Montgomery County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for an Upper Merion
man accused of fatally stabbing his parents and twin brother last year.
On Wednesday, Joseph McAndrew Jr., 24, entered not-guilty pleas to charges of
1st- and 3rd-degree murder, 5 months after a judge ruled him competent to stand
trial in the deaths of his family members.
"This horrible crime showed clear evidence of planning," said Assistant
District Attorney Tracey Potere. "The viciousness and brutality with which he
annihilated his own family is precisely the type of violent homicidal conduct
for which we reserve our most extreme and final punishment."
Potere would not say whether the decision to seek a death sentence against
McAndrew suggested that investigators doubted his claims of mental illness.
His attorney Stephen Heckman described their decision as "ill-advised."
"Given the facts in this case and the mental-health issues, I don't know if he
fully understands it," he said. "We hope we can convince prosecutors not to
seek the death penalty."
Since his arrest last spring, McAndrew has been held at Norristown State
Hospital, a facility used to house criminal suspects in need of mental health
Although prosecutors have argued that they have no record of his ever having
received a professional diagnosis before his incarceration, a judge has denied
their requests that McAndrew be returned to a prison cell.
Family friends maintain he has long struggled with what they believe to be
Upper Merion police found McAndrew on March 5 covered in blood and standing
outside his family's house in the Gulph Mills section of the township. Inside,
his father, Joseph Sr.; mother, Susan; and twin brother, James, lay stabbed and
bleeding alongside what detectives have described as an 18-inch "samurai-style"
During initial interviews with investigators, McAndrew called the deaths an
"extermination" of a "person named brother," "person named mother," and "person
named father," according to court documents.
McAndrew is set to take his case before a jury Oct. 4.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)