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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Convicted of masterminding the slayings of her boyfriend's parents so he could inherit their $1.56 million estate
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: December 11, 2003
Date of arrest: April 7, 2004
Date of birth: March 26, 1984
Victims profile: Rick, 46, and Suzanna Wamsley, 46 (her boyfriend's parents)
Method of murder: Shooting - Stabbing with knife
Location: Mansfield, Tarrant County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 10, 2005. Resentenced to life in prison on January 17, 2012

photo gallery


TDCJ Number: 999499

Date of Birth: 03/26/1984

Date Received: 08/10/2005

Age (When Received): 21

Education Level (Highest Grade Completed): 12

Date of Offense: 12/11/2003

Age (at the time of Offense): 19

Prior Occupation: Laborer

Prior Prison Record: None

Summary of Incident:

On 12/11/2003 in Tarrant County, Texas, Richardson and three co-defendants entered the residence of a 46 year old white male and a 46 year old white female. Richardson and co-defendants fatally shot and stabbed both victims.


  • Andrew W. Wamsley

  • Hilario Cardenas

  • Susanna Toledano

Race and Gender of Victim: White Male & White Female

Texas Department of Criminal Justice


Woman’s death sentence reduced

January 18, 2012

A 27-year-old woman convicted in the 2003 murders of a Mansfield couple felt relief Tuesday when her death sentence is officially reduced to a life sentence.

Visiting Judge Steve Herod has accepted the sentencing agreement reached by prosecutors and the defense attorney of Chelsea Richardson, for the murders of Rick and Suzanna Wamsley.

In November, the state’s highest criminal court overturned the death sentence for Richardson. She was condemned by a Tarrant County jury in 2005 for the deaths of her boyfriend’s parents in Mansfield.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the punishment phase of Richardson’s trial was affected by misconduct by a former prosecutor who withheld evidence from the defense.

Richardson and her boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley, were convicted of capital murder in separate trials. Authorities said Andrew Wamsley, Richardson and a friend, Susana Toledano, killed the couple so that Andrew Wamsley could inherit his parents’ $1.56 million estate.

Richardson was the only one to receive the death penalty. Under the new sentence, she must serve 40 years before she is eligible for parole, though she will get credit for time served.

Relatives of Richardson and the Wamsleys attended Tuesday’s hearing. Richardson’s mother, Celia Richardson, said afterward that she still believed her daughter to be innocent. She said she felt that her daughter was being “swept under the carpet” after an error-filled police investigation and trial.

Meanwhile, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley’s family members released a statement through a district attorney’s office spokeswoman, saying they supported the plea bargain because the alternative would have meant returning to court for a new penalty phase, and reliving the painful details of the crime once again.

Family members said they plan to “fight paroles” for all the criminals involved. The hearing lasted about five minutes.


Court overturns woman's death sentence in Mansfield case

By Dianna Hunt -

November 3, 2011

FORT WORTH -- The state's highest criminal court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence for Chelsea Lee Richardson, condemned by a Tarrant County jury in 2005 for the deaths of her boyfriend's parents in Mansfield.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the punishment phase of Richardson's trial was affected by misconduct by then-prosecutor Mike Parrish, who withheld evidence from the defense.

Richardson's attorney, Robert Ford, said a deal has been reached with the Tarrant County district attorney's office for Richardson, now 27, to receive a life sentence.

Because she is subject to the penal code that was in place in 2005 when she was convicted, she would be eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

"I hope it sends the message that this kind of cheating won't be tolerated," Ford said. "It probably cost Tarrant County and the state courts in the millions [of dollars] when you consider the cost of all the trials, appeals, everything."

Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon, who took office after Parrish retired in 2008, said the court's ruling affirms an agreement reached by both sides in June.

"As I have often stated, this office will not be a party to the infliction of death as a punishment when there is even an appearance of impropriety on the part of a prosecutor who formerly worked in this office," Shannon said in a written statement.

