December 23, 2004
Arizona now has two women on death row. A jury decided Wednesday that death by lethal injection is the suitable punishment for Wendi Andriano, who in 2000 tried to poison her terminally ill husband and then bludgeoned him with a bar stool and plunged a kitchen knife into his neck.
Andriano sobbed and buried her head in her attorney’s chest when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Brian Ishikawa announced the sentence. She declined to make a statement.
Joseph and Jeanette Andriano, the parents of victim Joseph Andriano Jr., said the verdict brought them no joy.
“Closure isn’t the right word,” Joseph Andriano Sr. said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over losing my son.”
The parents and their daughter, Jeanea Lambeth, said the decision to seek and impose the death penalty was something they left up to the justice system.
“Nobody wins in this. This is not about who won or who lost,” Lambeth said. “The person she needs to fear is not here on Earth.”
The jury deliberated for eight hours and decided that Wendi Andriano’s lawyers didn’t present enough evidence for leniency in the penalty phase of the trial.
The verdict ended 17 weeks of trial.
Wendi Andriano, 34, is the second woman among 105 inmates on Arizona’s death row. She joins Debra Jean Milke, who maintains she did not set up the December 1989 murder of her 4-year-old son, Christopher Milke. The little boy went with his killers on the pretense of visiting Santa Claus.
The same jury that condemned Wendi Andriano to death on Wednesday convicted her Nov. 18 of first-degree murder after 2 1/2 hours of deliberation.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors that the Ahwatukee Foothills woman was looking for a $20 million payoff from a lawsuit arising out of the misdiagnosis of her husband’s cancer.
She understood that Joseph Andriano, 33, was worth more dead than if he survived, and she grew weary of waiting for him to succumb to his illness, Martinez said.
On Oct. 8, 2000, Wendi Andriano slipped a pesticide into her husband’s soup. When he didn’t immediately die, she hit him over the head with a bar stool 23 times before stabbing him, all while their two children slept in the other room.
Martinez portrayed Wendi Andriano as a manipulative, overbearing philanderer.
Wendi Andriano claimed to be a submissive, devout Christian who suffered years of mental and physical abuse from her husband. She said she helped him attempt suicide by obtaining the poison and helped him put it in capsules that he could take.
During her nine days on the witness stand, Wendi Andriano said her husband became enraged when she confessed to being unfaithful, and she fought him off. She said he grabbed the knife to stick himself in the neck, which she tried to prevent, but she lost her grip and he stabbed himself.
The jury decided Dec. 6 after four hours of deliberation that Wendi Andriano was eligible for the death penalty, finding that the murder was committed in an “especially cruel” manner. Martinez supported his case for the death penalty by saying that Joseph Andriano was going to die of cancer in less than a year, and that his wife let him suffer the effects of the poison for 90 minutes before hitting him with the bar stool.
Defensive wounds on his hands show that Joseph Andriano was conscious during some of the blows, and he was also alive when she stabbed him, Martinez said.
Hearing all of the lies about their son was painful, Jeanette Andriano said.
“He was such a likable man. He was a good-time Joe who had lots of friends and could make people laugh,” Jeanette Andriano said.
Lambeth, who is raising the couple’s children, said the past few years have been “surreal.”
“I don’t know who that person in the courtroom was,” Lambeth said. “She was the perfect liar. She played us all.”