A few years ago, I was sitting in my cousin, Deno’s kitchen, and we were having completely random conversations, and during the course of this, he said: “Yeah, like Lowell Lee when he went nuts and killed his family. He’s my cousin, you know.”
First of all, I had never heard of Lowell Lee Andrews, and had never heard of this crime anywhere, either. And at that moment my brain sorta froze in time, and Deno carried on with an entirely new subject.
When my tongue managed to start working again, I said: “Wait! Wait! Back up. Back. UP! WHAT did you say?”
He repeated the part about Lowell Lee, and my mouth just hung open. Deno’s mother happened to be standing there as well, and asked: “Who are you talking about?” Deno said: “Oh, you know, Lowell Lee Andrews.”
Aunt Betty said: “Oh, yes. Such a horrible thing. I never could figure that out. He was just the sweetest, quietest little boy. Always so nice and polite.” Deno pipes up, “Oh, Ma, you think everyone’s the sweetest thing you ever met.” I couldn’t even laugh — I was still processing.
So I made them tell me the story.
William and Opal Andrews lived on a farm outside the town of Wolcott, Kansas, in the 1950s. They had two children, Lowell Lee, and Jennie Marie. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1958, Lowell Lee was home with his family, on break from Kansas University, where he was a student.
While his family was in the living room watching TV, Lowell was upstairs in his bedroom reading, ironically, “The Brothers Karamazov”.
When he finished the book, he shaved and got dressed nicely, loaded up two guns, walked downstairs, and shot his 20-year-old sister, Jennie, right between the eyes. As his mother started toward him, he shot her as well. Six times. Then he shot his father twice.
William did not die immediately, so as he was crawling toward the kitchen, Lowell Lee reloaded, and shot his father 15 more times.
Then he opened a window, ransacked the house to make it look like a burglary, and got in his car and drove back to KU to his boarding room, one hour away in Lawrence, KS. Now mind you, the weather was snowy and icy and cold, so this was a pretty treacherous drive to make. On the way there, he disassembled the guns, and stopped to throw them into the Kansas River.
At his boarding house, he chatted with his landlady, telling her that he had come back to retrieve his typewriter so he could work on homework. Then he WENT TO A MOVIE!!! He went. To a. Movie. That’s some craziness right there, huh?
After the movie, he drove back home, fed the dog, and called the police to report a robbery. When the police arrived, they found Lowell sitting on the porch, petting the dog, and asked him what was up. He just pointed toward the house, and said: “In there.”
In there, they found the gruesome scene, and questioned Lowell, who maintained it was a burglary. His absence of distress was highly suspicious, but it was not until they called in the family’s pastor that Lowell confessed to the crimes and was arrested. He showed absolutely no emotion or remorse.
When asked about funeral arrangements, he told authorities, “I don’t care what you do with them.”
“I don’t care what you do with them.” How cold is that?
Given that most of the Andrews family relatives lived up in this area where I live now, they brought the bodies back “home” and buried them in the Mt. Salem Cemetery in Excello, Missouri, just down the road from where Aunt Betty (Andrews) grew up.
Lowell lived on death row at the Lansing Prison for the next four years. He was fellow inmates with Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the killers of the Clutter family, another famous mass murder in Kansas. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book “In Cold Blood”, it’s about the murder of the Clutter family, and towards the end, Lowell Lee is mentioned in the book and the movie. They called him “Andy”.
On November 30, 1962, Lowell Lee ate his last meal — fried chicken. He declined to deliver any last words, and was hung until dead. It is said that due to his size, he hung for quite a while before dying. As Deno put it, “They had trouble hangin’ him cos he was a big boy.”
And here’s the part I cannot bring myself to understand:
They brought him here and buried him next to the family members he so brutally murdered!
And they engraved his tombstone with “Son”.
I cannot understand this part. Deno said: “Yeah, I remember Grandma saying that same thing — whatever family member was in charge of that sure screwed up. I wouldna wanted him buried next to me!”
Down the road about a mile west of the cemetery, stands the house where Betty Andrews grew up.
Her father raised cattle on a 1000-acre farm, but sold out and moved into town to work for the highway department when Deno was just a little boy.
And I’m still flabbergasted about the entire story. I took all these pictures yesterday. I made Deno go with me, and we drove there to visit the cemetery and look at the old farmplace.
The house where the murders took place in Kansas is no longer there. A lot of the family who were living at the time, are now dead and gone. Aunt Betty will be 86 years old next March. I asked my dad if he remembered this happening, and he said: “Yeh. There was somethin’ bad wrong with that boy for him to do somethin’ like that.”
So there you have it — one of the most interesting skeletons I’ll ever find in my closet, I’ll wager!
And while My Cowboy is easily the funniest person I know, the men in my family are pretty funny, and Deno runs a very, very close second to My Cowboy in the humor department, so to lighten things up after that horrific tale, I’ll leave you with a few Deno quotes from our trip yesterday:
“Their hair-dos are very unbecoming.”
“A lesser man woulda been crushed.”
“I didn’t realize . . . you are ate up.”
“I think I look extinguished.”
“I almost told her to put on some clothes, but I was too busy watchin’ her.”
“He had a silver spoon stuck up his ass before he was ever born.”
“You’re gettin’ the hang o’ this drivin’ thing!”
“Someone came here with more dollars than sense.”
“I was real religious for about an hour and a half.”
“Man! Life’s complicated if ya get ta thinkin’ about it.”
“I’m one of the elder cousins in the family now.”
“See, even you don’t give me the respect I deserve.”
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