Family Plot

Rick and Suzanna Wamsley were strict with their children. Police say their son paid them back with murder.

On April 5, residents of Walnut Estates heard that authorities in Illinois had arrested 19-year-old Susana Toledano, a high school student in Everman, a suburb of Fort Worth, alleging she was involved in the Wamsley murders. The next day police arrested Hilario Cardenas, a 24-year-old night manager at an Arlington IHOP; a police affidavit for his arrest warrant says Toledano implicated him in the slayings.

But the biggest shock came two days later when Mansfield police arrested Toledano's best friend, 20-year-old Chelsea Richardson, and Richardson's boyfriend--Andrew Wamsley, the couple's 19-year-old son--and charged them with solicitation of capital murder, based on circumstantial evidence, including Cardenas' claim at the time that he was induced by Andrew and Richardson to kill the Wamsleys.

Extradited to Texas, Toledano joined the others being held on a $1 million bond while police continued the investigation. On April 19, the complaint against Andrew was amended to say that he--not Cardenas--shot and stabbed his mother and father to death. The motive, police claimed, was the Wamsleys' $1 million life insurance policy and other assets.

Susana Toledano and Chelsea Richardson were best friends at Joe C. Bean High School in Everman. Andrew Wamsley attended his girlfriend Chelsea's high school graduation.
Susana Toledano and Chelsea Richardson were best friends at Joe C. Bean High School in Everman. Andrew Wamsley attended his girlfriend Chelsea's high school graduation.
Suzanna and Rick Wamsley learn the two-step at a friend's birthday party.
Suzanna and Rick Wamsley learn the two-step at a friend's birthday party.

At least one family member was already convinced that Andrew did it. Though few people knew it, in March, Sarah Wamsley, 25, had filed papers in probate court to block her brother's inheritance of any family assets, blaming Andrew for the murders and accusing him of trying to kill her as well. She asked the judge to prevent Andrew from spending any of the estate's money. Andrew's attorney filed papers denying the accusations.

On July 1, almost seven months after the crime, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted Andrew Wamsley, Richardson and Toledano for capital murder and Cardenas on conspiracy to commit capital murder. No trial dates have been set.

Mansfield Detective Ralph Standefer says the biggest break in the case came in late March when DNA tests matched a clump of hair found in Rick's fist to Susana Toledano. According to a series of police affidavits, her arrest triggered a domino effect, with the subsequent arrests of Cardenas, then Richardson and Andrew Wamsley. Their statements and evidence gathered by police paint a harrowing picture of what happened to Rick and Suzy Wamsley.

By the time the 911 call was made, Standefer says, the Wamsleys had been dead at least eight to 12 hours. He believes Andrew, Richardson and Toledano had arrived at the home sometime early on December 11. Police would later estimate that the attacks occurred at 3 a.m., based on a neighbor's report of hearing gunshots around that time.

Using a garage door opener, the trio entered the dark house through the garage, police say. Suzy, wearing a T-shirt and panties, was asleep on a couch, covered with a blanket. One of them shot Suzy in the head at close range; the bullet pierced her left ear, killing her instantly. "She never knew what happened," Standefer says.

Rick apparently was sleeping in the master bedroom. He heard the shots and jumped out of bed. The shooter fired at him from the door of the bedroom, missing twice. Nearly naked and faced with a gun, Rick didn't back down.

"He goes for these people," Standefer says.

In the hallway between the bedroom and living room, a third bullet struck Rick. But Rick kept fighting. "There was a horrible struggle," the detective says. Stabbed repeatedly with a knife in the chest, arms, back and face, Rick grappled with his attackers.

"He fights them all the way through the living room," Standefer says. "He fought them to his very last breath." Shot in the head and back, stabbed more than 21 times, Rick finally collapsed in the front entryway.

Standefer believes that after killing Rick, Andrew and his accomplices returned to Suzy's body to see if one gunshot had done the job. "I don't think they realized how hard it was to kill somebody," Standefer says. "So they went back and stabbed Suzy to make sure she was dead." Standefer declined to say which of the three he believes actually fired the shots or stabbed the victims. No weapons have been found.

The 911 call wasn't made until the night of December 11. Standefer says police don't know who dialed the phone, but he guesses from fingerprints that it was Andrew, impatient for someone to find the bodies. "It's not because he feels bad, but he wants to speed the process up," Standefer says. "He was so focused on the money aspect; the longer it dragged on, he wasn't going to get his money.

"I think he had a really skewed concept of how that happened, like your parents are deceased, and the next week you get a check."

The Dallas Observer spoke to several friends of the alleged attackers; they painted a picture of young people utterly adrift in life--who had either lost a parent or held deep animosity toward them--gathering at the IHOP to engage in a kids' role-playing card game. That's where early versions of the murder plot supposedly were hatched--versions that also targeted Andrew's sister Sarah.

Initially, police had little physical evidence linking Andrew and his girlfriend to the crime. But Rick's last act, described in a police affidavit after Toledano's arrest, would break the case wide open. Screaming, "No, God, no!" Rick lunged in the dark for one of the killers, grabbing a small piece of scalp--no more than five to 10 strands of hair--as he fell to the floor. Police found a broken blue hair clip nearby.

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