Tag Archives: Gateway Murders

Jury recommends life for Fred Cooper (Update)

(Scroll down for update)

About 2:30 p.m. today a jury recommended sparing the life of Fred Cooper and sentencing him to life without parole.

Lee County Judge Thomas S. Reese makes the finale decision but he will likely follow the recommendation of the jury when he sentenced Cooper on March 16th.

Cooper, 30, convicted of killing Steven and Michelle Andrews, both 28, showed little reaction to the news, despite an emotional day that at times brought him to tears.

cooperverdict12Fred Cooper guilty of the murders of Steven and Michelle Andrews in their Gateway home in December of 2006.  Today the jury recommended a life sentence.  He will be sentenced on March 16th.

See Orlando Sentinel.

UPDATE: On March 16th:  Convicted murderer Fred Cooper will spend the rest of his life behind prison bars, a Lee Circuit judge ordered Monday.

“It is the intention of this court that you never again be able to look at the light of day except through steel bars and barbed wire,” Judge Thomas S. Reese told Cooper.

Cooper showed little emotion as the sentence was delivered. He stood before the bench, handcuffed and clad in an orange jail jumpsuit. He stared directly ahead. Four deputies surrounded him and his attorneys.

Posted:   03.05.09  Updated:  03.29.09

5 Comments

Filed under Courts, crime, law and order, Uncategorized

Fred Cooper guilty on all charges

A few minutes after 8:00 p.m., after about six hours of deliberations, the jury has found Fred Cooper guilty of all counts.

Count 1 — Guilty as charged of first degree murder of Steven Andrews with a firearm.

Count 2 — Guilty as charged of first degree murder of Michelle Andrews with firearm.**

Count 3 — Guilty as charged of first degree armed burglary.

His first trial had ended in a mistrial after four days of deliberations.

Cooper closed his eyes as the verdict was read. Other than that, he showed little reaction to the verdict and didn’t seem to look at his family. A few jurors looked in his direction.

He was fingerprinted at the defense table before being escorted away.

Cooper could face the death penalty.

The penalty phase is set for Thursday at 8:45 a.m.

The jury will recommend either life imprisonment or the death penalty. The judge will make the final decision.

Synopsis: Fred Cooper was on trial for two counts of first-degree murder in the December 2005 deaths of a Gateway couple. Police received a 911 call the morning of Dec. 27, 2005, and the discovery of a toddler, Lucasz Andrews, alone in a home in Gateway in south Lee County with the bodies of his parents. Steven Andrews, 28, had been shot in the head. Michelle Andrews, 28, had been beaten and suffocated.

Jurors heard final arguments in the case on Tuesday, October 14. The judge was forced to call the case a mistrial Friday, October 17 after the jury couldn’t decide Cooper’s fate. The trial has moved to Pinellas County and will begin Feb. 17, 2009.

**I thought she was beaten and strangled, so the firearm may be an error.

Posted: 03.03.09

Leave a comment

Filed under Courts, crime, Human Interest, law and order

Fred Cooper trial II to resume Monday

Testimony ended for the week about 6:00 p. m. today.

fredcooper

The DNA evidence was introduced.  In my opinion, the DNA was confusing and does not nail Cooper.

Analysts compared the samples against DNA standards for the four major players in Cooper’s case: Cooper himself, Steven Andrews, Michelle Andrews and Kellie Ballew.

The Andrewses were found dead in the bedroom of their Gateway home on Dec. 27, 2005. Prosecutors say Cooper killed them out of jealousy over an affair between Ballew, his longtime girlfriend, and Steven Andrews.

Both samples showed mixed profiles, DNA analyst Julie Heinig said. That is, each showed characteristics not only of Cooper’s DNA, but Steven Andrews’.

Outside the presence of the jury, Barbara Andrews, Steven’s mother, gave some testimony that could have been more damaging to Cooper than any DNA.

It was after January 11, when Cooper was arrested. Barbara and Russell Andrews came back down to Fort Myers to take care of some of their son’s business and estate matters.

The couple spent a day at the ocean with Lukasz, after which they returned to the hotel.

As he was running around their hotel room, he caught sight of a newspaper hanging off a table. Fred Cooper’s picture was on the front page, she said.

He stopped “dead in his tracks” and stared at it, she said.

She took him outside to get a snack. On the way out, she told her husband to put the newspaper away.

“He looked frightened to me,” she said.

Considering that Lukasz was in the house during the murders of his mother and father, this would not have been good for Fred.  Defense attorney objected to admitting this testimony and the judge agrees and says it can’t come in.  Hope the jurors don’t read the papers this weekend.

Trial will resume at 8:45 a.m. on Monday.

See Naples News.

Posted:  02.27.09

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Human Interest, law and order, Uncategorized

Kellie Ballew, the other woman, testifies in Cooper trial II

The first degree murder trial of Fred Cooper continues today in Saint Petersburg.

Kellie Lynn Ballew, 29, testified today and told jurors that her boyfriend, Fred Cooper, was distraught, if not devastated, when she ended their relationship in December 2005. She and Cooper had been together for 6-and-a-half years and had a daughter together.

kellyballew11

He wrote personal notes for her and left them around the Bonita Springs home they shared. He threatened to kill himself at one point, grabbing a gun and ammunition from a closet and running to the basement. She talked him out of it.

Ballew hid her new relationship with Steven Andrews, 28, a married coworker, from Cooper. On the night of Dec. 26, 2005, when she left home to meet Andrews at their office and have sex with him, she told Cooper she was meeting a friend.

