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Sunday, May 6, 2007

[NJ] Officer Andros cleared of killing wife Ellen

...When their son-in-law was charged with murder, the Clarks fought for and gained temporary custody of the children in an emotional Family Court battle. Because the marriage was turbulent, according to friends of Ellen at the time of her death and family records, the Clarks believed Andros killed their daughter... "I'm not a saint," Andros said as he was leaving an interview. "But I'm no murderer"... His father, Atlantic City Police Capt. James Andros II, said he knew his son was innocent all along because he was with him at the Beach Bar in Brigantine the night Ellen Clark Andros died...

Cleared of wife killing, he takes comfort in family
Press of Atlantic City, NJ - May 6, 2007
By MADELAINE VITALE MVitale@pressofac.com
Published: Sunday, May 6, 2007

As he walked up the aisle at St. Peters funeral home in Pennsauken to pay his last respects to his dead wife, James Andros heard people saying to him, "Murderer, murderer, murderer."

It had been only a few days since Andros arrived home to find his wife slumped over a computer keyboard. Ellen Andros just 31 when she died March 31, 2001. Andros was left to raise two young girls alone. Worse yet, he was left to face a world that assumed he was a killer.

She suffered a horrible death, and it should never have happened, the priest would say at the funeral.

Investigators thought the same. They accused Andros of coming home after a night of drinking and then smothering his wife. He was charged with murder 23 days later.

Andros, a 22-year veteran of the Atlantic City Police Depart-ment, received $2.3 million last month in a lawsuit settlement with Atlantic County for malicious prosecution and defamation.

Twenty months after the murder charge was filed, the case took a turn. Forensic slides from an outside defense expert showed the petite blonde died from a heart ailment. The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office exonerated Andros in December 2002.

Andros proceeded to file suit against the county and the Prosecutor's Office, and the county was liable because Dr. Elliot Gross, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ellen Andros, erroneously listed the cause of death as a homicide.

Andros, who calls his deceased wife his first love, remains bitter about the murder charge. To this day, he knows, some people think he is a killer.

"It's always in the back of my mind," Andros, 38, said during a recent interview. "I get a weird feeling. There is really no way to tell. I guess it will always be there."

Andros is desparately trying to reclaim a life forever altered by one fateful night.

Andros was at a Brigantine bar the night his wife died. He liked to go out with friends and family, and often when he did, Ellen would take the couple's two children — Meghan, 11, and Elizabeth, 9 — to her parents' home in Pennsauken.

He said he pulled up to their rancher in Pleasantville in the early morning, saw lights on in the house and figured that his wife had come home early. He said he yelled to her and heard no response.

He walked into the study. Ellen was slumped over the computer. When he touched her, he saw her face was purple. It was an image that would stay with him for life.

He tried to revive her and called 911. But his wife was dead, and investigators were immediately suspicious.

Within a month, he was behind bars. On April 23, 2001, Andros joined the rest of the crime suspects in a cell at the Atlantic County jail.

He was on suicide watch in solitary confinement. The lights glared. It was impossible to sleep. Every 15 minutes an officer came to check on him. For 13 days until he made bail, a man who was used to making the arrests was on the other side of the bars.

He thought of his children. They had lost their mother and now they might lose their father.

Ellen and James Andros first met as children in Merchantville, where Ellen lived and James spent a lot of time visiting relatives. As teenagers, they shared a first kiss.

"She was always a part of my life. I have no problem saying this: She was beautiful, smart, opinionated — a perfect girl. I still consider myself blessed to have known her and the children she gave me, even though now there is so much hurt."

Their wedding was like something out of a movie. They married at Seaview Marriott Resort & Spa in Galloway Township in November 1994. Their song was "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel.

"I thought I had realized my dream," Andros said.

Today, trying to rebuild his life includes regular interaction with Ellen's parents Edward and Bette Anne Clark.

When their son-in-law was charged with murder, the Clarks fought for and gained temporary custody of the children in an emotional Family Court battle. Because the marriage was turbulent, according to friends of Ellen at the time of her death and family records, the Clarks believed Andros killed their daughter.

The Clarks declined to comment for this article.

"Generally speaking, if people see it and they think it is true that I am a bad man or have trouble with children, they say I am an alcoholic," Andros said. "I am not an alcoholic."

Years after the vicious fight for custody of the children and the exoneration of their son-in-law, the Clarks and Andros have come to a workable situation in which the grandparents can be a part of the children's lives, Andros said.

