Handcuffed: The Rape and Murder of Marcy Jo Andrews
On Valentine’s Day, 1984, a young woman goes out with a couple of friends and disappears. Details would later emerge regarding the real horror of Marcy Jo Andrews’ fate.
Marcy Jo Andrews was born on January 1, 1960, in Danville, Illinois. Her parents never legally married and split up soon after her birth. Her mother, Sara, enrolled at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston to study music, but in 1964, she accepted a position working for Scott Foresman & Company, a textbook publisher in Chicago. Shortly after, Sara and Marcy relocated to the Windy City.
Sara met co-worker Robert Andrews, and the two began a serious relationship. They married in 1971 and lived in Robert’s apartment on North Cleveland Avenue. Sara changed Marcy’s last name to Andrews.
Marcy enrolled in LaSalle School in Old Town, where Robert taught classes. In the sixth grade, she started smoking marijuana and eventually began using other drugs. By the time Marcy was in high school, her drug use and behavior had worsened. She often skipped classes at Lane Tech High School and dropped out at age 16 to work as a waitress at a cocktail lounge.
Around this time, Marcy and her best friend, Delores “Dori” Pernell, hopped on a bus and headed to Sara’s sister’s home in Texas. Sara had no idea where Marcy was or that the girls were doing drugs on their trip, something Sara discovered later.
After the girls returned home, Marcy blacked out while driving and got in a car accident. Sara said Marcy was with a basketball coach who borrowed somebody else’s car when they got into the accident.
According to People v. Nowicki, 894 N.E.2d 896, Marcy told her mother that she “did not know why she suddenly decided to move the car because it was double-parked,” but this is when the accident occurred. Marcy was also concerned that the girl whose car she borrowed and wrecked would do something to her; therefore, she needed to leave town for a while.
After the accident, Marcy went on a month-long “cross-country jaunt with a Mayflower truck driver.” During the trip, Marcy called Sara and told her the name, dispatch number, and log number of the truck driver if anything happened to her. Additionally, she called Sara every few days and sent postcards to her step-siblings.
In 1982, Marcy was working at a dance bar called Gazebo’s on Lincoln Avenue, and at Tuts, a punk bar near the Belmont elevated station (Anderson 1989). By this time, she was heavily drinking alcohol and confessed to Sara, “I know I have a problem. I drink too much, but I’m going to straighten up.” She did not mention anything about drugs, but Marcy wanted to go to a treatment center.
She entered herself in a program called Crossroads at St. Xavier University. She remained at Crossroads for nine months and, during that time, attended Daley Junior Community college. After leaving rehab, Marcy moved in with her step-grandmother and enrolled in nearby Northeastern Illinois University. In February 1984, she began working at Periodical Publishers on West Lawrence Avenue in Chicago and stopped attending Northeastern.
Marcy had plans to move to Paducah, Kentucky, and intended to leave Chicago in mid-March to start the summer semester at Paducah Community College that June.
Marcy Jo Andrews never made it to Paducah.
Marcy Jo Andrews Vanishes
On February 13, 1984, Marcy Jo Andrews was babysitting her step-sister, Jessica, while Sara was at work. Marcy had just taken a shower and was blow-drying her hair when Sara returned home from work between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. She told Sara she needed a ride back to her apartment, so Robert, her step-father, gave her a ride. Sara never saw her daughter again.
On February 15, Sara called Marcy to ask if they could get together so Sarah could give her a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. However, Sara was unable to reach Marcy but spoke with her step-grandmother, who said Marcy did not call her the night before to tell her she would not be home all night. Sara thought this was unlike Marcy because she knew her step-grandmother liked to wait for her with a sandwich and something to drink.
Sara immediately knew something was wrong. She eventually discovered that Marcy had been with Dori, but Sara did not know Dori’s address or phone number. Sara asked her mother-in-law to make a note of everyone who called for Marcy and get their contact information. For about a week, Sara could not find anyone who had seen or heard from Marcy.
Finally, Dori got a hold of Marcy’s step-grandmother and asked to have Sara call her back.
