She was very blond, her outfit very blue, so it was hard not to notice the silent send-off Sharon Andrejic offered her husband as she departed the courtroom that day. Sitting in the witness box, the 32-year-old former nurse with the ready-made tan and sweep of flaxen hair looked up at the man who had (twice) plotted her death, flashed a nervous smile, and mouthed a phrase very few would-be killers ever hear from their targets: I love you.
If Anthony Andrejic was stirred by this oddly timed display of affection, he did not betray it. For four days, he had sat unmoved, almost inert, listening to recollections of his bizarre and bullet-speed downfall. It was a story punctuated with such rococo sinfulness -- from drug abuse to sexual fetishes to cheesy displays of manly bravado -- that it made The Jerry Springer Show look like Masterpiece Theatre.
That Andrejic, a former surgical resident at the Cleveland Clinic, was in court last month on attempted murder charges is only part of this surreal tale. What made his fable so difficult to comprehend was not just the height from which he fell, but the utter stupidity he employed in his headlong rush. He had been blessed with such a bounty of skill and opportunity during his life that, even if a jury had not found him guilty, it would have seemed perfectly reasonable to punish him anyway. The indictment: aggravated idiocy.
The charges wouldn't be hard to prove. Over the last nine months, Andrejic managed to lose his money, his home, his career, his daughter, and his freedom. About the only thing he hadn't destroyed -- so far, anyway -- was his marriage to Sharon Andrejic. Some things, apparently, are still sacred.
The accusations of attempted murder were only the most recent product of Andrejic's wayward arc. The good doctor's latest woes actually began three months before, in a different case, when he pleaded guilty to aggravated drug trafficking and unauthorized practice of medicine. He admitted to selling prescriptions for OxyContin, Valium, and Vicodin in exchange for money, drugs, and sex. At a hearing on January 31, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Jane Boyle sentenced him to four and a half years in prison. He also agreed to surrender his medical license. If all went well, he would be out in two years.
It took all of a week after being sentenced, however, for Andrejic to make sure all did not go well. While waiting to be transferred to state prison, he hatched the murder plot that landed him, once again, in the crosshairs of criminal justice. This time around, he would not get off so easy.
On April 20, he was found guilty of four counts of attempted murder for plotting the deaths of his wife, her unborn child, her lover, and Todd Roland, an informant who helped police nail Andrejic in the prescription case seven months before. Judge Bridget M. McCafferty sentenced Andrejic to maximum terms on all counts -- and ran them consecutively. Barring an appellate court reversal, Andrejic will be locked up for the next 49 years.
Yet even after it was all over, after Andrejic had gotten his ticket punched by McCafferty, after the nabobs of television news were able to string the words "doctor," "Cleveland Clinic," and "prison" in the same sentence, so little had really been explained. By the time his case had come to trial, the matter of guilt or innocence seemed almost secondary. Even if one were charitable enough to put any stock in Andrejic's version of the story, it all still raised the question: What the hell was he thinking? How could a man so intelligent in one part of life -- first in his class at medical school, a resident at one of the country's most prestigious hospitals -- be such a fool in others?
If nothing else, the doctor provides a handy blueprint for those hell-bent on leaving a trail of pain, betrayal, and disappointment in their wake. Here, then, is Dr. Andrejic's Guide to Self-Destruction.
Step One: Develop Bad Habits
It started out well, or relatively well, as it usually does with people who have the education and opportunity Andrejic did. He came to Cleveland from New Jersey in 1999, a freshly anointed resident in the general surgery department at the Cleveland Clinic.
The five-year program trains young physicians to become surgeons. For Andrejic, it was a huge deal. He was a 1996 graduate of the Ross University medical school on the Caribbean island of Dominica, and his nascent career had always been plagued by the stigma of his less-than-prestigious academic training.
"He always felt he had to work harder than the next guy" to earn respect, says Sharon. A spot at one of the country's most prominent hospitals would help remedy that. "It was," says a relative, "the biggest move of his career."
And the biggest mistake.
Upon arrival in the city, Andrejic moved into a rented home on Kimmel Road in Slavic Village. In the beginning, his neighbors found him an inconspicuous presence. He was quiet. He made a good living. "In his comings and goings," says one former neighbor, "he seemed to be a resident putting in a lot of hours."
But all that changed quickly in May 2000. That's when Sharon and the couple's two-year-old daughter, Alyssa, moved to town. From testimony and court documents, it's not clear how much Andrejic indulged in drugs prior to his family's arrival in Cleveland. But for whatever reason, their presence became a catalyst, launching him into the orbit of serious crack addiction.
