Nearly three years from the day he was booked into the Spokane County Jail, Joseph Andrews looks forward to saying goodbye to his gray, 10-by-6-foot cell.
Next week, he packs his bag for Shelton Correctional Center, where he’ll complete the last part of a 34-month sentence for two counts of first-degree manslaughter.
The remaining weeks behind bars mean little to the 27-year-old Andrews.
For most of the past 1,000 days, he’s been haunted by thoughts of getting sentenced to death for two murders he insists he didn’t commit.
After two trials ended in deadlocked juries, Spokane County prosecutors arranged for Andrews to plead guilty to manslaughter. Convinced a third trial would produce the same result, they offered a deal if he pleaded guilty to the reduced charge.
A judge approved the plea bargain Thursday, and afterward Andrews talked about his long stint in jail and his goal of returning to his family in Southern California.
“People told me they could never spend that much time inside here,” he said in a jail interview. “I tell you, once you realize there’s nowhere to go, you can do it.”
Andrews doesn’t portray himself as an innocent victim. He admits being a teenage street hustler who made money dealing drugs. At 18, he was convicted of armed robbery for a carjacking. He spent the next 2-1/2 years in California prisons.
In 1992, he spent a few months visiting friends in Spokane. Two years later, he returned, leaving behind two young children.
His life changed after meeting a Spokane woman named Tarry Green.
During Andrews’ murder trials, Green testified that they had an intense relationship with that ended on Feb. 18, 1994. That night, she said Andrews sat next to her in the backseat of a car parked near downtown. He pulled out a 9 mm pistol and killed the two people sitting in front, shooting each three times in the head, she said.
Prosecutors said Andrews was a drug dealer known as “JoJo” who killed Larry Eaves, 37, over an unpaid drug debt. He killed Eaves’ 37-year-old friend, Eloise Patrick, to eliminate a witness.
But Andrews said Green made up the story to keep police and prosecutors from charging her with the murders.
“During the time I was in Spokane, the crime I committed was getting involved with someone who was unstable and dangerous,” Andrews said of his former girlfriend, who still lives in Eastern Washington.
He insists he wasn’t with Patrick and Eaves the night they died. He says he barely knew Eaves; never met Patrick.
Only Green knows what really happened, he said. It was she who came back to their motel the night of the murders, agitated and saying “some trouble happened,” Andrews said.
Andrews said he’s through worrying about being fingered by Green.
“Once I get on the plane for California, I’m going to put 1,200 miles between her and me,” he said.
When he reunites with his daughters, ages 4 and 3, and their mother, he plans to become a quiet, 9-to-5 father and husband - admittedly for the first time in his life.
“People who knew me when I was younger would call me a slacker. I was proud. I was too proud to take a minimum-pay job. Or ride a bus to get somewhere,” he said.
“That’s what I’ve got in return for losing these three years - a sense of priorities. I realize now how much I missed my family.”
He’ll do what he said he was preparing to do when arrested in summer 1994.
“I got my truck driver’s license. I was just waiting to get a job. And that’s my plan - work and be with my kids.”
He has no plans to return to Spokane, but plans to stay in touch with his lawyers, Kevin Curtis and Phillip “Dutch” Wetzel.
“I can’t say I always agreed with their decisions,” Andrews said. “But I got to say they, and investigator Sandy Brewer, worked very long and hard for me.”
At times during the two years leading up to the first trial, depression overwhelmed him.
“What was really hard was the same-old, same-old. Spending three years in prison would have been harder, because here they had no structure or program. You just had TV or basketball to kill time.”
People who observed Andrews during the many pre-trial hearings described him as cocky and angry. He insists he’s changed.
When the first trial started, he felt a hurricane of stress inside. Outwardly, he struggled to look calm.
“The hardest part of that trial was going through day after day of jury selection. I would be there, first with the questions by prosecutors, then by my attorneys. I almost felt discouraged and ready to say, ‘Go ahead, put me away. I can’t put up with this stress.”’
About that time, he got into an argument with a jailer, which landed him in an isolation cell with restricted freedom. He said it gave him solitude when he needed it most.
That was one of only two minor disciplinary problems he caused during his three years in the jail. Because of that good behavior, Andrews’ 51-month manslaughter sentence will be cut by a third to 34 months. And since he’s served 35, he’s effectively a free man.
When he gets out, Andrews said he’s committed to making sure it’s the last time he sees a jail or prison cell. He’ll take with him a Bible, some newspaper clippings and two anonymous letters mailed to him at the jail.
One said: “You don’t know who I am. I don’t know much about you. But I don’t think you’re guilty.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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