BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Officers who forced open the door to a northwest Bakersfield home last month encountered a grisly scene: a woman’s body on the floor with severe blunt force trauma to her head, a man lying nearby, moaning and with a slash to his wrist.
The man, John Leroy Gardner, survived his injury and admitted to killing his wife of 40 years, according to newly released court documents. He said he should have died, too.
A police officer guarding Gardner at Kern Medical recorded him telling a nurse, “Then after I did it, I tried to kill myself so I wouldn’t have to worry about it but then I’m thinking ‘What did I do?’ I’ve never done anything like this, I’ve done some whacky things, but …”
The documents say he began crying and said, “I can’t believe I killed her. It’s really crazy. It’s beyond crazy.”
Gardner, 64, is charged with first-degree murder and is next due in court Wednesday. He is held on $1 million bail.
Police were called Dec. 6 to the Gardners’ house on Vaquero Drive, near Discovery Elementary School. A hammer and razor blade were among items seized from the master bedroom, where the Gardners were found.
When police spoke with him, Gardner said there had been domestic violence issues in his marriage with 58-year-old Jane Gardner. He said he should have left her instead of letting things build up, according to the documents.
Gardner told police his wife verbally attacked him that day. He took some Ativan to calm himself down.
Later, Gardner woke up and felt miserable and wanted to kill himself, the documents say he told police. Then he thought about the unhappiness his wife caused him, he said, and he grabbed a hammer from the garage.
Gardner said he bludgeoned his wife to death with the hammer, striking her in the head about six times, the filings say. He then cut himself and expected he’d soon be dead.
An investigator interviewing Gardner wrote, “Gardner then said he would never see his house again because he knows he is going to be in jail until he dies. Gardner said he wished he had died.”
A relative of Jane Gardner told police John Gardner was known to get jealous and accuse his wife of cheating on him. The relative described him as “controlling” and said there had been an incident several years ago where he was arrested for domestic violence but no charges were filed, according to the documents. She said Gardner had been to rehab for opioid addiction in the past.
Another person who knew the couple said John Gardner was a “quack” and a “pill popper” who took a number of medications and drank a lot, according to the filings. This person told police Jane Gardner had said her husband was paranoid and believed she would leave him when she retired.
Jane Gardner worked at Cal State Bakersfield as an analyst in the grants department. John Gardner used to be a laboratory technician at Kern Medical but was on disability retirement because of a shoulder injury, the documents say.