"If the death penalty is to be used, it must be obtained legally, fairly and honestly and without the hint of possible injustice."

During the appeals process, Parrish testified that he had received a private reprimand from the State Bar of Texas in another case, Ford said.

Richardson and her boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley, were convicted of capital murder in separate trials in the deaths of Rick and Suzanna Wamsley of Mansfield in December 2003. Authorities said Andrew Wamsley, Richardson and a friend, Susana Toledano, killed the couple so that Andrew Wamsley could inherit his parents' $1.56 million estate.

Rick Wamsley, 46, was shot in the head and back and stabbed 21 times. Suzanna Wamsley, 45, died from a gunshot wound to the head and was stabbed 18 times after she died.

Richardson was the first woman in Tarrant County to receive the death sentence. Andrew Wamsley got a life sentence.

Toledano -- who testified that she did most of the shooting and stabbing with coaching from Richardson -- struck a deal with prosecutors and testified against the others in exchange for a life sentence.

Wamsley and Richardson turned down prosecutors' plea offers for life sentences and took their chances with juries.

Ford has contended that Parrish's misconduct was failing to tell Richardson's attorneys, Warren St. John and Terry Barlow, about 11 pages of notes taken by a psychologist who interviewed Toledano at Parrish's request. Ford argued that some of Toledano's statements to the psychologist could have been used to lessen Richardson's culpability.

After a number of hearings over the years, the district attorney's office agreed with Ford that the notes could have been used to attack the state's theory that Richardson was the mastermind of the killings and should have been turned over.

Ford said Richardson's family has mixed feelings about the result.

"They wanted her to walk away completely free, and that just wasn't a possibility," he said. "I know that they're relieved she's going to move off Death Row."


Chelsea Richardson, 1st female sentenced to death in Tarrant County

Chelsea Richardson recently became the first female sentenced to death in Tarrant County. Richardson, her boyfriend Andrew Wamsley, and her best friend Susana Toledano were nineteen years old when they murdered Andrew’s parents in their upscale Mansfield home after months of planning and failed attempts.

“The crime was planned for two months [and the] motive was pure greed,” said Tarrant County prosecutor Mike Parrish. “They planned this double murder to get the proceeds of a one million dollar insurance policy,” he said.

Andrew and Chelsea began dating in January 2003. Around October 2003, they decided that Andrew’s parents, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley, and his sister, Sarah, had to die so that Andrew could inherit the family’s estate.

Chelsea recruited Susana to help. Susana had moved in with Chelsea because of problems with her mother, and Susana had grown very dependent on Chelsea. Chelsea knew that she could convince Susana to do anything for her, including murder Andrew’s parents. In order to convince Susana to participate in the killings, Chelsea held it over Susana’s head that Susana lived rent-free with Chelsea’s family and that Chelsea or Andrew provided Susana’s only means of transportation to work.

Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana frequented an IHOP restaurant in south Arlington, where they often discussed their plans to kill Andrew’s family. They befriended the restaurant’s manager, twenty-four-year-old Hilario Cardenas, and convinced him with promises of money to join their scheme.

Over time, the foursome discussed various ways to murder the Wamsleys. Their plans included having Hilario cut the brake lines on the family’s vehicle and having him accompany Andrew and Susana to the Wamsleys’ house and stage a robbery after murdering Andrew’s parents.

At some point, Chelsea convinced Hilario to get a gun for the group. Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana went target shooting at a nearby pond to prepare for the killings.

The afternoon of November 9, 2003, Chelsea waited at home to establish an alibi while Andrew and Susana located his parents and sister in the family’s Jeep Laredo on I-35 in Burleson. As Andrew drove, Susana sat in the back seat and shot at the gas tank of the Wamsleys’ vehicle in hopes that it would explode. A bullet hit the Jeep, but Susana was unable to shoot the gas tank. Andrew’s family was uninjured. Although the police were called, they uncovered no leads.

