BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Bakersfield man has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of first-degree murder in the gruesome slaying of his wife of 40 years.

The insanity plea was entered Friday morning by John Leroy Gardner, 66, who said he understood he could spend the rest of his life in a state hospital if it’s determined he was insane at the time of the killing. Two doctors were assigned to examine him, and Judge Michael G. Bush set May 2 as the day their reports should be submitted to counsel.

The next hearing in Gardner’s case is set for July 13.

There will be two phases if Gardner’s case goes to trial: First a guilt phase will be held, and then the jury will decide whether he was insane.

Police were called Dec. 6, 2020, to the Gardner home on Vaquero Drive, near Discovery Elementary School. They forced open the door and found a woman’s body on the floor with severe blunt force trauma to her head, John Gardner lying nearby with a cut to his wrist, according to court documents.

The woman was identified as Jane Gardner, 58. She worked at Cal State Bakersfield as an analyst in the grants department.

John Gardner said he bludgeoned her to death with a hammer then slashed his wrist and was supposed to die, too, according to court documents.

“I can’t believe I killed her,” Gardner told a nurse while at Kern Medical, his comments recorded by a police officer standing guard. “It’s really crazy. It’s beyond crazy.”

Gardner later told police there had been domestic violence issues in his marriage and he should have left his wife years ago, the documents said.

John Gardner had been a laboratory technician at Kern Medical but was placed on disability retirement because of a shoulder injury, the documents said.

A relative of Jane Gardner described John Gardner as controlling and jealous, and said he had accused his wife of infidelity, according to the documents. The relative told police there had been an incident several years ago where he was arrested for domestic violence but no charges were filed.