Family Plot

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

Both Sarah and Andrew agreed to take polygraphs. Sarah passed, Standefer says, but Andrew failed. At that point, Chelsea and Andrew refused to provide DNA samples. Their cooperation was over.

In January, police issued subpoenas compelling eight people, including Andrew, Sarah, Chelsea and Toledano, to submit DNA evidence. The only reason Toledano was included was because she was Chelsea's roommate and, like Chelsea, her hair was dyed, as were the strands in Rick's hand. Her DNA test would rip the case open.

Andrew and Chelsea spent the month of February with Brustrom. "His probate lawyer said for them to go somewhere and have a vacation," Brustrom says. The couple seemed normal enough, though concerned about the investigation.
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.

Mansfield police were aggressively pursuing the case, homing in on Andrew, Chelsea and their friends. According to a police affidavit, Toledano testified in February before a Tarrant County grand jury. She claimed that she'd been to the Wamsley house only once almost a year earlier and had never been inside.

Brustrom tried to get Andrew to talk about his feelings concerning his parents' deaths. "To me he seemed like he was in denial, in shock," Brustrom says. "But he would only talk to Chelsea. She said he would talk and cry at night about his parents."

For a while, they fell into a routine. Andrew cooked all the meals; Chelsea did the dishes and helped with Brustrom's kids. They talked of taking a long holiday far away after they were cleared as suspects. Eventually they'd get married. But being under suspicion had strained the couple's relationship. "Andrew would get stressed and get quiet," Brustrom says. "Chelsea would cry."

The tension at Brustrom's home grew thicker. Roughhousing between Andrew and Chelsea got out of hand; arguments grew louder and more frequent. Tired of making peace between the two, Brustrom told them they had to leave.

The couple moved back to Chelsea's house in early March and began setting up the aquarium Andrew had brought from his parents' home. "I think they thought everything with the investigation had calmed down," Brustrom says.

But it was about to accelerate.

In early March, Sarah filed her lawsuit, trying to block her brother from collecting her father's life insurance or other funds, alleging that he "was the principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about the death" of Rick Wamsley. The judge granted Sarah's request for a temporary restraining order against her brother.

On March 10, Andrew gave a deposition in the probate case, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself under oath. The proceeding lasted four minutes. His attorney filed an answer to Sarah's lawsuit, denying Andrew had anything to do with the murders.

A day later, Sarah's attorney filed an unusual letter from Detective Barbara Slayton-Bell, victims assistance coordinator with the Mansfield police, to the Texas attorney general. "During the course of the investigation, suspects were identified to include both Sarah and Andrew Wamsley (victim's daughter and son). Sarah Wamsley has cooperated with the Mansfield police department's investigation in every way and was subsequently eliminated as a suspect...

"Evidence obtained during the investigation is vast and substantial, however at this time not able to produce probable cause. Considerable reasonable suspicion surrounds Andrew Wamsley as a suspect in this case and as such he should not be considered for any type of benefit from the deaths of his parents Rick and Suzanna Wamsley."

On March 30, DNA tests on the hair found in Rick's hand came back. They matched Toledano, who had disappeared. Tracked to a relative's home in Addison, Illinois, Toledano was arrested on April 4. Her statement led police to the IHOP and Cardenas, who had not even been under investigation. Andrew and Chelsea were arrested on April 7 in the parking lot outside a Chicken Express near her home. They've been in jail since.

As curious neighbors wandered onto her property on May 9, Brustrom turned them away. Her five acres were crawling with FBI agents, Texas Rangers, Mansfield police and firefighters from four different departments--who stayed all day to drain her pond. In the muck at the bottom, investigators scooped up bullets later matched to those from the Wamsley killings and the drive-by shooting, Standefer says.

At the time of his arrest, Andrew listed his assets as his father's wedding ring, the family silver and $100 in a bank account.

Andrew Wamsley, Cardenas and Toledano declined the Observer's requests for interviews. Though Chelsea initially agreed to an interview, she changed her mind when her attorney Mike Maloney refused to allow it. A paralegal who works for Maloney says Chelsea denies having anything to do with the murders. (Attorneys for Wamsley and Toledano didn't return phone calls from the Observer.)

But in his Fort Worth office, Ray Hall Jr., the court-appointed attorney who represents Cardenas, says that when the IHOP manager was arrested, he didn't even know the Wamsleys had been murdered. Problem is, Cardenas' story has changed a number of times, police say.

Dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a silver-and-turquoise bolo tie, Hall is a former rodeo bareback rider with a goatee like a Brillo pad. He describes Cardenas as a man working 12-hour days to provide for his wife and child. With little time for friends, he wanted to fit in with Andrew, Chelsea and their buddies.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help