After that, the plan changed to killing the Wamsleys at home. Because Susana had failed to kill the Wamsleys by shooting their gas tank, Chelsea convinced her that she had to make things right by acting as the shooter.

Late one night, Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana entered the Wamsleys’ house so that Susana could shoot Andrew’s sleeping parents. However, Susana decided that she could not go through with the plan, and the group snuck out of the house.

On December 9, 2003, Susana received a text message from Chelsea that they had to murder the Wamsleys that night. Susana accompanied Andrew and Chelsea to the Wamsleys’ house in the early morning hours of December 10. After the trio entered the house, Chelsea coached Susana about how to carry out the shootings.

After Chelsea’s pep talk, Susana shot Andrew’s mother in the head as she slept on the living room sofa. She died instantly.

Next, Susana went to the master bedroom, where Mr. Wamsley had awakened to the sound of the gunshot. He charged toward Susana as she fired into the bedroom. A bullet struck him above the eyebrow. Mr. Wamsley managed to tackle Susana, who hit the floor and lost the gun. Chelsea then picked up the weapon and shot Mr. Wamsley in the back to make him let go of Susana.

When there were no more bullets in the gun, Chelsea retrieved two knives from the kitchen. Meanwhile, Mr. Wamsley and Andrew struggled into the entryway as Mr. Wamsley pleaded with his son and asked why this was happening. Chelsea lied that she was pregnant and threatened to shoot Mr. Wamsley if he did not shut up.

As the struggle continued, Chelsea ordered Susana to return to the living room and stab Mrs. Wamsley to ensure that she was dead. When Susana returned to the entry way, Mr. Wamsley was face down on the floor, and Susana stabbed him in the back.

When Mr. and Mrs. Wamsley were dead, Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana fled. They threw their outer clothing into a trash bag that Chelsea had brought along. Then, they went to Chelsea’s house and cleaned up. Later in the morning, they cleaned and detailed Andrew’s car. Susana followed her usual routine of going to school and then to work.

At about 11:40 p.m. that night, an open line 911 call originated from the Wamsleys’ house. When the Mansfield police arrived a few minutes later, no one responded from inside. They noticed that the garage door and the door leading from the garage into the kitchen were open.

Upon entering the house, the police discovered the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Wamsley. “It was an incredibly brutal and frightening crime scene,” said Tarrant County prosecutor Page Simpson. Mr. Wamsley had been shot in the head and stabbed over thirty times in the chest and back, while Mrs. Wamsley had been shot in the head and stabbed more than thirteen times in the chest. An autopsy revealed several hairs clutched in Mr. Wamsley’s hand, but no other physical evidence was found.

When Chelsea, Andrew, and Susana were called before the grand jury, they lied about where they had been when the Wamsleys were murdered. Chelsea convinced Jeremy Lavender, a mentally challenged nineteen-year-old, to provide her and her friends with a false alibi. Chelsea had befriended Lavender and made him think that he was her boyfriend. When Jeremy’s story failed to withstand police scrutiny, he admitted providing the false alibi at Chelsea’s request.

Authorities went months without solid evidence in the case. They finally got a break in March 2004 when tests matched Susana’s DNA to the hair found clasped in Mr. Wamsley’s hand.

As a result of the DNA match, police arrested Susana in Illinois on April 5, 2004. Still under Chelsea’s influence, and following Chelsea’s instructions, Susana immediately implicated only herself and Hilario in the murders. She protected Chelsea and Andrew.

As a result of Susana’s statements, police arrested Hilario in Arlington the next day. He then implicated Andrew and Chelsea in the murders, and police arrested the couple.

While in jail awaiting trial, Chelsea discussed her involvement in the Wamsleys’ murders with several inmates and attempted to convince them to testify on her behalf. She began calling one inmate “mom” and passed her a note the day after the trial began instructing her to memorize Chelsea’s false alibi and to rewrite it in her own words.

