Jury finds husband not guilty

Published 1:03 am Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Covington County jury deliberated about an hour and a half before exonerating a man accused of setting his wife on fire.

Justin Corey Andrews was charged with attempted murder in a fire that severely burned his wife, Stephanie Dawn Andrews, in November of 2014. The two are no longer married.

Stephanie Andrews told investigators in 2014 and in subsequent interviews that her husband threw alcohol on her and set her on fire after she told him she wanted a divorce.

Justin Andrews maintained that his wife was using alcohol and a tissue or napkin – perhaps to remove nail polish – and that the embers of his cigarette ignited the cloth. His wife reacted by jumping up and throwing a bottle of alcohol into the air, and the fire spread, he said.

Jurors saw gruesome photographs of Mrs. Andrews’ burns, and learned that both husband and wife were transferred by helicopter to the University of South Alabama Medical Center burn center.

But Justin Andrews also testified that Stephanie Andrews had told him several times she knew her story was wrong, but she was scared she would get in trouble if she changed her story. They also heard attorney Benton Persons testify that Mrs. Andrews told him that she didn’t believe her husband meant to hurt her.

In closing arguments, the defendant’s attorney, Corey Bryan, argued that the burn pattern on the loveseat where the couple was seated when the fire began was not consistent with being doused. Instead, he said, it was a splatter melt.

“I am happy for my client and his family,” Bryan said of the jury’s verdict. “These were very serious allegations and my client has denied them since they were first made. The jury did their job. They gave my client a fair trial and followed the evidence in this case.”

Circuit Judge Lex Short presided at the trial. Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter prosecuted for the state.