"I'm proud of them after what we all went through," Andros said of the Clarks. "After they lost custody, I invited them down to come to therapy. They see the girls all of the major holidays, every other weekend and one week of the summer."

Andros takes care of the girls with the help of his sisters, mainly Marie Kokes.

"I don't know what I would do without her," Andros said of his sister's constant support.

Andros home-schools Meghan and Elizabeth.

The girls seem to have adapted to the different type of schooling. Since they completed therapy only eight months ago, Andros said they still suffer from anxiety and separation issues.

Andros was on leave from the force until 2004, but went right back on the midnight-to-8 shift. This time, his lifelong friend Christopher Barber, 35, also a police officer, is his partner. Barber, a father of three, wanted the late shift for the same reason as Andros. He wants to be home with the children as much as possible, Barber said Friday.

"There was a never a doubt in my mind about Jimmy," Barber said. "If he could get on with life then he would do well."

Andros comes home from work at about 8:30 a.m. every day. Then he gives the girls their school lessons for the day.

"I obviously don't sleep much," Andros said.

Then he looks over the children's homework. They have dinner and he goes off to work.

The special days with the children are on the weekends.

"We go to church and then we will have dinner together ... as a family," Andros said. "Either we will cook out on the grill — burgers — or have something inside."

Despite the $2.3 million settlement, Andros says he is no millionaire.

"I'm not out of debt after this," he said of the massive bills for legal fees in criminal, family and civil courts.

"My lawyer said there will be a structured settlement and the goal is that there will be money left for my children," Andros said.

It is evident he is bitter when he speaks of the Prosecutor's Office. A Federal Court judge in Camden dismissed the defamation and false arrest lawsuit against Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz and the investigators who worked on the case.

His attorney, Kevin Kent, plans to appeal the judge's ruling.

The federal court judge found probable cause to dismiss the claims Andros brought against the prosecutors and the investigators. The judge found that evidence collected by the Prosecutor's Office could reasonably lead to a murder charge against Andros.

"I'm not a saint," Andros said as he was leaving an interview. "But I'm no murderer."

EXCERPTS FROM PAST NEWS:
[AFTER READING 31 ARTICLES] ...While Jim’s supporters portray him as a loving and devoted police officer and family man — who in fact had just returned two days before his wife’s death from a week of skiing with her and their kids in Vermont — Ellen’s friends and family offer an image of a relationship, and a husband, on the edge. In sworn statements, they tell investigators that Ellen’s six-and-a-half-year marriage was in tatters, that Jim drank excessively, that he’d been violent, that Ellen suspected he’d been unfaithful. Jim had for some time been sleeping in a separate bedroom, no longer welcome in Ellen’s bed. Ellen and the girls had left before. At the time of her death, her friends say, she was planning to leave again... His father, Atlantic City Police Capt. James Andros II, said he knew his son was innocent all along because he was with him at the Beach Bar in Brigantine the night Ellen Clark Andros died...

3 comments:

  1. Wife of A.C. police officer found dead in home
    South Jersey Publishing
    By MARSHA GILBERT
    April 1, 2001
    Staff Writer, (609) 272-7203
    The wife of an Atlantic City Police officer was found
    murdered in their home Saturday morning. James L. Andros III, a 12-year veteran of the Atlantic City Police Department,
    came home at 4 a.m. after an evening out with friends to find his wife, Ellen J. Andros, 31, unconscious on the floor of their children’s bedroom, according to Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S... Andros tried to resuscitate his wife before calling 911, Blitz said... Pathologist Dr. Eliott Gross performed an autopsy and determine the cause of
    death to be asphyxiation. No arrests have been made in connection with the homicide, Blitz said. The case
    is being investigated by Sgt. Bruce DeShields of the Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit and Pleasantville Police Sgt. Scott Seliga, under the supervision of Lt. Chris Wellman, head of the Major Crimes Unit. Ellen Andros was a student at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township....


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    Police officer's wife found dead next to sleeping daughters
    By JOHN CURRAN
    4/2/01 3:59 PM
    A police officer's wife was found slain in her home, near the couple's two sleeping daughters, authorities said. She had been suffocated... Her husband, Atlantic City police Officer James L. Andros III, told police he was out with friends and returned home about 4 a.m. Saturday to find her unconscious... No arrests had been made as of Monday. Blitz wouldn't say whether Andros was a suspect. He has been questioned, but he was not in custody Monday... Blitz wouldn't say what Mrs. Andros was suffocated with, or whether the killing occurred in the presence of the sleeping girls. He wouldn't give an approximate time of death, say where Andros was at the time and discuse whom Andros had been out with before returning home. He also declined comment on whether Mrs. Andros knew her killer... There was no answer at the door of the victim's tan-colored ranch house and the telephone rang unanswered, but there were three automobiles and a motorcycle in the driveway and front yard... Sgt. Michael Tullio of the Atlantic City Police Department would not release any information about Andros' record as an officer. "We express our deepest condolences to the entire family" Tullio said...


