Montgomery County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 24-year-old
Upper Merion man accused of killing his parents and twin brother with a sword,
though the defense hopes the district attorney’s office will reverse the
Joseph C. McAndrew Jr., who is being held at Norristown State Hospital and
undergoing psychiatric treatment, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon for his
McAndrew is charged with 1st- and 3rd-degree murder: the stabbing deaths of
70-year-old Joseph C. McAndrew, 64-year-old Susan C. McAndrew and his brother,
After each of the 6 homicide charges were read, defense attorney Stephen G.
Heckman said aloud, “Not guilty.”
On March 5, 2011, the 3 victims were found on the kitchen floor of the family’s
Holstein Road home soon after McAndrew was seen standing outside near the
garage door. His pants and shoes were saturated with blood. Investigators
discovered a bloodstained sword with an 18-inch blade in the living room,
according to court papers.
Prosecutors alleged the fatal attack involved a “very significant struggle” and
a chase through the house.
“We’re seeking the death penalty in this case because this horrific crime
showed clear evidence of planning, and 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,” Assistant
District Attorney Tracey Potere said after the arraignment.
After the defendant was found competent to stand trial last year, Potere filed
a petition seeking to have him transferred from the state hospital to the
county prison. Potere argued that McAndrew should be returned to jail because
he no longer needed intensive psychiatric treatment.
However, Judge Gary S. Silow signed an order in December that kept the
24-year-old in the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center Hospital in Norristown
for 60 days. And recently the judge signed another similar order. After 60 more
days, the defendant would be re-evaluated.
After the killings, McAndrew communicated little with investigators and his
defense attorney. Even now, Heckman questions whether his client really
understands the gravity of that horrible night.
“I think he’s just stunned. He looks at me with a blank expression, and I don’t
think he can comprehend it, especially since one of the persons was his twin
brother,” he said. “I don’t know if he fully understands it, and I worry about
when that moment finally hits him.”
Heckman hopes to convince prosecutors to withdraw the death penalty, he said.
McAndrew is on medication and communicating more, Heckman said, and
transferring him from psychiatric care to prison would be detrimental to his
“Prison would have been a disastrous environment for him, and we appreciate the
fact that he’s able to get treatment at the state hospital,” he said.
Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 for the Oct. 5 trial.
(source: Mainline Media News)