During this time, Sara decided to drive to the family’s second home in Michigan, thinking Marcy might be up there. But when she arrived at the house, there were no signs of Marcy anywhere.
A short while later, Sara received a call from her mother-in-law telling her to call Dori. After speaking with Marcy’s friend, Sara immediately called the police.
Marcy Jo Andrews’ alcohol recovery was short-lived. On February 13, 1984, Marcy called Dori and asked to meet her at Dori’s place of employment, a bar called Jaime’s Elsewhere on Lawrence Avenue. Afterward, the two returned to Dori’s apartment to watch some television. Marcy stayed the night.
The next day was an unusually warm Valentine’s Day. The two friends decided to go to the botanical gardens to walk. Dori invited another friend, Gay Dell, to come along. Gay lived in an apartment above Dori’s.
The trio got a ride to a drug dealer's apartment, Casey Nowicki, at 2558 W. Iowa Street. The girls wanted to get high before going to the botanical gardens. Dori and Gay snorted some tic, also known as PCP or “angel dust,” while Marcy smoked marijuana and drank a few beers. For fun, the girls recorded a silly message for Nowicki’s answering machine.
During this time, people were coming in and out of Nowicki’s apartment, and the girls changed their minds about visiting the botanical gardens. The girls spent approximately five to seven hours at Nowicki’s place.
Around 7:00 p.m., Nowicki offered the girls a ride home in a small white car. Nowicki lit a joint in the car, took a couple of hits, and passed it to Gay and Marcy in the back seat. Dori was upfront next to Nowicki.
At some point along the way, Nowicki ran the car into a viaduct on Western Avenue, and upon impact, Dori’s seat slid backward and injured Marcy’s ankle. She could not stand at all, and Dori thought the ankle looked broken.
Nowicki went crazy over the accident, yelling at the girls. “You are all bitches, witches! This is your fault!” He was angry because he did not have car insurance. Shortly after, the police arrived at the scene. Nowicki handed Dori the car keys and told her and Gay to wait for the tow truck while he and Marcy went to the police station. He informed Dori that he would take Marcy to the hospital afterward.
Dori and Gay never saw Marcy Jo Andrews again.
A Friend Tries to Help
Dori and Gay went back to Dori’s apartment and tried to call Marcy at her place to see if she was okay. Marcy did not answer the phone, so Dori called Nowicki, but no one answered. Instead, Dori heard the funny previously-recorded message by the girls.
Nowicki eventually called Dori back and asked what had happened to his car and why it had not been towed back to his place. Dori tried explaining that he did not leave her enough money, and the driver took the car to a different location. Nowicki became angry and screamed at her. When Dori asked where Marcy was and whether she had gone to the hospital, Nowicki avoided answering her questions.
Dori made several phone calls to Nowicki after that. Around 10:00 p.m., she told him, “I will bring you the keys if I can talk to Marcy.” Nowicki put Marcy on the phone.
Marcy sounded scared, frightened, and high; her speech was slow and slurred. She told Dori that Nowicki wanted her to stay the night and take her to the hospital the next day. She pleaded to Dori, “Please get me out of here. He’s scaring me. I have to get out of here.”
Dori called her friend, John Hefner, and asked for a ride to Nowicki’s apartment. Dori, along with Gay and John, knocked on Nowicki’s door, but he did not answer. They went across the street to a bar to call Nowicki, but he did not answer the phone. They could see a shadow walking in Nowicki’s front window from the bar, but no one pulled the curtains aside. Dori kept calling and left several messages on his answering machine.
Frustrated, Dori and Gay went outside and started throwing rocks at Nowicki’s window. He never answered the door, and eventually, Dori, Gay, and Hefner went home.
The next day, Dori called Nowicki again, and he finally answered. When she asked why he had not answered the previous night, he claimed she never showed up at his apartment. He then demanded his car keys and told Dori that Marcy had left. She did not believe him because Marcy was unable to walk after the accident. She told him she would come to his house with his car keys if he let her into his apartment to see if Marcy was there.