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    PROBE OF PLEASANTVILLE KILLING CONTINUES
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 3, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    [Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey] Blitz wouldn't release the time of death, what was used to suffocate Andros or if her husband, James, a 12-year veteran of the Atlantic City Police Department, is a suspect... Atlantic City Sgt. Michael Tullio, police department spokesman, said Andros, who works the midnight-to-8 shift in the patrol division, is on bereavement leave at this time... "On behalf of the police department, we wish to express our deepest condolences to the entire family."...



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    NO ARREST YET IN KILLING OF ATLANTIC CITY OFFICER'S WIFE
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 4, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    ...[Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey] Blitz still would not release the time of death, what was used to suffocate the woman... James Andros told police that he came home at 4 a.m. after an evening out with friends to find his wife unconscious on the floor... Calls to relatives' homes Tuesday were not returned...



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    OBITUARIES (ALL EDITIONS)
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 6, 2001

    ANDROS, ELLEN JENNIFER, (nee Clark) 31, of Pleasantville, formerly of Pennsauken died March 31, 2001 at her home.

    A home maker she grew up in Pennsauken. She was a graduate of Bishop Eustice High School, Cherry Hill, Class of 1987. She held a BA Degree in English from Rosemont College, Rosemont, PA. She was a member of the Teacher Accreditation Program of Stockton College. She was a volunteer for the Perkins Art Center in Moorestown.

    She is survived by her husband James. Her two daughters, Meghan Elizabeth Andros and Elizabeth Andros. Her parents Edward James Clark, Sr. and Bette Ann (Nee Guilfoyle) Clark of Pennsauken. Her two brothers, Edward James Clark, Jr. and his wife Robin of Cherry Hill and Gregory Stephens Clark of Anacortes, Washington.

    Relatives and friends are invited to call beginning 9 am Monday at The Stephenson-Brown Funeral Home, 33 West Maple Avenue, Merchantville. Her Mass of Christian Buriall will be celebrated 11 am in the Church of St. Peter, Merchantville. No evening viewing. Interment Colestown Cemetery, Cherry Hill. Memorial contributions in memory of Ellen may be made to St. Jude's Children Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude's Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105.



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    ATLANTIC CITY OFFICER, WHOSE WIFE WAS SLAIN, GETS CUSTODY OF CHILDREN
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 7, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    ...The victim's parents, Edward James Clark Sr. and Bette Ann Clark, won temporary custody of the children... Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Vincent Segal ordered Friday that the children be returned to their father... Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz has not released information about the time of death or what was used to suffocate the woman and has declined to say whether Andros is a suspect...


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    SLAIN WOMAN'S HUSBAND KEEPS CHILDREN DESPITE INVESTIGATION
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 20, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    ...the victim's family has been notified by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office that police Officer James Andros has been questioned about his wife's killing... that the officer would be forced to give up custody of the children only if he is arrested... Marissa Costello, the Clarks' attorney, requested that the officer undergo a psychological evaluation, but Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Vincent Segal denied the motion, saying there is no proof Andros is an unfit parent. Segal also denied a motion requesting that the children be appointed a lawyer as a legal guardian to fight for their interests. The children are undergoing psychological counseling and the grandparents have visitation... Sworn affidavits filed in family court portray Ellen Andros as a devoted mother and a battered wife, who separated from her husband and moved in with her parents for three months last summer because of Andros' "habitual excessive drinking and abusive nature." The statements say he clasped her mouth and nose at least once and often threatened her with his gun. They also allege that although she feared him, she didn't want to divorce him because she was afraid he would get custody of the children, whom, papers say, he often scared by growling at them. The papers cite one incident in which he dislocated his daughter's elbow. In his affidavit, Andros disputes that assertion that he is an alcoholic, but admitted that he drinks "on occasion and on certain limited occasions has been intoxicated." He also denied domestic violence or abuse but said, "I acknowledge that my wife and I have argued and even separated for a short period of time as a result of marital difficulties." The Clarks shunned Andros during the April 9 funeral service. When Ellen Andros' casket was brought into the church, the Clarks walked behind it. Andros was not with them.


