After deliberating for 20 minutes, a Liberty County jury on Thursday, Oct. 28, found Andrew Jared Bass, 32, guilty of Capital Murder for killing three men at his home on CR 4010 in Dayton. A few minutes after his conviction, Bass was sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility of parole by 75th State District Judge Mark Morefield.
Barbara Brown, wife of murder victim, Walter Brown, and Cecilia Jordan, aunt and sister-in-law to the two other victims, Christopher Wells and his father, Odell Wells, described the agony their families have endured since the murders on Oct. 13, 2019.
Addressing Bass directly during their victim impact statements, Brown and Jordan said they hope Bass is haunted by the memory of his victims.
“When you go to sleep at night, I hope you see their faces every time you close your eyes. There is nothing you could ever say or do that will make me forgive you,” Brown’s widow said. “You will have to face the ultimate judge. He is the one who fights my battles and you will reap what you sowed. You have no one else to blame but yourself because of a heartless decision you made.”
They reminded Bass that not only had his actions destroyed the lives of his victims and their families, but he destroyed his own family.
“I have watched throughout this entire trial this man not show a lick of remorse for the families or his own family. He has not only destroyed our three families but four. He took away a father, a husband, a brother, a cousin, a grandfather, who will never see their family members again,” Jordan said. “I hope he lays awake at night and remembers our family members’ faces. I hope it haunts him in his dreams every single night. The coward that he is deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life.”
Their strong words evoked no reaction from Bass, who sat silently, facing forward without making eye contact. He was dressed in a suit and tie with shackles around his waist and wrists.
Bass’s defense attorney Chad Etheridge, attempted to point the jury toward a self-defense claim, which Bass had originally asserted during questioning by sheriff’s investigators. The three victims were known acquaintances and had frequently visited his home to help with yardwork. In the week before the murders, Bass and the Wells family had visited a local pumpkin patch together. On the day of the murders, Bass claims he came home to find the three men inside his shop and going through his gun collection. He claims they drew weapons on him, which caused him to shoot them in self-defense.
Armed with a shotgun, Bass shot all three men dead before any of them could fire off a single round. However, his self-defense argument was fractured by the fact that he not only used all the ammunition in the shotgun, he had time to reload before continuing to shoot the men.
On the day of the murders, Bass reportedly picked up the three men, presumably to do yardwork. Family members testified that in the past Bass had paid the men with gifts, cash and drugs. At the time of their deaths, all three victims had illicit drugs in their system, according to testimony from the medical examiner.
“Each one of those guys (victims) tested positive for meth,” said Etheridge, adding that the medical examiner claimed methamphetamine use could lead to violence and confusion. Etheridge also claimed that a motive for the murders had not been proven by the prosecution.
“There was no financial gain for shooting these guys. A few hundred dollars of stuff is not motive,” Etheridge said.
Prosecutor Mark Boemio, in closing remarks, reminded the jury that a pistol found in Chris Wells’ right hand was inconsistent with the fact that he was left-handed, suggesting that Bass may have planted the gun on the victim after the murder.
The motive of the murders was still unclear even after the conviction, though anger over a rash of thefts that Bass had reported to law enforcement appears to be the likely cause. There was no evidence presented during the trial to show that any of the victims had committed a theft, however Bass was frustrated, Boemio said.
“He was frustrated that people were coming to his house and stealing from him,” Boemio said. “He killed these individuals after luring them to his property.”
Boemio said that Bass appeared to try covering up the crime by removing surveillance cameras and footage.
“He recorded himself tampering with the evidence, actively taking down the cameras,” Boemio said. “Theft is not a crime punishable by death.”
The jurors appeared to agree as they returned the verdict in near-record time.
After the trial, Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman said she is pleased that jurors, who heard and weighed the overwhelming evidence presented to them at trial, handed down a sentence that was “rightly deserved.”
“We extend a debt of gratitude to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the investigators involved in this case. This conviction would not have been secured if not for their tireless efforts and their dedication to pursuing justice for the victims of this case. Lastly, I would like to commend the prosecutors in this case, Mark Boemio and Nicole Washington, who worked tireless in this matter. The streets of Liberty County are safer tonight because of their efforts. There truly is evil in this world, and Andrew Bass is proof that it exists within Liberty County. Thankfully, Mr. Bass will never again be allowed to walk the streets of our community,” she said.
Capt. Billy Knox, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, lauded the work of Investigators J.R. McQueen, Mark Ellington and Steve Rasberry, and the other LCSO deputies who aided in the case.
“The investigators typically don’t like being recognized because they are a team, but Lead Investigator J.R. McQueen did an outstanding job from the beginning all the way to its conclusion today. LCSO Criminal Investigation Division did a fantastic job with this case,” Knox said.