Family Plot

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The last time Patty Clarke talked to Suzanna Wamsley, the Christmas season was just beginning. Her neighbor was on her way to purchase some pretty towels for an elderly lady moving into an assisted living facility. Typical Suzanna. If a neighbor had a death in the family, sweet, upbeat Suzanna was there with a pie.

"Suzy got along with everybody, and everybody liked her," Clarke says.

Her husband, Rick, was the same way. When the Clarkes had needed a ride home after a car accident sent them to the emergency room, Rick came to the rescue, even though it was almost midnight. Family and friends came first with the Wamsleys.

And Rick and Suzy seemed like the perfect neighborhood couple. An accountant, Rick was tall and handsome, a high school athlete when he met Suzy. He attended Oklahoma State University; she studied art at Oklahoma Christian College.

The couple married in 1978, two years after her high school graduation. Their first child, Sarah, was born seven months later, on Valentine's Day. Suzy gave birth to Andrew in 1984. But if motherhood and time had broadened her waistline, it hadn't diminished her good looks. Tall, with a shoulder-length coif of vibrant red curls, Suzy still turned heads in her 40s.

"People would stop her and say, 'What color do you use on your hair?'" Clarke says. "She loved it. She didn't use anything."

Rick had worked for oil companies in Houston, Salt Lake City and then Dallas. Wherever they lived, their activities revolved around their children and their home. Even more than most of their friends, the Wamsleys' house on Turnberry Drive in Mansfield was a reflection of their personalities. Rick, a CPA, practiced from a home office and liked to work in the yard. He built a flagstone patio and tiered fountain in the back yard with his own hands.

Suzy had once leased a booth at a local antiques mall to sell her finds. Clarke says she gave it up to spend more time at home. When Sarah was a cheerleader at Mansfield High School, Suzy went to pep rallies, taking photos of her dark-haired daughter in her uniform. She and Andrew often went fishing.

An excellent cook, Suzy would make separate meals if one family member didn't like what was offered that night. "Suzy was the perfect homemaker," Clarke says. She made sure Andrew's favorite brownies were always on hand and ordered pizza for his friends when they came over to play video games.

The Wamsleys had become such close friends with the Clarkes and neighbor Mickey Legg and her husband that they often celebrated holidays together. When it was the Wamsleys' turn to host, Clarke and Legg knew that Suzy's home would be beautifully decorated for the occasion.

Legg went to the Wamsleys' house on December 9, 2003, to see Suzy's meticulously trimmed Christmas tree. Rick was putting the finishing touches on the outside lights lining the eaves. "They were in great spirits that night," Legg says. The women talked about when the three couples would get together for their traditional holiday party to exchange gifts.

On December 11, when Patty Clarke arrived home at about 9 p.m., she was surprised to see that the Christmas lights at the Wamsleys' were not blazing as usual. She assumed Rick and Suzy had gone out for the evening.

Clarke was still up in the early morning hours of December 12 when one of her son's friends arrived and asked, "What's going on next door?" Squad cars were parked in front of the Wamsley house, cherry tops spinning. Clarke learned from police officers that the Wamsleys had been found dead. Barely able to process the terrifying news, Clarke tried to help when officers came by later to see if she knew how to contact the Wamsleys' children. But she had no idea.

Someone had made a 911 call from the Wamsley home at 11:40 p.m. but had either said nothing or put down the phone. When Mansfield police arrived at 11:44, they knocked on the front door but got no response. Officers found the garage door open; the door leading from the garage into the house was open, too.

Suzy was lying on the living-room couch. The attackers had shot her in the left ear with a large-caliber weapon, according to an autopsy report, and then stabbed her at least 18 times in the chest and neck.

Rick--6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, wearing only boxer shorts--had been shot in the face and back and stabbed numerous times. Police found two sets of bloody shoeprints throughout the living room, dining room and entryway. There was no sign of forced entry, and nothing appeared to be missing.