At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Chelsea of capital murder in less than three hours.

At the punishment stage, the State sought the death penalty. The evidence included a letter from Chelsea to Andrew written the day after they had shot at the family’s vehicle in Burleson. The letter exposed Chelsea’s manipulation of Andrew to believe that his family did not love or trust him and that she was the only person on whom he could rely. Based on the brutal, premeditated murders of the Wamsleys out of greed, as well as evidence of Chelsea’s manipulation of others and of the danger she posed to society, the jury took just over two hours to sentence Chelsea to death.

Andrew’s trial for capital murder is currently scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005. Susana, who entered a plea bargain with the State in exchange for her truthful testimony at trial, is currently serving a life sentence for murder. Susana will not be eligible for parole until she serves thirty years in prison. Charges are pending against Hilario for his role in conspiring to murder the Wamsleys.



On the evening of December 11, 2003, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley, an upper class Mansfield, Texas couple, were shot and stabbed to death in their home by Andrew Wamsley's friend Susana Toledano. The murders were part of a scheme orchestrated by Andrew Wamsley, his girlfriend Chelsea Richardson, and their friend Susana Toledano to collect on Andrew's parents' $1.65 million estate. The three conspirators also wanted to kill Andrew's older sister Sarah, but she was not home on the night of the murders.


Andrew Wamsley

Andrew Wamsley (born July 7, 1984) was the second child born to Rick and Suzanna Wamsley. He began dating Chelsea Richardson in January 2003. Andrew's parents reportedly disapproved of their son's relationship with Chelsea and thereby cut him off.

Chelsea Richardson

Chelsea Lea Richardson (born March 26, 1984) grew up in a working class neighborhood of Tarrant County, Texas in contrast to her boyfriend Andrew Wamsley. She and Andrew started conspiring to kill Andrew's parents in October 2003. She was also roommates with Susana Toledano at the time of the murder.

Susana Toledano

Susana Alejandra Toledano (born September 28, 1984) was Chelsea Richardson's roommate. Susana was reportedly forced by her co-defendants to shoot and stab Rick and Suzanna Wamsley on the night of December 11, 2003. She had also been made to shoot at the gas tank of the Wamsleys' Jeep Laredo during a failed murder attempt that occurred on November 9, 2003.

Hilario Cardenas

Hilario Cardenas was an IHOP restaurant manager in Arlington, Texas who conspired with the three other co-defendants on how to murder the Wamsleys. He provided the gun that was used in the murders.


In order to avoid the death penalty, Susana Toledano pled guilty to murder in January 2005. On May 26, 2006, she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. As part of her plea deal, she testified against Chelsea and Andrew at their subsequent trials. Susana will be eligible for parole in 2034.

Chelsea Richardson's trial began in May 2005. Chelsea's fellow prison inmates testified at her trial that she had admitted her role in the murders. Susana Toledano also testified that Chelsea told her to kill the Wamsleys so they could share in the family's estate. After only 3 hours of deliberation, Chelsea was convicted of capital murder. The jury deliberated for just more than two hours before unanimously sentencing Chelsea to lethal injection, on account of the crime's brutal and premeditated nature, and that she was considered a "danger to society". She became the first female sentenced to death in Tarrant County, Texas, later followed by Lisa Coleman. Chelsea's attorneys have filed appeals to get her sentence commuted to life.

Andrew Wamsley went to trial in 2006. He was convicted of capital murder on March 5, 2006. However, jurors did not view Andrew as a future danger to society and sentenced him to life in prison. His conviction and life sentence were affirmed by the Second District of Texas Court of Appeals on March 13, 2008. Andrew is serving his sentence at the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas; Barring a successful appeal, Andrew will be eligible for parole in 2044.

For his role, Hilario Cardenas pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. On May 26, 2006, he received a 50 year sentence with parole eligibility in 2014.


