Family Plot

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

Several family acquaintances portray the Wamsleys as controlling and suspicious of outsiders. Though Suzy was raised in the Church of Christ, the Wamsleys didn't attend church and seemed to have adopted the strictures of the church without the religious moorings. "Both kids believed that people were only nice to them for their own reasons" or because they wanted something, says one of Sarah's former boyfriends.

Andrew and Sarah fought constantly. Sarah was sent to a psychiatric facility for the first time when she was 16. "She was admitted to Millwood because her parents said she was rebellious," a former boyfriend says. "They were looking for a pill to fix her." Later, Sarah would be diagnosed as bipolar, a personality disorder characterized by extreme mood swings.

In March 1997, only weeks before Sarah's graduation from high school, Rick and Suzy had enough of her rebellion, kicking their daughter out of the house and throwing her belongings in their front yard.

Plotting at the IHOP: Andrew Wamsley, 19; Chelsea Richardson, 20; Hilario Cardenas, 24; and Susana Toledano, 19
Plotting at the IHOP: Andrew Wamsley, 19; Chelsea Richardson, 20; Hilario Cardenas, 24; and Susana Toledano, 19
Rick and Suzanna Wamsley pose at a New Year's Eve party. Their daughter Sarah, shown in her high school yearbook photo, was allegedly targeted, too.
Rick and Suzanna Wamsley pose at a New Year's Eve party. Their daughter Sarah, shown in her high school yearbook photo, was allegedly targeted, too.

According to court records, Sarah then moved in with Todd Cleveland, a Mansfield community college student she'd met at a party and had dated only briefly. Sarah had a daughter with Cleveland in January 1999. But the couple split up. Sarah, feeling unable to care for her child, gave up custody to Cleveland but retained visitation rights.

She worked as a teller at a finance company but struggled with alcohol abuse, according to friends and court records. On March 29, 2002, she was arrested after plowing her car into a fence and trying to flee from police. Sarah pleaded no contest to DWI.

Several times Sarah told co-workers she was going to "hurt herself." Once while at work she swallowed a handful of anti-depressants, but was taken to a hospital in time to have her stomach pumped. On one such occasion, court records show, the psychiatrist noted that Sarah suffered from depression and cited possible "emotional abuse by mother" and "minimal support from family."

In 2001, Sarah filed a lawsuit to regain custody of her daughter. Later, Cleveland earned his license as a master plumber and married another young woman. The custody case became very contentious. Sarah is now living with her paternal grandparents in Oklahoma. Reached by the Observer, Sarah declined to be interviewed but said that the comment about emotional abuse by her mother was "absolutely false."

One family acquaintance notes that Andrew seemed impulsive and immature. Out to dinner for his father's birthday, Andrew threw a bowl of queso dip across the room after his father refused to order an extra one. "He's a jackass," says a neighbor about the same age. "Andrew used to always say how he hated his dad." On one occasion, a friend was at their home when Rick insisted that Andrew give him an overdue video so that he could return it to the store. Andrew refused to stop watching, even though Rick promised to rent the movie again. Furious, Andrew threw the video at his father, hitting him in the head hard enough to draw blood.

One confrontation was serious enough to result in police visiting the Turnberry house on a domestic disturbance call, but Standefer says no arrests were made.

Andrew also had conflicts at work; rather than be fired, he quit his job as a shift manager at Putt-Putt Golf. "He's kind of a jerk, actually, very arrogant," says Jonathan Aston, a former co-worker. "He thought highly of himself. He was one of those managers that nobody wanted to work on his shift."

Andrew told Brustrom little about those conflicts, though he expressed frustration that his parents wouldn't let him work on his car, a 1998 white Mustang. They'd given him the car but not the title. "He wanted to soup up his Mustang," Brustrom says. "His parents were telling him it was fast enough."

The Wamsleys, Brustrom says, didn't know Andrew was dating Chelsea. "They knew they were friends, and Chelsea had met his parents," Brustrom says. "I think Chelsea fell hard for Andrew. They thought Chelsea was poor white trash."

By the fall of 2003, Andrew had dropped out of college. His parents had cut him off financially, so he was virtually living at the Richardson house, which Standefer describes as "filthy, with roaches crawling on the ceiling." Andrew and Chelsea were spending lots of time at the IHOP, often joined by Toledano, who Brustrom says had also moved in with the Richardsons after a conflict with her mother.

Toledano was struggling to finish high school while working at a fast-food joint. She and Chelsea had been buddies for several years. The two had taken out a page in the Everman High School 2003 senior yearbook with photos of them, cartoon drawings of saucy females and the mottos "Naughty & Nice," "Smile Now, Cry Later" and "Up to No Good."

Anchoring the page was a poem titled "Friends Are Forever," written by Chelsea. "Who hold[s] my hand in tragedy/And stick up in a fallacy/Morals, value, strength, courage and sticking to you/That's what my friends see."

Toledano occasionally came to Brustrom's with Chelsea and Andrew. Brustrom saw her as a girl with low self-esteem. "Chelsea could tell her what to do," Brustrom says.

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