“I didn’t feel as if he was stable enough mentally and emotionally to know I was meeting Steve,” she said.

The bodies of Steven Andrews and his wife, Michelle, 28, were discovered in their Gateway bedroom the next morning. Steven Andrews died of a gunshot wound to the head. Michelle Andrews was badly beaten and asphyxiated to death.

Cooper, if convicted of the killings, could face the death penalty. His first trial, in October 2008, ended when a Lee County jury failed to reach a verdict. The case was moved to St. Petersburg to escape heavy media coverage.

See previous post for more details on Kellie Ballew.

More on today’s testimony, Here.

Posted:  02.24.09

3 Comments

Filed under crime, Human Interest, law and order

Fred Cooper jury selected, trial II begins

Jury selection was completed today in the Fred Cooper trial in Saint Petersburg.

Nine women and five men comprise the jury. Two African-Americans. One Hispanic-American. Also, an indication Cooper will probably testify in this trial: One of those selected is the man who said he would hold it against Cooper if he didn’t testify.

Steven Beardsley of the Naples News is live blogging the trial.

Some of the officers who discovered the bodies testified this afternoon.

They testified that Steven and Michelle Andrews were found on the second floor of their home in the master bedroom and there was “a lot of blood. It was apparent there were no signs of life.”

The couple’s 2-year-old son, Lukasz Andrews, was found in the home unharmed.

The trial was adjourned about 5:20 p.m. and will resume on Monday.

Posted: 02.20.09

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Human Interest, law and order

Reset: All jurors dismissed in Gateway murder case II

Back to square one in the trial of Fred Cooper.

In a major setback for the day, Judge Thomas Reese dismissed the remaining jury panel after Cooper and a potential juror came face to face while the defendant was wearing handcuffs.

Defense attorneys brought the issue before Reese after a 20-minute recess. Sight of the handcuffs could have prejudiced a juror.

“I don’t know if anybody even saw (the handcuffs),” a Pinellas County deputy told the judge.

The interaction occurred after either the juror or Cooper was on an elevator that stopped on the wrong floor. When the doors opened, Cooper was standing handcuffed, across from the juror.

“I’m going to discharge this panel,” he said. “Get a new panel and start all over again.”

The dismissal of the remaining 41 potential jurors unravels the progress of the day.

Jury selection will move to a Clearwater courtroom on Wednesday, where a new jury pool will be convened.

Court will be back in session at 9:00 a.m. at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater.

On Thursday, the trial will return to the St. Petersburg Judicial Building, the site of today’s proceedings. If a full fourteen jurors haven’t been seated by that point, another jury panel will be available at the Judicial Building.

Jurors in the first trial talk about their deliberations. I love it when you can get the thinking that went into the verdict, or lack thereof, as in this case.

See Naples News.

Posted: 02.17.09

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Human Interest, law and order

Jury selection begins in Gateway murder trial II

How did I forget about the jury selection.  This could take a few days or longer since it is a death penalty case.  The trial is beginning in Saint Petersburg, but of course this part won’t be televised.  I am not even sure Trutv will televise the testimony, but I am hoping they will.

But in addition to the death penalty issue in the selection of the jury, gender will probably play a major role as well.

The Naples News reported yesterday that during the deliberations in the first trial, it was four women who were the hold-outs for a not guilty verdict. (BUT there were four women who voted to convict as well, so was it really gender or just a difference of opinion.)

Juror Lynne Johnson reported that early in the deliberations, she and three other women were at odds with the other eight.

Cooper is charged with two counts of capital murder in the killings of Steven and Michelle Andrews, who were found dead in the bedroom of their Gateway home on the morning of December 27, 2005. Prosecutors say Cooper killed the pair in a fit of jealousy after his longtime girlfriend, Kelly Ballew,  entered a relationship with Steven Andrews.

Early in the deliberations of Fred Cooper’s first murder trial, juror Lynne Johnson snapped at a male colleague she thought was being disrespectful, she recalled.

The first trial, held in October, ended in a hung jury. The final jury split ended the way it began, with four women voting against conviction.

No smoking gun exists to show Cooper’s involvement in the killings of the Andrewses. Jurors in the first trial said they dismissed DNA evidence that showed Cooper as a possible contributor.

With no direct evidence, Cooper’s believability became an issue in the trial when he told jurors he and Andrews had sex in her driveway the night before she was killed. In the account, first offered by Cooper after he was told investigators had DNA evidence against him, Cooper and Andrews had grown close consoling one about their spouses’ affair.

Some jurors dismissed the account as made up. Others, like Johnson, called it believable.

In an interview, the juror claimed that “none of the women” liked Cooper’s former girlfriend, Kellie Ballew, who had the relationship with Steven Andrews.

“I can’t say I feel sorry for him,” she said. “Do I feel he’s getting railroaded? Yeah, quite possibly.”

coopersecondtrial

I tend to agree with her.  I would make one heck of a defense juror.  I believe in the death penalty in certain cases, but I would hold the state to their burden and make them prove it to me, especially if the death penalty was on the table.

Jurors can be eliminated for cause if they state they could not under any circumstances render a verdict for the death penalty.  Of course, race or gender cannot be used as a reason to eliminate, but each side has a certain number of challenges for which they do not have to give a reason.

Posted:  02.17.09

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Human Interest, law and order, Uncategorized