Family Plot

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

By Glenna Whitley and Andrea Grimes -

July 15, 2004

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.





Keasler, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.


On May 24, 2005, a jury convicted Chelsea Lea Richardson of a capital murder that was committed on December 11, 2003. (1) Based on the jury's answers to the special issues set forth in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071, Sections 2(b) and 2(e), the trial judge sentenced Richardson to death. (2) Raising eight points of error, Richardson appeals the trial court's judgment and death sentence. We conclude that Richardson's points of error are without merit. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's judgment and sentence of death.


Richardson and her boyfriend, Andrew Wamsley, and their friend, Susan Toledano, plotted to murder Andrew's parents, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley. The trio had a simple motive--to divide the Wamsleys' substantial estate and insurance proceeds that Andrew would inherit. The three conspirators contrived several plans and bungled two murder attempts. On their third attempt, they killed the Wamsleys in a violent and bloody attack.

At trial, fellow conspirator Toledano testified that she, Richardson, and Andrew had devised several plans for killing the Wamsleys. The plans included staging a robbery where the Wamsleys were killed, putting balloons filled with caustic chemicals in the gas tank of the Wamsleys' vehicle, presumably to cause an explosion, cutting the vehicle's brake lines to cause an accident, and shooting the vehicle while the Wamsleys were traveling in it, which the conspirators believed would cause it to explode. The trio eventually settled on a plan to travel alongside the Wamsleys' vehicle and shoot its gas tank with a gun they had obtained from another friend, Hilario Cardenas. Andrew would drive while Toledano would shoot, and Richardson would stay home to provide an alibi. But the plan proved unsuccessful when, despite hitting the moving vehicle, it did not burst into flames as expected but continued down the road.

Later, the trio made another attempt to murder the Wamsleys. According to Toledano, she was to hide in Andrew's closet and shoot the Wamsleys after they went to sleep. However, despite persistent encouragement from Richardson and Andrew as she remained secreted, Toledano foiled the scheme by refusing to go through with the killings. The three regrouped and decided to try again another night.

Toledano testified that she, Richardson, and Andrew returned as planned. Upon entering the Wamsleys' home, Richardson encouraged Toledano to shoot Suzanna Wamsley as she lay asleep on the living room couch, and Richardson even shoved Toledano into the room to get her going. With this initial impetus, Toledano rushed Suzanna and shot her in the head, killing her instantly. Immediately after, Toledano ran toward the Wamsleys' bedroom and began firing at Rick Wamsley as he charged toward her, hitting him in the right temple. Unrelenting, Rick forced Toledano back into the living room and fell on top of her, causing her to drop the gun. As the two struggled, Andrew intervened, trying to force Rick--his own father--off of Toledano, and Richardson joined the fray by shooting Rick in the back. Eventually, the trio stood facing Rick, who was still alive, as he sat on the floor. While Rick pleaded to know why all of this was happening, Richardson thrust a knife she had taken from the kitchen at him, stabbing his hand as he tried to block the attack. Soon after, Toledano stabbed him in the back with another kitchen knife as he lay on the ground. Rick Wamsley died, and the three left.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

In points of error one through three, Richardson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. She alleges that the State failed to meet its burden by introducing insufficient evidence at trial, both legally and factually, to support her conviction. She also challenges the trial judge's denial of her motion for directed verdict. Because a challenge to a trial judge's decision to overrule a motion for a directed verdict presents an attack to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, (3) we will review the trial judge's ruling while considering the legal sufficiency of the evidence.