The news of the Wamsley murders hit Walnut Estates like a storm slamming into an opulent cruise ship. Had they surprised a burglar looking for Christmas loot? Was a maniac on the loose in their little enclave? Where would he strike next? Free-floating paranoia reigned throughout the holiday season.

The Mansfield police said the killings were isolated crimes, but offered so little information that a rumor began circulating in the tension-filled neighborhood that the Wamsleys were in the federal witness protection program and the murders were professional "hits." To Clarke, that seemed far-fetched. But so did every other explanation of the gruesome crime.

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.

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.

"Had he not had that hair in his hand, I don't think we would have ever got there," Standefer says.

In 1995, when the Wamsleys moved into the large two-story home on Turnberry Drive, the country-club neighborhood of Walnut Estates was expanding. Once a mostly rural, blue-collar town south of Arlington, Mansfield was benefiting from white flight. Custom homebuilders had flocked to the town, catering to well-to-do parents anxious to escape blighted urban schools in Dallas and Fort Worth.

In the last decade, Walnut Estates had become the place to live in Mansfield. Now the streets that border the Walnut Creek Country Club are lined with two-story brick and stone houses encircled by manicured yards. It's common to see residents tooling around in golf carts.

The city has struggled to keep up with its growth. The Mansfield school district is building schools as fast as it can, and at times, there's a collision between the children of the newly arrived, upwardly mobile parents and working-class families with deep roots in southern Tarrant County.

If Andrew Wamsley came from one world, then his girlfriend, Chelsea Richardson, decidedly came from the other.

When the teenagers and their friends showed up at the IHOP behind the Parks at Arlington Mall, the waitresses could count on three things: They'd take up a big booth for hours, and they'd battle with Yu-Gi-Oh cards, the Japanese trading cards collected by kids. And they'd complain. Night manager Hilario Cardenas began stopping by during his shift to make sure the food was satisfactory.

Bubbly, blond and a bit overweight, Chelsea was attending Joe C. Bean High School in blue-collar Everman. In late 2002, the middle of her senior year, Chelsea had started going to the IHOP with her older brother, a Yu-Gi-Oh aficionado who worked as a security guard. They lived in a small, run-down tract home. The Richardsons' father, an ironworker and former Marine named Thaddeus "Tank" Richardson, had died in 1999 in his 40s. Their mother, Celia, worked several jobs to make ends meet.

For the young Richardsons and their friends, the IHOP was a home away from home. That's where Chelsea met Andrew, who had graduated in May 2002 from Mansfield High School.

Like Chelsea's brother, Andrew loved Yu-Gi-Oh, which attracts some of the same teens and young adults who love Dungeons & Dragons and computer gaming. "We'd sit there eight hours straight and play," says one of Andrew's friends. "It's a lot safer than drugs but just as expensive. We'd stay there until 6 in the morning."

Chelsea didn't care for Yu-Gi-Oh, in which players use a deck of 40 cards to duel, pitting various "monsters" against each other by way of traps and spells. Skilled players wait for the right time to play certain cards, like "Pot of Greed," which allows them to outdraw their opponents. At the store where Andrew often bought Yu-Gi-Oh cards to strengthen his collection, Chelsea would find someone to talk to. Chelsea loved to talk.

"She could make friends with the devil himself," says Ruth Brustrom, a family friend who'd known Chelsea since she was 9. Her husband, Ray, had taken over the role of father to the Richardson siblings after their dad died. Then Ray, who worked construction and raised fighting roosters, passed away in August 2002. If Chelsea's life seemed aimless, losing two father figures hadn't helped.

Andrew Wamsley's home had every comfort, but he loved Brustrom's place in the country, where double-wide trailers on a few acres are the norm.

Andrew and Chelsea began coming to Brustrom's five-acre spread just outside Burleson in the spring of 2003 to hang out, enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. Brustrom's house started as a mobile home; several additions later, it still has plywood walls and floors in some rooms and no air conditioning. The Confederate flag flaps from several barn-red outbuildings. At the back of the property sit a couple of junked cars and a shallow pond.

