The United States Supreme Court has refused an appeal for John Steven Gardner, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit for the 2005 murder of his then soon-to-be ex-wife.
The denial clears the way for the execution to move forward of the 64-year-old Mississippi man who was said to have killed his wife due to “abandonment rage.” Gardner has been fighting for an appeal since his conviction in 2006, claiming that his trial team “hadn’t done a good enough job.”
Prosecutors say that on the evening of Jan. 23, 2005, sheriff deputies in Collin County responded to a 911 call and found Gardner’s wife, Tammy, in her bedroom, shot in the head and bleeding heavily. Tammy had placed the 911 call and implicated her husband as the assailant.
The 41-year-old Texas woman died in the hospital two days later after her family chose to take her off life support.
Court testimony stated that the bullet hit Tammy in the right front temple, traveled downward through her brain and exited below her left ear. She was believed to have been sitting up in bed and the bullet went through the pillow and out the bedroom window. The bullet was never recovered.
Gardner was arrested in southern Mississippi on the same day Tammy was taken off life support.
If carried out, Gardner would be the first inmate executed in the United States this year.
Long before the murder that landed him on death row, Gardner had a life surrounded by violence. He received an eight year prison sentence in Mississippi for shooting one of his wives, causing the 18-year-old woman to have a miscarriage and making her a paraplegic.
Additionally, court records show that Gardner threatened his next wife and eventually kidnapped her when she attempted to leave him.
By late 2004, Gardner had gotten married yet again and was living in Texas with Tammy. Prosecutors described their relationship as a “relatively short, but violent marriage” in which he had “dominated, threatened and physically abused” her. Witnesses said Gardner had long abused his wife and she had said repeatedly that she wouldn't make it out of their marriage alive.
Tammy filed for divorce in December 2004, while Gardner moved back to Mississippi with family. That was until late January 2005, when he started texting her about the divorce proceedings.
Police discovered that Gardner had borrowed a white pickup from his brother-in-law and credit card purchases put him in Texas, near Tammy’s house. Additionally, fibers were found in the truck that matched what Tammy was wearing. It was also discovered that someone had used a gun belonging to Gardner’s sister. Gardner turned himself into the police in Mississippi.
The case was prosecuted as a capital crime because, prosecutors said, the murder was committed along with a burglary or retaliation against the victim.