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    ATLANTIC CITY OFFICER CHARGED IN WIFE'S DEATH
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 24, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
    A 12-year veteran of the Atlantic City Police Department was arrested Monday on charges that he killed his wife by smothering her last month in their home. But Officer James Andros III's attorney contends Ellen Andros, 31, who had a history of medical problems and suffered from a breathing disorder, died from natural causes. Attorney John Bjorklund Jr., of Ocean City, noted that the Pleasantville couple, married six years, recently had returned from a vacation and were very happy despite past problems. James Andros, 32, was arrested at his sister's home in Brigantine around 1 p.m. and charged with first-degree murde... Superior Court Judge Michael Connor, who set bail at $500,000 cash, will advise him of his rights on the charge. It carries a maximum penalty of life in state prison without parole for 30 years... he is being held in a separate cell... he is watched every 15 minutes... Bjorklund contends Andros died naturally. "He's grieving the loss of his wife," he said, adding that she suffered from an unspecified breathing disorder that was being treated. "She has a significant medical history, which may lead us to the cause of her death." Bjorklund is co-counsel with Matthew Portella... Bjorklund said the defense is speaking with forensic pathologists, such as Dr. Michael Baden, to counter Medical Examiner Dr. Elliott Gross' determination that Andros was suffocated. Baden has twice put Gross' findings into question... If Andros is bailed out early Tuesday, he will ask for an immediate hearing in Family Court to seek custody of his children, who were turned over to their mother's parents Monday. An order by Superior Court Judge Vincent Segal mandated that his wife's parents, Bette Ann and Edward James Clark Sr., gain custody... Marissa Costello, the Clarks' attorney, said investigators have spoken with the children, but indicated there was nothing they could use, so they won't be used as witnesses. Family members had alerted investigators that the children heard their parents arguing that night. Andros' brother-in-law, attorney Hal Kokes, declined comment. Kokes and his wife Marie, who once took in Ellen Andros and the children, have told them little about what's going on, Costello said, adding, "They know their mother is in heaven." As for the children, she said, "They're where they should be."



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    OFFICER GETS HIS DAY IN COURT / HE ENTERS NOR GUILTY PLEA IN WIFE'S SLAYING
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    April 25, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209, and MADELAINE VITALE, Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    A 12-year Atlantic City Police veteran accused of smothering his wife pleaded not guilty to murder Tuesday and remains jailed as his attorneys gather enough property and cash to post bail. Meanwhile, an attorney for Officer James Andros III's sister, Marie, and her husband, attorney Hal Kokes, filed papers miles away in Atlantic City family court, as they fight to wrest custody of the Pleasantville couple's two young girls away from their maternal grandparents. Ellen Andros' parents, who automatically regained custody after the arrest, are expected to continue to fight for custody on May 11... Dr. John DeSandi, who said he's known James Andros for 30 years, called him a great guy. "I don't know how this happened," he said as friends and family left the courtroom and declined comment. "He's a nice guy. I think he got a bad deal, from what I know"... police are barred from commenting because the case is being handled by the prosecutor... Major Crimes Squad investigators interrogated him, but his statements, by law, haven't been revealed... Major Crimes Squad investigators found the children, who'd heard their parents arguing that night, didn't have information on what occurred later... the Androses had vacationed in Vermont the previous weekend with Ellen Andros' best friend, Lorraine Adkisson and her husband Rick. Lorraine had once been engaged to Andros and called it off. She's the mother of his 9-year-old son, Jimmy. Bjorklund said they returned from that vacation happy, despite past marriage problems.Friends portrayed Ellen Andros, who was taking college classes, as a devoted mother. They denied she had any breathing problems serious enough to end her life. The criminal case promises to be a battle of medical experts, pitting Gross against a nationally known forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, who has questioned Gross' past rulings. In one, Gross changed a Cape May County accidental death ruling to strangulation murder after Baden was hired by the family of a woman found beaten in Wildwood. Baden has also been pitted against Gross in a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. in which a Middle Township man claims an airbag suffocated his wife, while Baden, Ford's expert, ruled it was strangulation murder. Because defense attorneys claim Andros died of natural causes, an exception in the hearsay rule allows the prosecution to seek a judge's order to counter that by admitting evidence showing Andros was abusive and that Ellen Andros feared him. Among family court records expected to be used by the prosecution is a psychiatric report submitted by Harry Franks, Andros' attorney in the custody case. Franks says it shows Andros has no mental illnesses and is a fit father. Sworn affidavits filed in family court offer a glimpse into the couple's troubled marriage. They show Ellen Andros moved in with her parents for three months last summer, citing Andros' "habitual excessive drinking and abusive nature." They say he clasped her mouth and nose at least once, as if trying to smother her, and often threatened her with a loaded gun... Affidavits say Andros frightened his children by growling at them, and once yanked and dislocated a daughter's elbow. They say he left his loaded gun where the children could easily get it and that Ellen Andros wanted to leave him, but knew she had to protect her children from him if he sought custody. An affidavit filed by her mother, Bette Anne Clark of Camden County, says Andros phoned them to say their daughter was dead and asking them to pick up the children. When she arrived, she asked Andros if he'd killed her daughter. "We suspected he might have done so given the long history of abuse in their marriage and his excessive drinking." He denied it, and refused to turn over the children, instead turning them over to the Kokeses, forcing the Clarks to seek temporary custody, which they were granted until Andros won custody. However, once he was arrested, that court order mandated they be returned to the Clarks... On April 19, their attorney, Marissa Costello, sought another psychiatric evaluation, claiming Andros was unfit and the marriage was abusive. But Superior Court Judge Vincent Segal ruled there was no proof and denied her motion...


