Was Cop's Wife's Mysterious Death Murder?

ByABC News
August 22, 2003, 2:08 PM

Aug. 23 -- In the early hours of March 31, 2001, Jim Andros returned to his Pleasantville, N.J., home after a night out at an area bar. Andros said his wife, Ellen, was seated in front of her computer. But he quickly discovered something was wrong.

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"I just remember touching her shoulders, and there was none of the normal resistance there would be in a living person," Andros said.

Ellen wasn't breathing, and Jim, a 12-year veteran with the Atlantic City Police Department, said he was unable to revive her. He called 911 for an ambulance, but when the emergency team arrived, there was nothing to be done.

Andros' wife was dead at the age of 31, and he was a widower with two young daughters.

Under the Suspicion of Family and Friends

Andros called Ellen's parents with the tragic news. Distraught and in shock, Andros received another blow when his mother-in-law arrived at the house. According to the police report, Ellen's mother immediately confronted him in front of officers, saying, "What did you do to her? Did you kill her?"

"It almost knocked me down," Andros said. "I couldn't believe that she could say something like that to me."

But she did, and before long police on the scene were peppering Andros with questions of their own.

When the medical examiner arrived on the scene shortly after 9 a.m., he noticed small red marks on Ellen's face. They are called "petechial hemorrhages" and they're caused by a lack of oxygen often seen when someone has been strangled or suffocated. Soon, Andros found himself hauled in for questioning.

Andros cooperated, and didn't even wait until he retained a lawyer before answering their questions. "I knew there was no homicide," he said. "And more importantly, I know that I certainly didn't hurt my wife."

While Andros was questioned by detectives, the medical examiner, Dr. Elliot Gross, was conducting the autopsy. His findings: Ellen Andros' death was a "homicide." The cause, according to Gross, was "suffocation."

According to Andros, police talked to him as if they were convinced of his guilt. Andros said a sergeant told him, "I should realize that I had been out at a bar and I had some drinks and I blacked out and killed my wife, and they had already proven this, and to make it easier on myself, [I should] just confess to it. I could shave some time off my sentence."

Jim Andros was the only suspect in his wife's death. And it wasn't just the cops who suspected him. Mary and Charles Bokagiannis, once close friends of Andros, also suspected that he had killed his wife.

"My first reaction was at that time was, 'Oh my God, Jim did it,' " said Mary Bokagiannis.

Over the years, the couple's friendship with Andros had eroded, in large part, they say, because of how he treated Ellen.

Julie Goldberg, Ellen's best friend, says Ellen "suffered" in her marriage to Andros. Ellen's friends say when Andros and Ellen were dating, they were the picture of the loving couple; but after they were married, she says, that changed. Later, she and other friends told authorities that Ellen suspected her husband of infidelity.

Jim Andros denies he cheated on his wife, but Ellen's friends acknowledge she was having an extramarital affair and Goldberg says that just two weeks before her death, Ellen asked her to help her find a divorce lawyer.