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John Steven GARDNER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1983 / 2005
Date of birth: January 3, 1956
Victims profile: Rhoda Gardner, 18 (his first pregnant's wife) / Tammy Gardner, 41 (his second wife)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Mississippi/Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in Texas on November 20, 2006
TDCJ Number
Date of Birth
Gardner, John 999516 01/03/1956
Date Received
Age (when Received)
Education Level
11/20/2006 50 12th Grade
Date of Offense
Age (at the Offense)
01/23/2005 49 Collin
Hair Color
White Male Brown
Eye Color
6 ft 00 in 190 lbs Blue
Native County
Native State
Prior Occupation
Forest Mississippi Painter
Prior Prison Record

MS Dept of Corrections #55484 on an eight year sentence for aggravated assault.
Summary of incident

On January 23, 2005 in Collin County, Gardner entered the residence of a forty one year old white female with the intent to burglarize the home.  During an altercation, Gardner shot the victim.  The victim was transported via life flight and later died from her injuries.

Race and Gender of Victim
White Female

John Steven Gardner – white, age 49

Sentenced to death in Collin County, Texas

By: A jury

Date of crime: January 2005

Prosecution’s case/defense response: Gardner was given a death sentence for the shooting death of his wife, Tammy Gardner.  Tammy had placed a call to 911 and named her husband as the assailant after she had been shot in the head.  She died in the hospital three days later after the family chose to take her off life support.  Prosecutors claimed Gardner shot Tammy because she had filed for divorce.  Defense argued there was no forensic evidence connecting Gardner to the crime. 

During sentencing, the jury learned that Gardner was convicted of shooting his first wife in Mississippi in 1983.  Rhoda Gardner was only 18 and pregnant at the time of her death.  Gardner argued he would not be a danger in prison, so there was no need to give the death penalty.

Prosecutor(s): Gail Leyko, Curtis Howard
Defense lawyer(s): Bob Hultkrantz, Bennie House

Sources: Dallas Morning News 2/10/05 (2005 WLNR 24690944), 11/8/06 (2006 WLNR 19490131), 11/10/06 (2006 WLNR 19676809), 11/15/06 (2006 WLNR 19849021), 7/7/07 (2007 WLNR 12892560)


Texas court denies pair of death row appeals

By April Castro -

Oct. 21, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — The highest criminal court in Texas on Wednesday denied appeals from two death row inmates, including a hit man in a murder-for-hire plot and a man convicted of killing his wife.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the capital murder convictions and death sentences of Howard Paul Guidry and John Steven Gardner.

Guidry was convicted in 1997 in the shooting death of 33-year-old Farah Fratta in Harris County. Fratta's husband, former Houston public safety officer Robert Fratta, masterminded the plot to have his wife killed. He also has been sentenced to death.

Prosecutors said Robert Fratta had his wife killed after she filed for divorce and that he tried to collect on her life insurance policy days afterward. Payment for her death was to be $1,000 and a Jeep, prosecutors said.

A third defendant in the case, Joseph Prystash, also is on death row. Prosecutors said Fratta enlisted Prytash to hire Guidry.

Gardner was convicted in the shooting death of his wife, Tammy Dawn Gardner, 41, in her Collin County home shortly before their divorce was to become final in 2005. Witnesses said Gardner had long abused his wife and she had said repeatedly that she wouldn't make it out of their marriage alive.

After she was shot, Tammy Gardner, 41, called 911 and named "Steve" as her assailant and described his pickup, according to trial accounts reported in The Dallas Morning News.

She said she couldn't hear the dispatcher because her ears were still ringing from the gunshots and that her head hurt and "there was blood everywhere."

Tammy Gardner slipped into a coma and was taken off life support two days later.

She died from a single gunshot to her head. The bullet hit her in the right front temple, traveled downward through her brain and exited below her left ear. According to the court opinion, Tammy Gardner had been sitting up in bed and the bullet went through the pillow and out the bedroom window. The bullet was never recovered.

John Steven Gardner was arrested in Mississippi the same day his wife was taken off life support. The case was prosecuted as a capital crime because, prosecutors said, the murder was committed along with a burglary or retaliation against the victim.


Jury deliberations for Gardner capital murder trial start Thursday

McKinney Courier-Gazette

Nov 10, 2006

Both sides came to an abrupt end Wednesday in the capital murder trial of John Steven Gardner, leaving the fate of the defendant in the jury's hands.

The state and the defense rested Wednesday afternoon after 3 days of testimony, 19 witnesses and more than 60 pieces of evidence were brought before the 219th District Court. Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the 219th District Court.

Mr. Gardner entered a plea of not guilty before Judge Curt Henderson on Tuesday. He is accused of causing the death of Tammy Dawn Gardner, who was shot in the head on Jan. 23, 2005, at her home in the 9100 block of Farm-to-Market Road 2862 and died 4 days later at Parkland Memorial Hospital after she was taken off life support.

Prosecuting attorney Curtis Howard said the state is seeking the death penalty. If the jury of 5 women and 9 men (2 of whom are alternates) find him guilty and sentence him to death, he would become the 13th person sent to Texas death row by a Collin County jury since 1985, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Fibers found

Witnesses from the Mississippi and Texas Department of Public Safety crime labs presented the only physical piece of evidence before the court, the strongest link that places Mr. Gardner at Mrs. Gardner's home on the night of her murder.