Andrew would sit and talk for hours to the easygoing Brustrom. Except for the large tattoo of a rose, surrounded by the words "In Loving Memory of Ray," on her right arm, Brustrom, 37, looked remarkably like Andrew's mother: same smile, same freckles and the same curly red hair. "Andrew seemed like a real sweet kid," Brustrom says, "the best guy she'd brought out here. He seemed real honest."

Andrew had been working at Putt-Putt Golf in Arlington; Chelsea was looking for a job. She talked about becoming a lawyer or maybe a nurse but was making no strides in that direction. Rick and Suzy had planned for Andrew to attend college, wanting him to become a CPA. But Andrew was more interested in cars. Though he was enrolled at Tarrant County College, he often skipped class.

He told Brustrom that he hated his sister Sarah. "He said Sarah had once slammed his head into a water heater," Brustrom says. "They didn't get along."

Andrew seemed to like his mom and dad OK, but he didn't tell Brustrom about his sister's stormy adolescence or his own severe conflicts with his parents. The parents' polished exterior, in fact, hid troubled relationships with their children that went well beyond the usual teenage tensions.

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.

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.

Andrew, Chelsea and Toledano befriended Cardenas, who often worked during the hours they came into the restaurant. Married, with a 4-year-old daughter, Cardenas liked talking with the teens about everything from Yu-Gi-Oh tactics to tropical fish.

During these late-night sessions, police allege, the four of them hatched a monstrous plot that had nothing to do with "Blue Eyes White Dragon" or "Zombra the Dark."

Standefer says the conspiracy started with methods of murder that required a minimal amount of personal involvement--like cutting the brake lines on vehicles--and from the beginning targeted not only Rick and Suzy, but Sarah, too. "Andrew intended on killing her as well," Standefer says. "That way he wouldn't have to split the money."

The crime was set in motion, Standefer says, when Andrew got tired of their failed efforts at sabotaging cars and asked Cardenas to get them a gun.

On Sunday, November 9, at about 2:30 p.m. Rick Wamsley was driving north on Interstate 35, taking Suzy and Sarah to a late lunch at Chili's in Burleson. He was exiting the freeway when something slammed into the car with a loud thud. In the restaurant parking lot, the Wamsleys found a bullet hole in the left rear panel of their Jeep Laredo.

The Wamsleys filed a police report. Rick told a detective that he remembered a white Mustang like Andrew's passing the vehicle shortly before he heard the noise. But other cars had also passed.

"The officer didn't think Rick was being forthcoming," Standefer says. "According to Sarah, immediately after this happened, Suzy got on the phone to Andrew and said, 'Where the fuck are you?'"

Over their meal at Chili's, Rick and Suzy refused to talk about the incident. "It's a traumatic event," Standefer says. "Sarah wants to talk about it, and they don't."

Police found no witnesses and made no arrests. It seemed to be a random drive-by shooting.


A jet of water splooshed skyward.

Blam! Blam! Blam!

Ruth Brustrom watched in drizzling rain as Andrew and Toledano blasted away with a handgun at a target in her pond.

It was a nasty day sometime in mid-November 2003. Andrew had called, saying that Toledano wanted to practice her aim with a handgun. Brustrom allowed the target practice but insisted the teenagers shoot into the water so stray bullets wouldn't hurt her neighbors.

Andrew and Chelsea had decided to get more aggressive, Standefer says. "The information I received was that he or his girlfriend had seen on TV that if you shoot a car's gas tank, it would blow up," the detective says.

Andrew, Chelsea and Toledano were all in the Mustang when they took a shot at the Wamsleys for the first time, says Standefer, who believes that Toledano was probably carrying the weapon.

"Andrew was pretty upset that Susana [Toledano] had missed," Standefer says. He demanded that all three of them take target practice. "They went so far as to rank themselves," Standefer says. "Who was best?"

In order: Andrew, Toledano, then Chelsea.