Neighbors soon noticed that the quiet doctor had become hyper and paranoid. He was constantly agitated. He talked a mile a minute. "Things got absolutely bizarre," says one neighbor. "It was like he was in one of those satanic movies where the head starts spinning."
Sharon worked as a nurse back in New Jersey -- they met while working together at a hospital in Baltimore. But after nine months of raising Alyssa alone while Anthony was in Cleveland, she planned to take some time off before getting her Ohio nursing license. Instead of taking it easy, however, she soon got busy developing a crack habit of her own.
The Andrejics' rented home -- once part of a quiet neighborhood -- became a bona fide drug house, with all the accessories. Cars drove up and honked in the middle of the night. Prostitutes visited on a regular basis.
One Kimmel Road resident describes the scene: "All hours of the day and night, horns blowing, women sucking face out in the street."
Since the Andrejics had a habit of leaving their windows open, neighbors were privy to much of what went on inside. "It was a complete show," says one neighbor. "We couldn't sleep . . . These people were blatant idiots. You'd think if you were a drug dealer, you'd be discreet. You don't want to get busted. But these people were asking for the attention."
Indeed, several months later, a potential juror would disqualify himself because he had a friend who lived across the street from the doctor. The friend had once invited him over. The show across the street, he was told, was too good to miss.
The Andrejics' drug use decimated their finances, so Andrejic would barter with other addicts -- writing prescriptions for OxyContin, Valium, or Vicodin -- in exchange for drugs or sex. Sometimes, he would trade for chores around the house. He once worked out a deal to have someone take Sharon shopping.
But less than two months after his wife and child arrived in Cleveland, Andrejic's life was quickly disintegrating. In early July, the clinic asked him to take some "time off" after he nodded off in the operating room. (After he was arrested in August, the clinic said he'd been fired.) Two weeks later, he passed out behind the wheel and crashed his Honda Civic into a mail truck. Blood tests taken after the accident revealed cocaine and a prescription tranquilizer in his system.
Andrejic enrolled in a drug treatment program at the Cleveland Clinic. His first foray into sobriety, however, didn't quite stick. Though it was an inpatient program, he was granted privileges to leave on weekends. On his first weekend out, he wrote prescriptions for two men in exchange for $250 worth of crack, say prosecutors. He then had the men take his daughter to the county fair. When the weekend was over and Andrejic returned to his rehab program, he tested positive for cocaine.
Andrejic, however, had an explanation. "My wife," he would later tell police, "blew crack smoke into my mouth when she was kissing me."
Step Two: Always Choose Rats for Co-conspirators
While in rehab, Andrejic met Todd Roland, a man even prosecutors referred to by his less-than-flattering but descriptive nickname: "Fat Boy."
Roland, who has serious health problems and is on disability, had been addicted to painkillers for much of his life -- a streak that wasn't about to be curbed by the friendship he'd developed with Andrejic after they met in group therapy. Despite the setting, they soon hatched a plan to do business together. "He said he could make me lots of money if I wrote him prescriptions," Andrejic told police. "So I agreed."
The prescription scam wasn't the only thing the two had discussed while they were supposed to be getting sober, however. They also conferred about how easy it would be to kill Andrejic's wife. Anthony was tired of dealing with Sharon, sick of her maxing out credit cards they couldn't pay for, sick of her selling his stuff to pay for drugs, sick of her running around with a "dope seller who's black."
The plan was this: Since Sharon was always high, Andrejic reasoned, nobody would suspect a thing if she was killed with an injection of heroin or potassium chloride. It would simply look like an overdose or a heart attack. But Andrejic told Roland that it would have to be done while he was in rehab. He needed the alibi.
Andrejic would later explain that it was all just talk, bullshit cooked up to sound tough and vent his frustration. Just a couple of guys, kicking back, talking 'bout whacking the missus.
He didn't really want Sharon killed, he would tell police. She was, after all, still his wife, the mother of his child, the woman he loved.
Roland, however, had somehow failed to pick up on the subtle humor in these blueprints for murder. After he got home from his stint at the clinic (and after filling a bogus prescription -- courtesy of Dr. Andrejic -- for OxyContin at the Giant Eagle in Strongsville), one of the first things he did was call the cops.
Not surprisingly, authorities seemed even less inclined than Roland to see the murder plot -- or the prescription drug scam -- as harmless.
Cleveland Detective Greg Whitney and agent Lynn Mudra of the State Board of Pharmacy enlisted Roland in a sting against Andrejic. It was a simple plan. A buy was set up at the Cleveland Clinic, where Andrejic was still in rehab. Roland would purchase OxyContin prescriptions for $2,500 in cash. After the deal went down, Whitney and Mudra went to Andrejic's room, which he allowed them to search. They found the buy money in his briefcase.