Dory took along her brother and Gay Dell to Nowicki’s apartment. She rang the doorbell, and Nowicki came flying down the stairs to the ground floor, screaming at her. She asked to go upstairs, and he refused. According to Dory, Nowicki then threatened to kill her and throw battery acid in her face. He also indicated that he knew where she lived. Dori became angry and threw the car keys in his face, and left.
Dori and Gay never called the police.
When Dori returned home, she called Marcy’s step-grandmother and mother but could not reach them. She continued to call Nowicki and go to his apartment every day. Toward the end of the week, Dori finally reached Marcy’s grandmother and asked her to have Sara call her back. Sara Andrews called Dori after she returned home from Michigan.
Dori told Sara what happened and asked her to call the police.
The Initial Investigation
Sara Andrews reported her daughter missing, and the investigation into Marcy Jo Andrews’ disappearance began. It did not take long before investigators learned what happened to Marcy Jo Andrews.
Several witnesses came forward and told authorities they had seen Marcy drugged and handcuffed naked to a radiator in Casey Nowicki’s apartment over three days.
One witness, a friend of Nowicki’s, told authorities that Nowicki placed Marcy’s body in the trunk of a car and said that Marcy died of a cocaine overdose.
Despite eyewitness accounts, detectives had no physical evidence or a body tying Nowicki to a crime, and the case went cold.
A Mother’s Search for Daughter
After Sara Andrews reported her daughter missing, she spent years searching for Marcy on her own. Sara searched seedy Chicago neighborhoods, retraced Marcy’s steps she may have taken, handed out pictures, and even consulted psychics.
Sara always wore “my Hunt-for-Marcy uniform — a ChicagoFest jersey, Levis, a pair of suede boots, and an army fatigue jacket. She hung out in bars, grocery stores, and restaurants, anywhere she could to find Marcy.
Sara passed along numerous tips to police and had files bulged with papers. The data contained a hundred key names, addresses, and phone numbers. She pulled Marcy’s X-rays and dental records, just in case Marcy was found. Sara sent newspaper copies about the search to every coroner in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The state’s attorney’s office told her that cases without a body are hard to prosecute, although not impossible. It gave her a little bit of hope.
By 1989, Sara was a graphic artist and writer in Near North Chicago and had found nine witnesses to her daughter’s fate. She discovered what may have happened to her daughter and convinced the United States Attorney’s office to believe her version of events.
Unfortunately for Sara, it took 11 years before the police made an arrest.
An Arrest and Trial
In 2000, 16 years after Marcy Jo Andrews went missing, investigators found several new witnesses in her disappearance. Two of the witnesses — Michael John Panisi and Michael Reinke — pointed definitively to Casey Nowicki.
Authorities reopened the case after U.S. Marshall John Ambrose learned that a fugitive he was pursuing had close ties to Nowicki. That led to discovering a 1987 federal court document that laid out the authorities’ suspicions of Nowicki’s involvement in Marcy’s disappearance (Hanna and Wilson 2000).
Eventually, investigators tracked down nearly 30 witnesses, half of whom — including Nowicki’s ex-wife — previously had not been interviewed by police, according to the Chicago Tribune.
At this time, Nowicki resided in the 2500 block of North Sawyer Avenue in Chicago. In October 2000, he was charged in a seven-count indictment with the first-degree murder of Marcy Jo Andrews and ordered held without bond during an October 27 court appearance. He was formally charged with first-degree murder two weeks later.
The trial finally took place in 2005. Testifying for the prosecution was Sara Andrews, Dori Pernell (now Garrity), Gay Dell, Michael John Panisi, and Roger Sexton, to name a few.
The full details of what truly happened to Marcy Jo Andrews came out through witness testimonies. The most vital statements came from Panisi and Sexton.
Panisi testified that in February 1984, he had known Casey Nowicki for about two months. On the night of February 14, Panisi arrived at Nowicki’s apartment, where he saw Marcy handcuffed to the radiator. He said Marcy was “all screwed up on the drugs that Nowicki was selling.”