By mid-December, Andrew and Chelsea hadn't been out to Brustrom's place in a while; their frequent calls had suddenly stopped. Concerned, Brustrom finally reached Andrew on his phone.

"He doesn't act like anything's wrong," Brustrom says. Andrew handed the phone to Chelsea. "She was bawling," Brustrom says. Between her tears, Chelsea told Brustrom that her boyfriend's parents had been murdered a few days earlier.

Brustrom had seen the news reports of the Mansfield slayings, but she hadn't connected the Wamsley name to Chelsea's boyfriend until now.

"He can't wait to come out," Chelsea told Brustrom. The young couple needed to get away.

Sometime around Christmas, Chelsea and Andrew finally visited Brustrom. Andrew seemed normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. But he quickly warned Brustrom: "Don't say anything to anyone about the gun."

Early on, police considered Todd Cleveland a "person of interest" in the slayings because of the bitter custody dispute in which Rick and Suzy were increasingly playing a role. Cleveland, however, passed a polygraph test and was soon cleared.

The Wamsley children remained under suspicion because they had the most to gain--more than $100,000 in cash and a $1 million life insurance payoff, to be split between the two siblings.

Andrew and Chelsea had driven up to the Turnberry house at about 8:30 a.m. on December 12, telling police they'd learned of the murder investigation on television. Both voluntarily went to the police station.

Standefer thought Andrew showed little emotion for someone whose parents had been murdered, even if they'd had their differences. The two said they'd last seen Rick and Suzy on December 9, when they'd asked the Wamsleys' permission to go on a camping trip. Permission was given, but cold weather prompted them to stay at Chelsea's house instead. Standefer says the couple described a night filled with a movie, Putt-Putt golf, then visiting a friend, but they had no alibi for the estimated time of the murder.

Andrew initially allowed a search of his car but withdrew his consent, leading police to impound the Mustang. In the car, police found evidence that a large amount of human blood had once been there--mostly in the back passenger seat but on the two front seats as well. But the seats had been thoroughly cleaned; the blood couldn't be identified further.

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.

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.

Hall says their conversations turned to murder. Andrew and Chelsea wanted certain people dead. Eventually they explained that the targets were Andrew's parents. "He wasn't sure they were really serious," Hall says. But according to Standefer, Cardenas did go along on some car sabotage missions.

When Andrew asked if Cardenas could get him a gun, he agreed to try. Just before Halloween, Cardenas bought a gun off the street and sold it to Andrew for $200. As the couple pushed him to shoot Rick and Suzy, Hall says, Cardenas backed away.

"He kept coming up with excuses that he had to work," Hall says. Chelsea and Andrew stopped coming to the IHOP and no longer called Cardenas on his cell phone.

Not long before the murders, Cardenas was arrested for possession of marijuana and the unlawful carrying of a weapon (not the caliber used in the Wamsley murders, Standefer says). Cardenas lost his job, and his wife left him.

Cardenas flunked one polygraph, Hall says, given late at night after hours of interrogation. But the restaurant manager later passed another polygraph, says Hall, who believes that Cardenas wasn't at the house that night. He hopes to work out a plea bargain with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office in return for Cardenas' testimony.

Andrew and Chelsea have declined to talk to investigators since their arrests. Standefer describes both Andrew and Chelsea as manipulators who fit well together. "Chelsea never had what Andrew had, and she was on board from the beginning," Standefer says. For Andrew, it boiled down to money.

"He's been spoiled rotten all his life," Standefer says, "given everything on a silver platter. Once he realized he can't do what he wants to do without having those things, Andrew decides he doesn't need his parents anymore."

Standefer believes Andrew thought police would suspect Sarah. "He thought his sister was the wild child, the one with all the problems," Standefer says. "I think he felt we would naturally look at her. But the thing about Sarah: As many things as she's gone through with her parents, things she wasn't so proud of, she never got into a situation where she got violent."

If he is convicted, Andrew Wamsley may find himself in prison contemplating the irony: The sister he detests will end up with everything.

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