Judge issues rulings on pretrial motions in Andre McDonald murder trial; testimony to start on Monday

Air Force major is accused of killing his wife Andreen McDonald in 2019

SAN ANTONIO – The judge presiding in the murder trial of an Air Force major charged in the murder of his wife issued some rulings Friday on pretrial motions filed by the defense.

Andre McDonald is accused in the 2019 slaying of his wife, Andreen McDonald, whose remains were found four months after she disappeared.

For the past two days, defense attorneys were concerned about certain evidence being allowed in the trial, arguing that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

On Thursday, defense attorney John Hunter argued that search warrants conducted in 2019 by Bexar County Sheriff’s Office shouldn’t be allowed in the trial because he said they unlawfully entered the home through an open window.

On Wednesday, Andreen McDonald’s friend, Carol Ghanbar, gave pretrial testimony about the history of the McDonalds’ marriage. She was the first to report the woman missing after she failed to report to work on March 1, 2019, and nobody could get a hold of her.

Ghanbar said through her friendship with Andreen McDonald, the victim revealed her marriage was having problems and that arguments with Andre McDonald often got physical.

Ghanbar said she went to the McDonalds’ home to look for Andreen McDonald and entered the house after nobody answered the door. Ghanbar said she noticed blood and hair on a light switch in Andreen McDonald’s bathroom.

The defense cross-examined Ghanbar with questions about why she entered the home without permission and also about her conversations with Bexar County Sheriff’s Office investigators about the case.

On Friday, the defense and prosecution made their final arguments before 399th District Court Judge Frank Castro, who didn’t waste any time delivering a ruling after the two sides were finished.

“As far as the illegal arrest, I’m going to grant the defense motion suppress on that. As far as this written note. Y’all know what note I’m talking about, where he’s putting down gas cans, flashlights, batteries, I’m going to suppress for defense attorney. I’m going to suppress the medical records. As far as the rest of the motions, suppress is denied.”

During the trial, the judge will not allow the mention of the defendant being arrested outside a gun shop two days after his wife disappeared, or that a handwritten note was found in his pocket during the time of that arrest that listed items like gas cans, flashlights and bags. Medical records of the defendant’s evaluation at Brooke Army Medical Center will also suppressed.

But Castro’s rulings also gave the prosecution some wins.

Search warrants that mention Andreen’s friend finding blood and hair in her bathroom and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office deputies finding a shovel will be allowed, as well as testimony from Andreen McDonald’s mother, Maureen Smith.

Smith was living at the home with Andreen and Andre McDonald.

Smith was working the night her daughter disappeared, but she allowed BCSO to go into the home when they arrived. The defense questioned her about giving permission for BCSO to search the home that she did not own.

Both Smith and Ghanbar testified that Andreen McDonald was having an alleged affair with a man in Jamaica and had visited him a little over a month before she disappeared.

The actual trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday. If found guilty, Andre McDonald faces up to life in prison.

KSAT will be livestreaming the trial gavel-to-gavel on KSAT.com, KSAT+ and KSAT’s YouTube channel.

To catch up on this case, watch “Open Court: The Trial of Andre McDonald” out now on KSAT Plus and KSAT’s YouTube channel.

To catch up on this case, watch “Open Court: The Trial of Andre McDonald” out now on KSAT Plus and KSAT’s YouTube channel.

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About the Authors:

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.