To find Richardson guilty, the jury had to believe that the State had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Richardson intentionally caused the Wamsleys' deaths during the same criminal transaction. (4) The jury was authorized to convict Richardson either as a principal or as a party to their murders. (5)

In deciding whether the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain a conviction, we must determine "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (6) "The jury is the exclusive judge of the credibility of witnesses and of the weight to be given their testimony." (7) Additionally, "reconciliation of conflicts in the evidence is within the exclusive province of the jury." (8) In short, if any rational juror could have found the elements to have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, we will not disturb the verdict on appeal. (9)

In deciding whether the evidence is factually sufficient to sustain a conviction, we will assume that the evidence is legally sufficient, but we will view "all of the evidence in the record without the prism of 'in the light most favorable to the verdict.'" (10) That is, rather than just viewing the evidence that supports the verdict, we will review the evidence that tends to prove the existence of the elemental fact in dispute as compared to the evidence that tends to disprove that fact. (11) In reviewing factual sufficiency, then, we may disagree with the jury's verdict, even if probative evidence exists that supports it, but we will set the jury's verdict aside only if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. (12) "Examples of such a wrong and unjust verdict include instances in which the jury's finding is 'manifestly unjust,' 'shocks the conscience,' or 'clearly demonstrates bias.'" (13)

Regarding legal sufficiency, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the testimony and evidence at trial showed that Richardson participated in the planning of the murders, aided in the two failed attempts to murder the Wamsleys, and was present during, encouraged, and participated in the final attempt during which the Wamsleys were killed. Toledano testified that she heard Richardson planning the murders with Andrew and that Richardson went with her and Andrew on the night that the Wamsleys were killed. Toledano further testified that Richardson encouraged her to kill the Wamsleys while in the Wamsleys' home and that Richardson physically shoved her into the living room to get her going. Her testimony also indicated that Richardson shot Rick Wamsley in the back and stabbed him. Corroborating Toledano's testimony, two witnesses who had been incarcerated at the county jail with Richardson testified that Richardson admitted to participating in the murders and to shooting Rick Wamsley. Testimony also revealed that Richardson asked another friend, who was mentally challenged, to provide her with an alibi for the night of the murders and that she even convinced this same friend to lie to the grand jury investigating the murders.

The jury is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of witness testimony, (14) and as we have held, "Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction under the law of parties where the actor is physically present at the commission of the offense and encourages the commission of the offense either by words or other agreement." (15) Given all of the evidence presented at trial, any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Richardson intentionally caused the Wamsleys' deaths in the same criminal transaction. The evidence supporting the conviction is legally sufficient. Further, because the evidence is legally sufficient, the trial judge did not err in denying Richardson's motion for directed verdict. We therefore overrule Richardson's first and second points of error.

Regarding factual sufficiency, Richardson argues that most of the evidence indicating that she participated in the murders came from the testimony of Toledano, an accomplice who struck a deal with the State for a life sentence in exchange for her testimony. She claims that Toledano's testimony is not reliable because of the varying version of events that Toledano had given to the police, to the grand jury, and to the jury at trial. As a result, she contends that we can have no confidence in the jury's verdict. Richardson also urges us to require independent corroboration of the jailhouse-informant testimony like that required of accomplice-witness testimony. (16) She argues that there was no such corroboration here and asks us to discount the jailhouse-informant testimony that Richardson admitted to participating in the murders and to shooting Rick Wamsley.

As we indicated above, the jury is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of witness testimony, and reconciliation of conflicts in the evidence is within its exclusive province. (17) The jury could believe or not believe any testimony presented at trial and could assign to the testimony whatever weight it wished. The jury listened to Toledano's testimony and that of the jailhouse informants, and defense counsel pointed out on cross-examination reasons why the testimony should not be believed. Due deference must be accorded to the jury regarding the weight and credibility of the evidence, and we see no reason to conclude that the jury's verdict is manifestly unjust, shocks the conscience, or clearly demonstrates bias. The jury's finding that Richardson intentionally killed the Wamsleys during the same criminal transaction is not so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong or unjust. The evidence supporting Richardson's conviction is factually sufficient; therefore, we overrule her third point of error.