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    ACCUSED COP SAYS HIS WIFE DIED FROM BREATHING ILLNESS
    The Record (New Jersey)
    April 25, 2001
    FROM NEWS SERVICE REPORTS; Wire services
    ...John Bjorklund, Andros' attorney, said Andros is grieving the loss of his wife of six years. The two were happily married, he said. "She has a significant medical history, which may lead us to the cause of her death," Bjorklund said.




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    Police officer's bail reduced in death of wife
    The $500,000 cash bail for suspended 12-year Atlantic City police veteran James Andros III
    is lowered to $150,000 when a judge determines he is not a flight risk.
    By AISLING SWIFT
    The Press of Atlantic City
    May 1, 2001
    A Superior Court judge on Monday drastically reduced bail for an Atlantic City police officer accused of smothering his wife after determining there wasn't a risk he would flee the jurisdiction. Judge Manuel Greenberg lowered the $500,000 cash bail... to $150,000 cash, property or surety bond after noting he's not the usual murder suspect. Andros can post any combination, but a bail bond secured by real estate must include $20,000 more for any property... "In some cases, the court can look at (a case) and see it's crystal clear," Greenberg said, noting many cases have eyewitnesses, while this doesn't. "It's not crystal clear... that the likelihood of conviction could be so great that the court could say it's overwhelming"... [Atty for Andros] Bjorklund said there was no risk of flight, noting Andros was interrogated for hours and allowed his children to be questioned. Forensic medical experts have been hired to determine what happened, he said, and a reduction is needed so he can assist in his defense, pay his experts, and return to his children. He contended the prosecution's case rests on Gross, whose autopsies have been called into question by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden. He read snippets of letters in which Andros' friends and relatives portrayed him as a loving father and doting husband. Sitting nearby were his relatives, including his father, city police Sgt. James II; sister Officer Marie Andros; and her husband, attorney Hal Kokes. In one letter, Lorraine Adkisson, the mother of his son, Jimmy, 9, portrayed him as a loving father who could be counted on. Ellen Andros' relatives, including her parents, Bette Anne and Edward James Clark Sr., looked at each other in seeming disbelief. They've portrayed Ellen as a doting mother who feared her husband and are battling Andros and the Kokeses for their grandchildren's custody. Talasnik, who suggested life in prison might prompt Andros to flee, said the autopsy deemed the death murder - "that is, covering the nose and mouth of Ellen Andros with enough force and for a long enough time that she died." He said he is confident of Gross' determination, which is bolstered by a second autopsy, toxicology reports and slides that preserve the evidence. Evidence also shows Ellen Andros was alive shortly before the 4:30 a.m. 911 call... He cited affidavits filed in Family Court that paint him as a chronic alcohol abuser who physically and mentally threatened his wife, sometimes stayed in an apartment inside his home, and evicted her from their home for a long period.... James Andros II said he was proud of his son. "I am proud of the way he's stood up to this unwarranted attack." The Clarks have declined comment.



