October 8, 2000
Ahwatukee Foothills, Phoenix, Arizona
Wendi Andriano (30) poisons, beats, and stabs her husband Joe Andriano (33)
On October 7, Wendi and Joe went to a barbecue, returning to their home around midnight at which point they put their two young children to bed. Around 2:15 a.m., Wendi called a coworker and neighbor (both worked at the apartment complex where they resided) to watch her children while she took Joe to the doctor. “I have a problem,” Wendi told the neighbor. “Don’t ask questions. My husband’s in on the floor dying and I haven’t called 911 yet.” She added, “He doesn’t know I haven’t called 911.” The neighbor then urged Wendi to call emergency services. She left the neighbor with Joe in the front of the apartment to call 911 in another room.
Call records showed Wendi called 911 but hung up. Emergency dispatchers called her back. Wendi answered and reported her husband was not feeling well. “He’s kind of turning blue,” she explained. “He vomited on the floor, he says he feels like he’s having a heart attack.”
The neighbor later stated he found Joe on the floor in the fetal position. He had vomited and was having trouble breathing. Joe told the neighbor he needed help and had needed help for some time, and asked why it was taking the ambulance 45 minutes to arrive.
Wendi emerged from the other room and claimed the paramedics were delayed because they were on another call, then tried to get Joe into their car to bring him to the doctor. When Joe was unable to stand on his own, Wendi attempted to carry him but became frustrated when she was unable to and reportedly yelled obscenities at him. When Wendi heard the sirens of the approaching ambulance, she exited the apartment to tell the paramedics to leave then closed the door on both the paramedics and her neighbor. Repeated knocks on the door went unanswered.
Dispatchers called Wendi to ask her to speak with the paramedics; she agreed. However, instead of opening the front door where the emergency medical technicians were waiting, Wendi left through her apartment’s back door, climbed over a patio wall, walked around the apartment building, and met the EMTs at the front door. Her neighbor noticed Wendi had changed her shirt and had wet hair. Wendi informed the paramedics Joe had a do-not-resuscitate order and asked the medical personnel to leave to respect her husband’s wishes; at the time, Joe had lung cancer which was being treating with chemotherapy. The neighbor and EMTs then left.
Wendi called 911 again at 3:39 a.m., claiming Joe had tried to choke her with a telephone cord and she defended herself against him. The same paramedics who responded to the previous call were dispatched back to the Andriano home. This time, they noted, Wendi’s shirt was bloody.
Joe’s body was inside the home in a pool of blood. He had a deep stab wound to his neck and lacerations to his head which exposed a portion of his brain. Police recorded that, by 3:53 a.m., the blood on the floor had started to dry.
The medical examiner found the pesticide sodium azide in Joe’s system. The lacerations to his head had been made from no fewer than 23 blows from a blunt object, later determined to have been made by a broken barstool near Joe’s body. Eight to 10 of the blows would independently have been sufficient to have rendered Joe unconscious. It was also found that the knife wound to his neck, which reached his spine and severed his carotid artery, was inflicted while Joe was still alive, though probably after he had lost consciousness.
Wendi was arrested and charged with Joe’s murder.
The prosecution contended Wendi was frustrated by the amount of time Joe was taking to die from his lung cancer, and believed she would receive up to $20 million if Joe were to die before their medical malpractice suit went to trial. To make Joe’s death appear as a heart attack, the prosecution argued, Wendi purchased sodium azide under an assumed name and false address. Evidence suggested the poison had been administered via tainted soup after traces of the pesticide were found in a pot of soup and bowls.
The prosecution also showed Wendi had attempted to obtain a $1 million life insurance policy in the weeks leading to Joe’s death. As Joe was terminally ill and would not be approved for life insurance, Wendi asked two men to impersonate her husband during the required physical examinations, and offered $10,000 to one of the men. The prosecution also demonstrated Joe’s death was not a byproduct of self-defense by showcasing blood splatters which denoted Joe was on the ground as he was beaten and stabbed to death.
Wendi testified Joe’s death and the insurance fraud had been her husband’s plan, claiming he had wished to end his own life while also providing for Wendi and their two children. According to Wendi, Joseph became angry when Wendi admitted to one of her affairs. In response, Joe ingested the sodium azide in the form of a pill and attempted to attack Wendi. Wendi then beat Joe with the barstool in self-defense before he took the kitchen knife and stabbed himself in the neck.
Wendi was convicted of her husband’s murder and sentenced to death. She is currently incarcerated and awaiting her execution.
Wendi E. Andriano. Inmate 191593. Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation & Reentry. Accessed: October 6, 2020. https://corrections.az.gov/public-resources/inmate-datasearch
Supreme Court of Arizona, En Banc. STATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Wendi Elizabeth ANDRIANO, Appellant. No. CR-05-0005-AP. Decided: July 9, 2007 (archived: https://corrections.az.gov/public-resources/inmate-datasearch)
Walsh, Jim. “Deciding life, death takes toll on jurors.” The Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Arizona]. January 24, 2005
Walsh, Jim. “Andriano jury hears both sides’ families give emotional pleas.” The Arizona Republic. December 14, 2004
Smith, Kim. “Woman convicted of slaying husband.” East Valley Tribune. November 18, 2004. Accessed: October 8, 2020. https://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/woman-convicted-of-slaying-husband/article_6df08377-6efc-5445-986f-be87c73c6303.html
Biggs, Patricia. “Woman held in slaying of husband.” The Arizona Republic. November 11, 2000 (image source, via newspapers.com)
Leonard, Christina. “Wife arrested in husband’s stabbing death.” The Arizona Republic. October 10, 2000