Erroneously Admitted Testimony

In point of error six, Richardson contends that the trial judge erred in overruling her objections to a portion of Kathryn Norton's testimony. Norton, who had been housed in the Tarrant County Jail with Richardson, testified how she was able to contact the District Attorney's Office through her father to reveal admissions Richardson had made implicating herself in the murders. On direct examination, the following exchange took place between Norton and the prosecutor:

[Prosecutor]: Were you revoked on that probation?

[Norton]: Yes.

[Prosecutor]: And where were you sent?

[Norton]: I was sent to Tarrant County.

[Prosecutor]: Then where were you sent after that?

[Norton]: To Dawson State Jail.

[Prosecutor]: At that time when you were in Dawson State Jail, did you make contact with the District Attorney's office?

[Norton]: My dad actually did.

[Prosecutor]: And why did your dad?

[Norton]: He told my lawyer about what --

[Defense Counsel]: Objection as to hearsay as to what her father said.

[Trial Court]: Well, I'm gonna overrule that particular objection at this time.

[Defense Counsel]: I make a 403 objection to her statement then, Judge.

[Trial Court]: Overruled.

[Defense Counsel]: What her father says, it's a 403 issue.

[Trial Court]: Overruled. The State may continue to ask the questions.

[Prosecutor]: You can answer that question.

[Norton]: My dad told my lawyer that -- what happened to me in jail and that I was with somebody who did something bad, and my lawyer went to you guys.

[Prosecutor]: Did your dad do that because he received something in the mail?

[Norton]: Yes.

[Prosecutor]: What did he receive in the mail?

[Norton]: He received a letter from Chelsea.

In arguing her sixth point of error, Richardson does not attack the heart of Norton's testimony regarding the admissions Richardson had made. Rather, Richardson only argues that some of Norton's testimony concerning how she was able to contact the District Attorney's Office was introduced in violation of Rule 802 (hearsay) and Rule 403 (exclusion of relevant evidence) of the Texas Rules of Evidence. Even assuming that the challenged statement was inadmissible and was erroneously admitted, such a breach of the evidentiary rules does not raise constitutional concerns and must be disregarded unless the erroneously admitted testimony affected Richardson's substantial rights. (18) Here, we conclude that Richardson's substantial rights were not affected.

Substantial rights are not affected by the erroneous admission of evidence "if the appellate court, after examining the record as a whole, has fair assurance that the error did not influence the jury, or had but a slight effect." (19) In assessing the likelihood that the jury's decision was adversely affected by the error, we "consider everything in the record, including the testimony and physical evidence admitted, the nature of the evidence supporting the verdict, the character of the alleged error, and how it might be considered in connection with other evidence in the case." (20) We may also consider voir dire, jury instructions, closing arguments, the State's theory, any defensive theories, whether the testimony was elicited from an expert, whether the testimony was cumulative, and whether the State emphasized the error. (21)

A review of the record as a whole reveals that the challenged bit of Norton's testimony can be characterized only as insignificant and non-contributing to Richardson's conviction and death sentence. It did not concern the substance of Norton's testimony regarding Richardson's admissions and was never referenced by the State at any other time in the trial. Indeed, it occupies only one sentence of the thirty-two-volume reporter's record taken during the six-day trial. The only portion that may even be viewed as potentially damaging is the phrase intimating that Richardson was "somebody who did something bad." But considering this statement against the entirety of the record, including fellow conspirator Toledano's testimony detailing Richardson's planning, involvement, and execution of the murders, testimony that Richardson had twice admitted to involvement in the murders, testimony that Richardson had admitted to shooting and stabbing Rick Wamsley, testimony that Richardson asked a mentally challenged friend to provide her with an alibi for the night of the murders, and testimony that Richardson also convinced this same friend to lie to the grand jury investigating the murders, we cannot conclude that the challenged testimony, even assuming it was erroneously admitted, affected Richardson's substantial rights. Richardson's sixth point is therefore overruled.

