Andre had secured. As an employee of the U.S. Air Force at the Lackland Air Force Base with 10 years seniority on his wife, Andre had the credit necessary to help their dream come to fruition. Once they had the seed money, Andreen handled most of the business’s day-to-day work. They split the profits 50/50.
On the day Andreen disappeared, the couple visited a local accountant, where Andre discovered that she had omitted his name while filling out paperwork for the business.
Andre McDonald “felt like [Andreen] was trying to squirrel away some money—away from him,” Speir says, adding that this was largely a misguided view because their status as a married couple ensured that he was entitled, by Texas family law, to half her earnings.
But there were other sources of tension in their marriage too according to Spier, including infidelity on Andreen’s part with an ex-boyfriend.
“The marriage was not on solid ground at all,” Speir says, noting that Andre had already physically abused his wife several times before her death. “Things were not going well.”
How Was Andreen McDonald Killed?
Andreen McDonald was declared a missing person shortly after she failed to show up to meet her personal trainer the morning of March 1, 2019. And although it would be months before Andre was formally charged with his wife’s death, investigators suspected him immediately.
Andre gave conflicting information to investigators on initial questioning. And security footage from a nearby store showed him purchasing several suspicious items from a hardware store in the immediate aftermath of Andreen’s disappearance, including an axe, a log-splitter and several heavy-duty trash bags.
Meanwhile, the scene inside their house also raised alarms. There, investigators discovered blood stains on the light switch of the couple’s bathroom, as well as a hammer in the trash with Andreen’s blood and DNA on it.
Robert Hanlon, an expert in interpersonal homicide who teaches psychiatry and neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says intimate partner homicide is far more likely to involve weapons that bring the offender physically close to their victims—as opposed to, say, a gun.
“To kill someone with a knife, or a hammer, is a more intimate type of violence,” he says, noting that the close proximity of the murder is a natural extension of the more intimate nature of the relationship.
It’s also, Hanlon says, about circumstance: intimate partner homicide is more likely to occur inside of a home.
When Andreen’s skeletal remains were found on private property five miles from the McDonald home, months after her death, a medical examiner concluded she had likely died from “blunt force trauma,” consistent with a hammer attack.
What Happened at Andre McDonald’s Trial?
Only three days before his trial was set to begin, Andre McDonald called Andreen’s sister, Cindy Johnson, and admitted to killing his wife.
But it was not a confession to murder. Rather, Andre told Cindy that his had been an act of self-defense. He would repeat this claim at trial, taking the stand in his own defense.
“When I cross-examined him, it was surreal,” Speir says. “Most people I have tried in the past who caused someone’s death are at least sorry they did it. But he seemed like he was still angry at her. It was very depersonalized…he maybe used her name once.”
After nearly 13 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on a manslaughter charge for Andre, but declined to convict him on a more serious murder charge.
The judge in the case, Frank Castro, sentenced Andre to 20 years in prison; later, McDonald received an additional five years for evidence tampering.
His daughter, 7 years old at the time of the killing, wrote him a letter, which a victim’s advocate read at his court sentencing.
“You killed my mother. You took away my life and you broke my heart. And you hurt my feelings.”