The witnesses -- Greg Nester, a former Mississippi Bureau of Investigation crime scene investigator, and Michael Villarreal, a former Texas Crime Lab trace evidence examiner -- discussed red fibers found in Mr. Gardner's truck that looked "similar" to the fibers from a red robe Mrs. Gardner was wearing when police found her bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to the head.

Nester, now employed as a crime scene investigator with the Mississippi Crime Lab, said he processed the vehicle on Jan. 28 after Jones County sheriff's officials impounded Mr. Gardner's Ford pickup. He said he found several fibers on the seats of the pickup and fingerprints from the exterior of both doors and the interior edge of the driver's door. He also said no blood was found in the pickup.

Villarreal, who now works as a forensic chemist with the U.S. Army Crime Lab, said he compared the red fibers collected from the pickup with the fibers on Mrs. Gardner's housecoat, and concluded they had similar sizes, colors and polymers. His opinion was that the fibers could have come from the housecoat, but under cross-examination by Mr. Gardner's defense attorney, Bob Hultkrantz, said he could not determine if the fibers came from Mrs. Gardner's coat, which leaves some "reasonable doubt."

Prosecuting attorney Gail Leyko also presented the murder weapon before the jury, a .44 Ruger Redhawk Magnum revolver belonging to Mr. Gardner's brother-in-law, David Holliefield. Former Jones County sheriff's investigator Jason Strickland, who currently works as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said they found 5 loaded rounds and one spent round in the weapon.

Lt. Parish Cundiff, of the Collin County Sheriff's Office, later said during a cross-examination by Mr. Gardner's attorney, W.B. "Bennie" House, that no gunshot residue or blood was found in Mr. Gardner's truck.

Collin County Deputy Sheriff Diane Stubbs said Tuesday that investigators were unable to find the bullet that killed Mrs. Gardner. She said they used a metal detector and a heat sensor, but both searches turned up nothing.

'She was crying the whole time'

The state also called Joy Flavill, the wife of McKinney neurologist Dr. Paul Flavill, who said Mrs. Gardner confided in her more chilling details of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, echoing testimony given Tuesday by some of Mrs. Gardner's friends and family.

She said an optometrist referred Mrs. Gardner to her husband's practice. She complained of several symptoms, including migraines, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression. Mrs. Flavill, who works at her husband's practice as the office manager, also said she suffered from left peripheral vision.

Mrs. Gardner told Dr. Flavill she sustained some injuries after falling off a horse and 3 car accidents. But as she prepared to leave, Flavill said Mrs. Gardner told her Mr. Gardner caused the injuries.

Mrs. Gardner "was crying the whole time" as she told Mrs. Flavill how her husband beat her with a gun, pulled her hair and hit her head against a wall and "smacked" her in the head.

Mrs. Flavill, a former contract therapist who worked for New Mexico Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services and runs her own domestic abuse counseling practice in McKinney, said she suggested that she contact a battered women's shelter and the police for help. She said Mrs. Gardner said she couldn't leave because "no one would be there to protect the children. [Her husband] not only threatened to kill her, but her son (John White) as well."

Flavill also said Mrs. Gardner told her that Mr. Gardner would have sex with her with a gun. She said he would sometimes threaten her with the gun if she didn't want to have sex.

Flavill did not call the police herself or take Mrs. Gardner to a battered women's shelter because she said she did not have the legal authority to do either. During Hultkrantz's cross-examination, Flavill equated taking someone to a shelter against their will as "kidnapping."

She also said Mrs. Gardner told her she did not feel comfortable telling Dr. Flavill the true nature of her injuries, which is why it was not detailed in a neurological evaluation report.

Calling Mr. Gardner

The state closed its case with an interview with Cundiff who investigated Mrs. Gardner's murder back in 2005.

He said on the witness stand that he tried to call Mr. Gardner on his cell phone around 5:15 a.m., Jan. 24, 2005, using a number he obtained from his father, John Steven Gardner Sr., of Laurel, Miss., who the defendant was living with at the time.

The phone call only lasted a few seconds. Howard played a recording of the call for the jury.

Mr. Gardner: "Hello?"

Cundiff: "Hey, John?"

Mr. Gardner: "Who?"

Cundiff: "Is this John Gardner? Hello?" (dial tone, Cundiff hangs up)

The second call came from the Jones County Sheriff's Office around 1 p.m. the same day. A sheriff's deputy said Gardner wanted to turn himself in to Texas authorities.

Howard also played the 2nd tape for the jury. Mr. Gardner tells Cundiff he was in Jackson or Vicksburg and he was "just driving" when he received the 1st phone call.

Cundiff asks him what he was doing in Texas since his credit card records show he made two purchases at a Marshall gas station on Jan. 23. Mr. Gardner laughed and said: "Lord have mercy, I'm going to have to have a lawyer, ain't I?"

Later in the call, Cundiff tells Mr. Gardner his wife has been shot. He asks if he knows what happened to her and that he'll find out from Mrs. Gardner if she ever regains consciousness. Mr. Gardner said, " she can tell if she wants to."

Mr. Gardner ends the call by saying, "Uh, this sheriff in here wants to talk to you a minute, hold on."



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