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    ATLANTIC CITY OFFICER ACCUSED OF KILLING WIFE POSTS BAIL
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    May 2, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
    Murder charges against James Andros III are expected to be presented to a grand jury for indictment in the next few weeks... Andros III, accused of smothering his wife to death, was released from county jail Tuesday night after posting a $170,000 property bond... He spent eight days in both the Atlantic County jail and Cape May County jail, where he was moved because he is a police officer in Atlantic County. Andros rents his home at 1314 Elmhurst Ave. in Pleasantville, so other property, including real estate owned by relatives, was posted. Information on what property was used as collateral wasn't available Tuesday... evidence shows she was alive shortly before the 911 call... James Andros II, Andros' father, a sergeant on the Atlantic City police force, said he is glad his son could return to his family. "I am proud of the way he's stood up to this unwarranted attack," he said after the bail hearing... A custody battle is expected to heat up within days as the Clarks, Andros, his sister, Marie, also a police officer, and her husband, attorney Hal Kokes, seek custody....




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    JUDGE SPLITS CUSTODY OF ANDROS CHILDREN
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    May 12, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    The Clarks get custody of Meghan, 5, and Elizabeth, 3, four days a week. The Kokes have the children three days a week. And James Andros lives with the Kokes. The parents of a woman allegedly murdered by her husband may continue to keep her two children, a judge ruled Friday... But Friday's ruling was bittersweet for the Clarks because Segal also awarded visitation to Hal and Marie Kokes, the brother-in-law and sister of James Andros, 32, who was charged April 23 with the murder of his wife, Ellen Andros... "Segal told a packed family court room. "The law is not favorable to any one side."... Last month the Clarks won temporary custody of the children. But Andros sought and won back custody on April 9. Since then, both sides have been battling over the children. The Kokes hired attorney Michael Sorenson to be a third party in the case and fight for custody should James Andros be convicted...

    ReplyDelete
  2. SUSPENDED ATLANTIC CITY OFFICER INDICTED IN WIFE'S DEATH
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    June 6, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
    A suspended Atlantic City police officer accused of smothering his wife was indicted Tuesday on a murder charge. The indictment of James Andros III, 32, of Pleasantville, sets into motion the discovery process, allowing defense attorneys John Bjorklund Jr. and Matthew Portella to finally see what evidence the prosecution has against Andros, who is free on bail. That evidence will be turned over shortly before Andros is arraigned, in about a month. Among the evidence will be police reports, statements Andros made to Pleasantville police, his 911 call and the autopsy report, which will show why what investigators originally believed was a natural death is considered a homicide. The defense... must turn over any expert reports they intend to use at trial. The indictment pre-empts a probable-cause hearing scheduled for Thursday before Pleasantville Municipal Court Judge Billie Moore. During a probable-cause hearing, defense attorneys can question witnesses, along with the prosecutor, and a judge rules whether there's enough evidence to proceed. In contrast, a 23-member grand jury hears testimony and evidence presented by a prosecutor questioning at least one witness and then determines if there's enough evidence to sustain a charge... The return of an indictment, however, doesn't put an end to the prosecution's investigation, which is continuing... Andros, who was arrested April 23, has been suspended from his 12-year job... Andros said he was unable to revive her. Family and friends say her bouts with tonsillitis were a minor irritation for her, not a life-threatening disease... Because the defense contends the death was due to natural causes, an exception to the hearsay rule allows the prosecution to seek a judge's order admitting statements from others that Andros was abusive to her and the children and she feared him. Family court affidavits say he had tried to smother her before, they didn't sleep together and she planned to leave him.



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    PARENTS OF WIFE ALLEGEDLY KILLED BY A.C. POLICE OFFICER FILE TORT CLAIM
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    June 15, 2001
    MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218
    The parents of a woman allegedly murdered by her husband, an Atlantic City police officer, say Ellen Andros' death could have been prevented. Bette Ann and Edward James Clark filed a tort claim Tuesday against the Atlantic City Police Department. They accuse the department of "failure to act in accordance with the law, failure to disclose information relative to the threat of harm to Ellen Andros and failure to take the appropriate precautions to properly discipline the accused and prevent harm to the deceased." The claim is also against Atlantic City and certain police officers, whose names are being withheld until the discovery process. A tort claim gives notice of a possible lawsuit. There is a 90-day period to inform public entities of the possibility of legal action...



