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Shelby Andrews

FARMINGTON — A woman described by police as a "monster" who tortured and killed her 10-year-old stepdaughter by locking the bruised and weeping child in a too-tight closet space, where the girl struggled to breathe and cried out as she choked on her own vomit, was sentenced to prison Monday.

Second District Judge Michael Allphin sentenced Angela Ray Andrews to 15-years-to-life in prison for the murder of stepdaughter Shelby Andrews — and the judge pledged to ask the Board of Pardons to keep Andrews behind bars forever.

Allphin also sentenced the woman to another prison term of one-to-15-years for second-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The judge ordered the sentences to run concurrently to avoid any chance of appeal on the second count.

In a rare public gesture, the Syracuse Police Department, which handled the case and saw Shelby's battered, bloodied remains, also issued a scathing condemnation of the woman who systematically and repeatedly tortured the child.

"Angela Andrews was never a mother to Shelby; she was a conniving, self-centered monster who manipulated others in the household to assist in abusing Shelby," the police statement said. "Angela played the victim in the Andrews' home and had family members believing Shelby was a bad seed. The only victim was Shelby Andrews. We all should never forget every bruise, every black eye and every bite mark on Shelby's body. Shelby never had a chance.

"As for the devil herself, Angela Ray Andrews, we hope that she never has the opportunity to be part of society or to be able to inflict torture on another human being," the police statement said.

Andrews, 37, previously pleaded guilty to the two crimes as part of a plea bargain. Prosecutors refused to negotiate the murder charge but agreed to reduce the sex-abuse charge from a first-degree felony to a second-degree felony.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings later said this was "No. 1" on the list of most grotesque cases he has handled in his 12-year legal career. He declined to give details — "out of respect for Shelby" — but indicated the violations the girl suffered were even more depraved than what has been publicly disclosed.

Rawlings wanted the death penalty for Angela Andrews and her husband, Ryan, but he was not able to charge them with capital murder because of the way Utah's laws were written at the time.

As a result of Shelby's murder, the laws have been rewritten to give prosecutors greater flexibility to seek the death penalty.

Rawlings said he was satisfied with the plea agreement because it meant Angela Andrews was forced to admit her guilt and be locked up. The plea bargain also avoided protracted court appearances and appeals; it meant Andrews will become a registered sex offender; and most significantly, it saved the other children in the house from having to testify in court in the disturbing case.

Kimberly Hales, Shelby's biological mother, recounted how Angela Andrews' cruelty toward Shelby has hurt their entire family, including Shelby's brother, now 15, and especially her sister, now 9, who collapses into tears and withdrawal due to "flashbacks of something horrific she saw Angela do to Shelby."

The other two children are now living with Kimberly Hales and have been adopted by her husband of four years, Guy Hales. Angela Andrews' son is living with her parents.

Angela Andrews read a brief statement at her sentencing, saying she did not know why she did what she did. "I want you to know, you honor, how sorry I am for Shelby's death," Andrews said in a flat voice. "As my friends and family know, I loved Shelby very much."

Ryan Andrews, 39, earlier pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and was sentenced to a prison term of 15-years-to-life on Jan. 22. Ryan Andrews, who was Shelby's biological father, volunteered to testify against his wife if her case went to trial, even though that was not a requirement in his plea agreement.

He gave prosecutors a chilling written confession that described the brutality inflicted on Shelby on a regular basis, primarily by Angela Andrews, but also with participation by him and others.

For example, Ryan Andrews held the child's arms and legs while Angela Andrews rammed the girl in the vaginal area with a metal spray can. Angela Andrews also forced Shelby to eat her own feces, repeatedly slammed the girl's head into the stairs, and hit her in the vaginal area with the heel of a shoe, according to the confession.

The police were called to the couple's Syracuse home on Aug. 1, 2006, where officers found Shelby dead, with about 80 percent of her body covered with old and new bruises, and bite marks. Later, her brain also was found to have been swelling.

On the night Shelby was killed, Ryan Andrews described pushing the child into a tiny space in a linen closet that forced her to stand upright, even though she cried out that she could not breathe and was gagging on vomit. He said in his confession that Angela Andrews told him to leave the girl in the closet because "Shelby was just trying to play me," so the couple continued to keep the girl locked up and watched TV together.

"When we later opened the door, Shelby was dead, and her lifeless body fell to the floor," Ryan Andrews' confession said.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com