Constitutionality of Death-Penalty Scheme

In point of error four, Richardson contends that the trial judge erred in failing to grant her motion to preclude the imposition of the death penalty. Citing to Ring v. Arizona (22) and Apprendi v. New Jersey, (23) Richardson argued that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments require the grand jury to allege the special issues in the indictment before the State can seek the death penalty. We have already rejected this same argument. (24) Point of error four is overruled.

In point of error five, Richardson contends that the trial judge erred in overruling her motion to instruct the jury that the State has the burden of proof to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an absence of sufficient mitigation evidence to warrant a life rather than death sentence. She alleged that such an instruction is required under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. We have already rejected this same argument. (25) Point of error five is overruled.

In point of error seven, Richardson maintains that the trial judge erred in denying her motion to declare the Texas death-penalty statute unconstitutional under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Richardson argued in her motion that the term "probability" as used in the future-dangerousness special issue requires the jury to engage in a "vague and indefinite inquiry" utilizing a statute that is "incapable of interpretation by reasonable men." Richardson further complained that the statute "provides no guidelines or other statutory limitations" concerning whether there is a probability that she would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. (26) We have already rejected this and similar arguments. (27) Point of error seven is overruled.

Richardson contends in point of error eight that the use of a chemical substance pancuronium bromide to carry out her execution violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Richardson's execution is not imminent, however, and the method in which the lethal injection is currently administered is not determinative of the way it will be administered at the moment of Richardson's execution. Thus, this claim is not ripe for review. (28) Point of error eight is overruled.


Based on the foregoing, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

DELIVERED: January 23, 2008


1. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a)(7) (Vernon 2003).

2. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 37.071 § 2(g) (Vernon Supp. 2003).

3. McDuff v. State, 939 S.W.2d 607, 613 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997).

4. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03 (a)(7)(A).

5. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 7.01 (Vernon 2003).

6. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) (emphasis in original); Jones v. State, 944 S.W.2d 642, 647 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996).

7. Jones, 944 S.W.2d at 647.

8. Id.

9. Id.

10. Id. at 647 (citing Clewis v. State, 922 S.W.2d 126, 131-32 (Tex. Crim App. 1996)); see also Watson v. State, 204 S.W.3d 404, 405, 414-17 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006).

11. Jones, 944 S.W.2d at 647.

12. Id. at 647-48.

13. Id. at 648 (citing Clewis, 922 S.W.2d at 135).

14. Ortiz v. State, 93 S.W.3d 79, 88 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

15. Burdine v. State, 719 S.W.2d 309, 315 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986).

16. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 38.14 (Vernon 2005), added by Acts 1965, 59th Leg., ch. 722, eff. Jan. 1, 1966.

17. Ortiz, 93 S.W.3d at 88; Jones, 944 S.W.2d at 647.

18. Russell v. State, 155 S.W.3d 176, 181 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005); Tex. R. App. P. 44.2(b) (Vernon 2003).

19. Solomon v. State, 49 S.W.3d 356, 365 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001).

20. Morales v. State, 32 S.W.3d 862, 867 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).

21. Id.; Motilla v. State, 78 S.W.3d 352, 355-56 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002); Solomon, 49 S.W.3d at 365; King v. State, 953 S.W.2d 266, 272 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997).

22. 536 U.S. 584 (2002).

23. 530 U.S. 466 (2000).

24. See Russeau v. State, 171 S.W.3d 871, 886 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005).

25. See Hankins v. State, 132 S.W.3d 380, 386 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004).

26. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 37.071 § 2(b)(1).

27. See Druery v. State, 225 S.W.3d 491, 509-10 (Tex. Crim. App.), cert. denied, 169 L. Ed. 2d 404 (Nov. 13, 2007) (citing King v. State, 553 S.W.2d 105, 107 (Tex. Crim. App. 1977)).

28. See Gallo v. State, No. AP-74,900, 2007 Tex. Crim. App. LEXIS 1234, at *54 (Tex. Crim. App. Sept. 26, 2007.


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