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    PROSECUTION SEEKS DNA FROM SUSPENDED OFFICER IN MURDER CASE
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    July 18, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
    The prosecution wants a judge to order a suspended Atlantic City police officer accused of smothering his wife to undergo DNA testing, prompting defense attorneys to refuse to arraign him Tuesday because they hadn't seen all the prosecution's evidence. As a result, they couldn't assess why the prosecution wants James Andros III, 32, of Pleasantville, to undergo DNA tests. "We're not prepared to enter a plea - although it would be a not guilty plea - on behalf of our client," defense attorney John Bjorklund Jr. told Superior Court Judge Manuel Greenberg at what was supposed to be Andros' arraignment on a murder charge. The prosecution already had turned over some discovery - evidence and statements against Andros - and had until arraignment to provide what it has so far, so the defense can assess the strength of the case. Bjorklund and co-counsel Matthew Portella claim Ellen Andros, 31, died naturally from a tonsil problem and contends the case will ultimately hinge on a battle of medical experts, pitting Assistant County Medical Examiner Dr. Elliot Gross against Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally known forensics expert. Bjorklund asked Greenberg to force First Assistant Prosecutor Murray Talasnik to explain why he wanted Andros' cheeks to be swabbed for DNA tests, and sought a report by a prosecution expert, an ear, nose and throat surgeon... Andros was arrested and suspended from his job about three weeks after he called 911 at 4:30 a.m. March 31. He frantically told Pleasantville police he had been drinking with friends at a Brigantine bar and returned to find his wife unconscious, sitting at her computer, in their home... Affidavits by friends and family portrayed James Andros as an alcoholic, the marriage as abusive and noted he'd moved out of their bedroom into an apartment in their home. Friends say Ellen, who had planned to leave him within days, was healthy and had only a minor tonsil problem....



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    SUSPENDED OFFICER GIVES DNA SAMPLE
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    August 15, 2001
    AISLING SWIFT Staff Writer, (609) 272-7209
    Moments after a suspended police officer accused of killing his wife was forced to submit his DNA for evidence Tuesday, he walked past his in-laws and expressed satisfaction with how things are going. As they confronted each other in the courthouse hallway, Bette Anne and Edward Clark, of Pennsauken, angrily replied to 32-year-old James Andros III that his satisfaction is only because their daughter, Ellen Andros, 31, is dead. The confrontation occurred about two hours after Andros' defense attorneys, John Bjorklund Jr. and Matthew Portella, tried to prevent the prosecution from seizing the DNA, calling it intrusive and an unreasonable search and seizure that wasn't warranted at this time. First Assistant County Prosecutor Murray Talasnik argued to Superior Court Judge Manuel Greenberg that he needed the sample to compare to evidence gained from Ellen Andros, whom James Andros, a 12-year Atlantic City Police veteran, is accused of smothering on March 31. As Talasnik spoke, Andros smiled and held his head up high, although he looked pale with dark circles under his eyes - a contrast from earlier court appearances. Talasnik said he expects the evidence, including scrapings from beneath the victim's fingernails and hair found near the top button of her shirt, to identify her killer. "It is no more intrusive than it would be eating a lollipop," he said of using Q-Tips to swab Andros' inner cheeks for DNA... Greenberg ruled it wasn't an intrusive procedure and ordered Andros to submit to DNA testing. The defense objections shed light on how they plan to fight the murder charge. Bjorklund, who contends Ellen Andros died from a tonsil condition, said she often used her finger to dislodge food caught in her throat. "If she'd been choking ... prior to her death and had she digitally penetrated her throat, then certainly there may be evidence of her own ... tissue under her fingernails," Bjorklund said, adding that he plans to file a motion to ensure enough evidence is preserved for defense testing... The prosecution has hired an expert, a throat surgeon, to disprove the defense claims.... Major Crimes Squad investigators seized Ellen Andros' computer to track her e-mail and the Internet sites she had visited. Affidavits filed in the custody case portray James Andros as an alcoholic and the marriage as abusive and near an end because he slept in a separate apartment in their home. Friends say Ellen, who had planned to leave him within days for an Absecon police officer, wanted to escape an abusive marriage... Andros is free on baiL...