He could not see Marcy from the front door. He had to enter the kitchen, and that is where Marcy was sitting on the floor with one hand handcuffed to a cast iron, “old-time” radiator. Panisi asked Nowicki, “Man, what is this? Man, what are you doing with this girl?” Nowicki replied, “She’s too screwed up to be walking around the apartment.” He told Panisi he had given Marcy some THC, which Marcy took of her own free will. “I can’t have her running all around while I’m trying to do my business, and she’s falling all around, and I don’t want her to start busting up shit and hurt herself.”
Panisi said he removed Marcy’s handcuffs and walked her to the kitchen table to give her some peanut butter, milk, and orange juice. He intended to make her vomit to get the drugs out of her system, but after he gave her the orange juice and milk, she only started spitting the food out and vomiting a little, “but not enough.” The two men then dressed Marcy. Panisi told Nowicki to get her some help, bought more drugs from Nowicki, and told him he had to leave.
Nowicki told Panisi that he was going to handcuff Marcy again. Panisi took his two grams of drugs and left. The next day, he returned to the apartment and observed Marcy on the couch next to the defendant, unhandcuffed. Another customer of Nowicki’s was also present. Nowicki told the customer, “Here, man. Take care of this girl.” The customer then forced Marcy to perform oral sex on him.
Marcy appeared to be out of it during this time, according to testimony. Nowicki told him Marcy had snorted one whole gram of THC. Panisi himself only snorted about a fourth of a gram. Panisi also claimed that Nowicki said to him he forced her to take the drugs because “she screwed up his mama’s car.” According to Nowicki, The girl had grabbed his steering wheel and made him crash the car. Nowick showed Panisi the vehicle, which was white and had right front damage, and asked Panisi to help him fix it. But he didn’t know anything about cars.
Panisi returned to the apartment on a third day. On this visit, Marcy was lying on the floor, wrapped in a blanket or a rug. He asked Nowicki what happened, and he said, “She’s died on me, man.” Panisi wanted to call the police, but Nowicki said, “No, help me get her out of here.” Panisi refused. He then witnessed Nowicki put the body over his shoulder, walk downstairs, and put it in a green car, which belonged to Nowicki’s mother.
Roger Sexton testified that he had met Nowicki in 1995 at the Federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. He next saw Nowick in 1998 when Sexton was sentenced to 38 months in the federal correction facility in Oxford, Wisconsin. He and Nowicki saw each other regularly for the next four years.
Sexton testified that he had an unusual conversation with Nowicki in the spring or summer of 1998, “about a girl.” Nowicki had just lost his appeal, and Sexton asked why. Nowicki responded, “Well, that bitch is still coming back to haunt me after all these years.” Sexton then asked what he was talking about, and Nowicki explained that the judge had sentenced him to too much time and went on to say, “they couldn’t find her body, so they know he done it,” according to court documents.
On July 28, 2005, the jury found Casey Nowicki, then 55, guilty of murder and found that the killing took place during a felony kidnapping (Coen, 2005). Nowicki faced life in prison.
Two months later, Judge Rickey Jones told the court that the crime and Nowicki’s criminal history, which included armed robbery and burglary convictions, demanded he stays in prison for the rest of his life (Coen 2005). He sentenced Nowick to life in prison for the murder of Marcy Jo Andrews.
Sara Andrews told the Chicago Tribune, “This defendant is every woman’s worst nightmare — every parent’s worst nightmare. I would imagine that he became his own mother’s nightmare. “And yet, I can only hope that his worst nightmares are yet to become his everyday reality.”
Marcy Jo Andrews’ body has never been found.
Anderson, Jon. “Searching for Sara.” Chicago Tribune. April 30, 1989. Downloaded June 9, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/389298730/
Coen, Jeff. “Drug Dealer Found Guilty in 1984 Murder of Woman.” Chicago Tribune. July 29, 2005. Downloaded June 9, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/235967059/
Coen, Jeff. “Killer Gets Life Term for Murder That Judge Decries.” Chicago Tribune. September 29, 2005. Accessed June 9, 2020. https://www.newspapers.com/image/236258950/
Hanna, Janan and Terry Wilson. “16 Years Later, Original Suspect in Slaying Seized.” Chicago Tribune. October 28, 2000. Accessed June 9, 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2000-10-28-0010280195-story.html.