More than 4,875,000 pageviews from 160 countries

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Who Murdered Jon Garner?

     In 2018, Jon Garner and his wife Sandra Louise Garner resided in the small, Ellis County town of Maypearl, Texas. They were managers at the DHL Express and We Pack companies in nearby Paris, Texas. The couple had met in 2000, and two years later were married. Sandra, 13 years older than Jon, was twice-divorced with two children, Andrea and Wesley Miller.

     In 2014, Sandra Garner was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Two years later, the couple moved from Paris, Texas to the house in Maypearl. Jon Garner, described by people who knew him as a bit "wild and crazy," also drank heavily and suffered bouts of depression.

     In the early morning hours of January 2, 2018, 58-year-old Sandra Garner called 911 and said, rather calmly, "There was a man here, and he shot him. Please help me."

     Responding deputies with the Ellis County Sheriff's Office found the 911 caller's 45-year-old husband in bed with two gunshot wounds to his head. He was pronounced dead at the scene. At the sheriff's office, Sandra Garner told her questioner that when awaken by the sound of two gunshots she was confronted by the shooter, a naked man wearing a face-mask. All she could see were his eyes. When she screamed, the intruder said, "Shut up!" Sandra pleaded with the masked intruder not to kill her. In response he said, "What I came to do is done. I didn't come here to shoot you."

     The gunman who had just shot her husband to death took the time to explain why he had murdered the man. According to the killer, after Mr. Garner had fired him some years ago, he lost his house, his wife and his children. He had lost everything.

     Sandra Garner informed the sheriff's deputy that the shooter knew that the couple kept cash in the house, and he wanted it. She directed him to the closet where they had $18,000 in a lockbox. Before the killer left the house with the money, he told Sandra to count to 100 before calling the police. If he heard sirens, he'd come back and shoot her.
     A search of the Garner house revealed that Mr. Garner owned 49 pistols and twelve rifles. Sandra Garner's .38-caliber Taurus revolver was not in the dwelling, and she said she had no idea where it was. A police search of Sandra Garner's iPad immediately made her a suspect in her husband's death. Four days before the murder, someone on her iPad had Googled: "How to kill somebody in their sleep" then clicked a link to: "16 ways to kill somebody and not get caught."

     When asked about the incriminating iPad Google search, the suspect replied that her husband often thought about killing himself and must have made the Internet inquiry.

     On January 5, 2018, sheriff's deputies returned to the Garner house for a more thorough search for the .38-caliber Taurus revolver. Deputies went to the attached garage to search Sandra Garner's Ford Mustang but the garage was locked. When asked for the key, the angered suspect reluctantly complied with the request.

     Under the front seat of the Mustang, deputies found the suspect's .38-caliber revolver. It was wrapped in wet towels inside a plastic bag.

     At the crime lab, forensic scientists were unable to find latent fingerprints or DNA evidence on the gun. A forensic firearms identification expert, however, determined that the fatal bullets had been fired from this revolver. The murder weapon had been found in Sandra Garner's car.

     On January 10, 2018, sheriff's deputies took Sandra Garner into custody on the charge of murder. The magistrate set her bail at $2 million. An Ellis County grand jury, two months later, brought a murder indictment against her.

     The Sandra Garner case went to trial on September 10, 2019 in the Ellis County Court House in Waxahachie, Texas. The defendant's attorney, Tom Pappas, offered a three-pronged defense: His client had been framed--by her son Wesley Miller; the Ellis County Sheriff's Office had horribly bungled the investigation; and the prosecution had not established a motive for Sandra Garner to kill the man who loved her and had taken care of her.

     The defendant, looking older and unwell, took the stand on her own behalf and came off as a sympathetic witness who had been framed by her son who had made the Google searches on her iPad, and planted the murder weapon in her car. According to the defense, Wesley Miller had murdered his stepfather because he was desperate for money. The defense attorney pointed out that Mr. Miller was in the Garner house the night of the incriminating Google searches. Moreover, contrary to what detectives believed, Mr. Miller did not have a solid alibi for the early morning hours of January 2, 2018.

     Regarding the bungled investigation, the defense attorney highlighted the fact deputies, immediately following the discovery of Mr. Garner, did not bag his wife's hands to preserve possible gunshot residue. If they had, they might have found that she had not fired the murder weapon. Had investigators processed the Mustang's door handles for latent fingerprints, they may have discovered that Wesley Miller had planted the murder weapon. Also, the sheriff's office lost the crime scene photographs, and had done nothing to protect the murder scene from evidence contamination and removal.

     Throughout the trial, defense attorney Pappas repeatedly referred to his client as the "60-year-old nana with MS."

     On October 10, 2019, after 25 witnesses and 400 exhibits, the jury, after deliberating three hours, returned to the courtroom with its verdict: Not guilty. The jurors did not think the prosecution had made its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

No comments:

Post a Comment