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    WOMAN FOUND NOT GUILTY OF ASSAULTING ATLANTIC CITY POLICE OFFICER ANDROS
    The Press of Atlantic City (NJ)
    August 2, 2002
    NEAL BUCCINO Staff Writer, (609) 272-7211
    Sharron Faulkner is acquitted on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting Patrolman James Andros III, who is accused of smothering his wife to death in an unrelated incident. James Andros III... heard a judge call his attitude in court "inconsistent with credibility"... during an unrelated trial, in which Andros accused a woman of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest... Faulkner said Andros was lying, and that she never tried to attack him. She also said that, when Andros arrested her, he insulted her with racial slurs and curse words. She also said he threatened to falsely charge her with possession of cocaine and threatened to "kill" her if she told anyone. Faulkner finally went to court Thursday. Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo found her not guilty. Garofolo also had a few comments about Andros' testimony against Faulkner... The judge said Andros seemed credible when the prosecutor questioned him, but "on cross (examination) he became smug and had an attitude inconsistent with credibility." The judge mentioned that another witness for the prosecution "completely negated his (Andros') testimony."... She said Andros had what appeared to be cocaine in his squad car, and threatened to say it was in her possession. "He said, 'If you tell anybody I'll kill you,'"...When Garofolo rendered the verdict, he said Faulkner's testimony was credible... Faulkner said she hoped to warn authorities about what she called Andros' out-of-control behavior. "God forbid I say this, but if they had listened to me, maybe his wife would still be alive," she said...


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  3. AnonymousJuly 10, 2008

    Andros gets custody of daughters
    By MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer
    Press of Atlantic City
    December 7, 2002

    ATLANTIC CITY - Atlantic City Police Officer James Andros III is getting his life back. On Wednesday he was exonerated in the death of his wife.

    And on Friday a judge ruled that his two children should go back to their father when school lets out for the holiday break.

    The children's maternal grandparents, Bette Anne and Edward Clark of Pennsauken, have had temporary custody of Meghan, 7, and Elizabeth, 5, since April 2001, when Andros was charged with murder. Andros saw the children only on weekends at the home of his sister, Marie Kokes, and her husband, Hal.

    Authorities dismissed the murder charge against the 34-year-old Pleasantville man after new evidence showed that Assistant Medical Examiner Elliot Gross, who performed the autopsy on Ellen Clark Andros, 31, erred in his findings. Another forensic pathologist hired by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office determined she died from heart failure.

    Superior Court Judge Vincent Segal said it's time the father and children are reunited.

    "Mr. Andros did not murder his wife," Segal said. "The Clarks are not enamored by Mr. Andros and they weren't before. (However,) there should be a relationship so the Clarks can see (the children). It's time to put the past behind them."

    After those words, it became clear that the judge would return the girls to their father.

    Andros put his head down and Marie Kokes, 33, of Brigantine, who has stayed by her brother throughout the ordeal, put her head on his shoulder and grabbed some tissues.

    Bette Anne Clark became teary eyed. Edward Clark clutched his wife's hand.

    The Clarks' lawyers argued that the girls' lives would be disrupted if Andros, a 12-year police veteran, took them before the school's winter break.

    The judge agreed.

    Andros will get full custody of the children on Dec. 20. They will live in the home he shared with his wife of six years. In the meantime, the judge ordered longer visitation for him. He gets the children from Friday night until Monday morning instead of Friday until Sunday night.

    Andros found his wife dead in their Pleasantville home at about 4 a.m. March 31, 2001, after he returned from a night out. He tried to revive her and called 911.

    His father, Atlantic City Police Capt. James Andros II, said he knew his son was innocent all along because he was with him at the Beach Bar in Brigantine the night Ellen Clark Andros died.

    "If I for one minute thought that he murdered my beautiful daughter-in-law I would have dropped him like a hot rock," James Andros II said outside the courtroom.

    The Clarks were solemn and refused comment before and after the proceeding. Their co-counsel Marissa Costello also wouldn't give a statement.

    Harry Franks, Andros' attorney in the custody battle had a lot to say.

    "It's about time custody is returned to my client. These children have already lost their mother and the ability to be with their father," he told the court.

    Afterward, Franks said he was pleased with Segal's decision.

    "The judge recognized Jim's right to parent his children and returned the children to Jim," Franks said.

    However, he said, "We are somewhat disappointed by the fact that Jim has to wait until Dec. 20 to regain full custody of the kids."

    Andros, who had been suspended from his job after being charged, is expected to return to work Monday.

    The story made its way onto "Good Morning America" Friday and other shows, such as "20/20" plan to run a segment. Andros told reporters outside the Atlantic City Courthouse that he plans on a wonderful Christmas with his children and hopes he and the Clarks can make amends for the children's sake.

    "There's nothing more important than them (his daughters)," he said. "We disagree with what the realities are and what's being imposed. But they're the most important, and we'll just get through this like we've gotten through the rest."

    Segal said at the end of the proceeding, "I heard comments Mr. Andros made on TV that this would be the best Christmas yet. I hope it's that way for everyone."

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