A 34-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills woman was convicted Thursday of poisoning, beating and stabbing her terminally ill husband to death in October 2000 and now faces the possibility of the death penalty.
If sentenced to death, Wendi Andriano would become the second woman on Arizona’s death row. Jurors, who took 2 1 /2 hours to return their verdict, will begin hearing evidence in the penalty phase Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
After the guilty verdict was announced, Andriano glanced sharply at defense attorney David DeLozier. Her husband’s parents and two sisters, one of whom is raising the couple’s two small children, cried quietly and exchanged hugs.
"This is a relief for us because now we can get on with our life, and the children can get on with their life and have the normal family life they deserve," said Jeanea Lambeth, one of the sisters.
Jurors were told Andriano grew tired of the time it was taking Joseph Andriano, 33, to die and devised a plan to poison him with the pesticide sodium azide. Prosecutor Juan Martinez said Wendi Andriano believed she could receive as much as $20 million if her husband died before their medical malpractice suit went to trial.
Not only did Wendi Andriano have two affairs in the weeks before her husband’s death, but she called multiple insurance companies in an attempt to get policies on her husband, Martinez said. She also asked two men to impersonate Joseph Andriano during the required physical exams — offering one of them $10,000 to do so, the prosecutor said.
Wendi Andriano’s attorneys, DeLozier and Dan Patterson, painted her as a meek and battered wife desperate for affection.
Andriano testified that her husband was the one who devised a plan that would end his life on his terms and provide life insurance for their two children, Nicholas, then 3, and Ashley, then 2. It was at his insistence, she claimed, that she purchased the insecticide under a false name and tried to purchase extra life insurance.
Andriano said that on the day of her husband’s death he voluntarily took the poison in pill form and stabbed himself in the neck after learning she had a one-night stand. She said she beat her enraged husband repeatedly with a bar stool in self-defense.
According to court testimony, Joseph Andriano was struck in the head 23 times and the pesticide was found in a pot of soup and two bowls.
Wendi Andriano faces either life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years, life without parole, or the death penalty. She could receive the death penalty if the jury finds the slaying was especially cruel, heinous and depraved and because the motivating factor was money.
If given the death penalty, Andriano will join Debra Milke on death row. Milke was convicted of hiring two friends to shoot her 4-year-old son to death in December 1989 because she didn’t want him to grow up to be like his father. The boy went with the men believing he was going to visit Santa Claus.