The doctor was eventually indicted on charges of drug trafficking, drug possession, and unauthorized practice of medicine, as well as attempted aggravated murder for the plot against his wife. In a statement to the police signed August 21, the day he was arrested, Andrejic admitted that he talked to Roland about having Sharon killed, but that "we were talking like tough guys. Really, now, I don't want her dead."
In late January, just as the jury was being selected for trial, Andrejic agreed to plead guilty to trafficking and unauthorized practice of medicine. He also agreed to surrender his medical license. The attempted murder charge was dropped.
Step Three: If at First You Don't Destroy Your Life, Try, Try Again
If there were lessons to be learned from his experience with Todd Roland -- say, the value of not discussing the offing of your betrothed with new acquaintances -- they were lost on Andrejic.
In early February, about a week after Andrejic was sentenced in his first case, Dan Kasaris, the assistant county prosecutor who had handled the matter, received a call from a sheriff's detective at the county jail. A man named Charles Corwin had approached the detective about a fellow inmate. Anthony Andrejic, it seemed, was once again talking about whacking somebody. "I couldn't believe it," says Kasaris. "I was stunned."
Kasaris asked the deputy to see if Corwin would wear a wire. Corwin, a seedy Italian known in jail as Barbarino, agreed. Over the next few days, police recorded several hours of conversations between him and Andrejic -- dialogue that now seems like a parody of a bad mob movie:
Corwin: "The thing is, you gotta come up with the fuckin' dough."
Andrejic: "I will. I'll come up with the dough."
Corwin: "'Cause they are going to look at me for the money if I fuckin' give the word."
Andrejic: "I guarantee that."
Corwin: "You are going to guarantee that in blood."
Andrejic: "I'll guarantee that in blood, in blood."
Not exactly the Algonquin Round Table. Nevertheless, police succeeded in recording several conversations in which Andrejic talked about having Todd Roland and Mike Smith, the man he apparently thought had impregnated his wife, killed. Sharon (and the baby she was now carrying) wouldn't be the primary targets, but if she got in the way, so be it.
"It's called collateral damage," Andrejic said, when Corwin asked about the possibility of his wife being with Smith when his car was blown up. "It's unavoidable."
Andrejic now says his conversations with Corwin, like those with Roland, were just "a bunch of jailhouse talk," a way to make Corwin think he was tough. "Guys like Corwin like to manipulate weaker people like me -- someone who has never been in trouble before in my life, let alone been in jail," Andrejic wrote in a letter to Scene.
"It was Corwin who approached me, Corwin who tormented me for one week and two days . . . And it was me just playing along with this nonsense to avoid further aggression and trouble with Corwin until I moved on."
Step Four: When the Good Lord Doles Out Street Smarts, Take a Pass
To seal the deal for the cops, Corwin set up a telephone call between Andrejic and a fictitious hit man, "Jeff Duval," to plan the murders.
Jeff Duval was, of course, a cop. But he wasn't just any cop; he was Detective Greg Whitney.
Whitney was, to say the least, a curious choice. He has a particularly distinct, nasal voice, one with which Andrejic should have been familiar. Over the previous seven months, Andrejic had met Whitney, spoken to him, and heard him testify numerous times.
On the recordings, after Andrejic got off the phone, he told Corwin that the hit man sounded like Whitney. Corwin brushed it off and quickly changed the subject.
At trial, Andrejic would explain that he had suspected all along that "Jeff" was really Whitney. But if he knew the hit man was Detective Whitney, why did he continue to talk about having people killed, going so far as to say it wouldn't bother him if the victims needed "a parachute" after the bombs went off?
Andrejic: "The thing is, talking about details over the phone, I am a little leery about that."
Duval: "Yeah, I know, but things could be a little messy. You understand that?"
Andrejic: "Sure, sure, we can talk about that."
Duval: "That doesn't bother you at all?"
Andrejic: "No, not at all, you know, whatever needs to be done, needs to be done. I accept that."
For someone who was supposed to be cold and calculating, Andrejic often showed a striking lack of street savvy. He even proposed paying off the hit man in monthly installments.
For people who know Andrejic well, that kind of naïveté is nothing new. There may not be a man less suited to life among convicts. "He is the kind of person where, when it comes to a scholastic standpoint, he's a highly intelligent individual," says someone who's known Andrejic his entire life. "But put him in the middle of the street in Harlem, and he's a total idiot -- wouldn't know what to do, wouldn't know how to survive. Book smart, world stupid."
Step Five: Appear Wildly Unsympathetic to a Jury
If the audiotapes of Andrejic's conversations with Corwin and the hit man formed the hard center of the case against him, the seedy underside was supplied by a homemade sex tape Andrejic filmed of him and his wife.
