Alleged confession from Andre McDonald to in-laws highlights Day 1 of his murder trial

Air Force major charged in 2019 death of wife Andreen McDonald

SAN ANTONIO – The first witness to testify in the murder trial of an Air Force major wasn’t even scheduled to make an appearance on the witness stand.

But that all changed after an alleged phone call the murder defendant made to his sister-in-law Friday.

Cindy Johnson testified Monday in the trial of Andre McDonald, who is charged in the slaying of his wife, Andreen McDonald, in 2019.

Johnson told jurors that the defendant called her three days ago because he wanted her and her mother “to know the truth” before the trial began.

Johnson testified that during the 41-minute phone call, Andre McDonald told them about an argument he had with his wife over her operating a business in her name only, which had upset him.

McDonald then told Johnson and her mother that he killed his wife in their living room.

WATCH: Andre McDonald confessed to killing his wife in front of daughter, sister-in-law says on witness stand

“He used his foot and stomped her,” Johnson said. When the prosecution asked if he stomped her multiple times, Johnson responded, “He didn’t say.” When the prosecutor asked if anyone witnessed the slaying, Johnson said, “Alayna, her daughter.”

Hyacinth Maureen Smith, Andreen’s mother, who was on speaker during the alleged phone call, also testified Monday.

Smith told the jury that she was “frightened and shocked” when she learned that her son-in-law was on the phone.

“He explained some things,” Smith said. “He said he wanted to tell me the truth and that I deserved to know the truth.”

Smith, who broke down in tears, talked about the moment when her son-in-law came back from putting his daughter to bed.

“When he came back down, she (Andreen) was dead,” Smith said. “He take her clothes off and burned it. He put her body in a car. He drove to the place where her remains were found.”

Smith said that despite living with the couple and their daughter, she wasn’t home the night of the alleged slaying because she had to care for a client at one of her daughter’s assisted living centers.

Carol Ghanbar, who was a friend of the victim, also testified. Ghanbar told the jury that she and an employee went to the McDonald home to look for Andreen after she failed to show up for a gym workout and work.

Ghanbar said they found blood and hair on a light switch in Andreen’s bedroom, took a picture and called police. She also testified about discovering a pile of burnt items in the backyard that included a zipper.

The defense asked Ghanbar about the victim having an extra-marital affair, to which Ghanbar said she had told Andreen “she was playing with fire.”

WATCH: Highlights from Day 1 of the Andre McDonald murder trial

During a brief opening statement, defense attorney John Convery told jurors that the defendant didn’t commit murder.

“It’s about responsibility and he has taken responsibility. But it’s simply not murder. It was an accident. It was manslaughter,” Convery said.

Prosecutor Steve Speir told the jury about online searches Andre McDonald allegedly made on his phone.

“How long does DNA live outdoors, how long does it take? There are just five searches of hundreds found on the defendant’s phone,” Speir said.

Andreen McDonald was last seen alive on Feb. 28, 2019. Her husband was the prime suspect in her disappearance when family and friends reported her missing several days later.

After months of searching, law enforcement found her remains in July 2019 at a private property in far north Bexar County.

If he is found guilty, Andre McDonald could face up to life in prison.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the 399th District Court. Judge Frank Castro is presiding over the trial.

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

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About the Authors

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.

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

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