Andrejic made the tape months before he got into trouble with the law. It was seized in a search of the Kimmel Road house after he was first arrested last August.
Prosecutors offered the tape to rebut Andrejic's assertion that he and Sharon had a normal marriage, but its significance went far beyond refuting that claim. More than anything, the video served to portray Andrejic as a dirtball, someone who deserved the kind of sympathy usually reserved for pederasts and professional sports team owners.
For anyone who harbors notions about the dignity of the naked human form, the tape's contents are best not described in detail. But a succinct description was offered in one court hearing by Andrejic's attorney, Michael O'Shea: "The film portrays Mrs. Andrejic in what I would characterize as a partially unconscious state, where she drifts in and out of consciousness. And there is, I'll indicate on the record, Judge, there is fellatio on the film, there is vaginal intercourse, there is anal intercourse, there is a use of lubricant, what appears to be lubricant in connection with some of these acts."
At one point, it also shows Anthony standing over Sharon, naked, whispering that he would kill her if she told her father about the tape. Soon after, Sharon tells Anthony that he is "scaring the shit out of" her.
An episode of Matlock it wasn't.
The jury did not see much of the tape. Even so, Andrejic is well aware of how it made him look. "The prosecutor and detective attempted to smear me at trial using an OLD sex tape and lied to make the jury WANT to hate me," Andrejic wrote to Scene.
Yet, like so many of his other attempts to explain what happened, his own version of events isn't exactly complete: "I was talking to my wife about something that was bothering her, because she was talking in her sleep (I wasn't even raising my voice to her)," he wrote.
In other words, forget that whole "I'll kill you" part; he wasn't even raising his voice.
Step Six: Denial Is Your Friend
That explanation, as evasive and nakedly self-serving as it is, provides a good sample of what Andrejic's modus operandi has been throughout much of his ordeal. "He has never accepted responsibility for any of this," says Kasaris, the assistant county prosecutor who worked on both cases against Andrejic. "All he ever does is blame everybody else."
Indeed, Andrejic likes to portray himself as the hapless victim, persecuted by conspiratorial forces beyond his control.
His marital problems? His wife was unfaithful, a crack addict who was "screwing some dope seller who's black."
Illegally writing prescriptions for drugs and sex? He was conned into it by people like Donna Manos, a woman he was involved with. "I was an easy mark for her, because she used sex to lure me," he told police, "and that's my weakness."
His first plot to kill his wife, which he confessed to in a statement to Detective Whitney? "I was in shock at my interrogation."
The second plot to have four people killed, which was recorded by the cops? "Digitally manipulated!!"
Nothing, it seems, can be laid at the feet of Anthony Andrejic. It's a worldview that's long been a part of his personality, say friends. "Tony has an attitude," says someone who's known him since childhood. "He thinks he's untouchable. He thinks he's smarter than the average bear."
And even when he does takes responsibility for something, there's the sense that he doesn't believe it's really his fault. After he pleaded to drug trafficking in January, he managed to make it sound as if he'd performed a public service -- that he was just doing it to help the cops nail the true bad guys.
"I have detailed knowledge of operations that go above and beyond the abilities of the detectives to catch this major drug dealer and major drug ring," he said at the sentencing. "If I can be of assistance in the future to prevent anybody's life from being ruined like mine, another wife being addicted while their husband is out working, another child taken into foster care, I'm dedicated to that case. I'm not happy with what happened to my life."
Responded Judge Mary Jane Boyle: "It's clear you have no insight as to why you are before this court."
Five months and an attempted murder conviction later, that statement still rings true. Andrejic still thinks he can maintain control, just as he did with drugs, with Roland, with Corwin.
This time, it's the story. "I hope to have the opportunity to reveal more of the facts and uncover the LIES," he wrote to Scene. The truth, of course, has yet to come out. The death threats were just talk; the cops and prosecutors are lying; the tapes are bogus.
"The truth is that there was never any attempt or desire on my part to have the woman I love killed," Andrejic wrote. "My wife and I were going to renew our vows this year. In the six-plus years I've been with her, I never hit her, let alone seriously threatened her . . . As I sit here in prison, I can't believe I've been convicted of a crime I did not commit!! A bunch of jailhouse talk, with me trying to be tough -- to show Corwin I could be as tough as him -- and now I'm fighting against a 45-year sentence."
It's hard to know what to make of a man who calls his wife "collateral damage" one day and "the woman I love" the next. Indeed, after losing his money, his home, his medical career, his daughter, and his freedom, Anthony Andrejic is blessed with a bounty that should keep him occupied for many years in prison. He still has his wife -- and his ego.