Thursday, April 24, 2014

Demand justice for Leslie Pinkston and others like her


Leslie Pinkston, 32, was shot to death Monday morning outside her workplace in downtown Winters. Courtesy photo

By Katie Winkler

The headline is all-too-familiar: “Woman killed; ex-boyfriend sought in connection with her death.”

Except this time, it is not just a headline or a news story. This is the tragic murder of someone I loved dearly. Someone I considered my family. A beautiful, vibrant mother, sister and daughter. Funny, intelligent and kind, Leslie Pinkston was genuine and true, a friend to so many people and a caring and loving mother to her beautiful daughter Calie.

She was also terrorized by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Harassed, stalked and threatened via social media, through email, phone and in person, Leslie tried to prevent and stop this behavior on her own and with the help of family and friends. She changed her number, she moved, she stayed under the radar, all in an effort to keep herself and her daughter safe.

When it reached a point where those things were not enough, she sought protection from the police and the courts, pressing charges and obtaining a restraining order.

William Gardner III was a convicted criminal with multiple indications of re-offending. He had prior domestic violence charges, prior threat charges and prior firearm possession charges and was facing more felony stalking and threat charges. He had failed to appear in court on numerous occasions. His prior acts coupled with the current charges clearly showed him as a danger and a threat to Leslie and her family. Yet he was given the opportunity to be released on bail time and time again.

He was released on Friday evening and is believed to have shot her in cold blood on Monday morning.

Why? Why was this man allowed to be freed on bail? Freed on bail so that he could murder as he threatened to do? Why are we as a society OK with the fact that our domestic violence and anti-stalking laws protect the perpetrator more than they do the victim? Why are we content to continue to release dangerous criminals and refuse to hold them accountable for their actions?

Further, Leslie was never notified of his release, never even given the chance to protect herself from the ambush that took her young life and robbed her innocent 6-year-old daughter of her mother.

Unfortunately, the justice system failed her and failed her daughter, just as it fails countless other women who die at the hands of their abusers. Where do we stop and say enough is enough? How many women must die and how many children be made motherless before we say no more? Before we say we will not allow abusers to go free so they can kill? Before we say, stricter laws, higher bails, stiffer punishments?

This story will fade as new stories take its place, another shooting will occur, another tragedy will take the headlines for a while and this beautiful life that was extinguished too soon will be forgotten, except by those of us privileged enough to know and love her.

I say that this story must be told and re-told. Leslie’s death will not be in vain. We will not rest, we will not be silent and we will not allow this tragedy to be forgotten. Laws must change to protect the innocent people — the wives, the mothers, the daughters.

Every day in this country, on average three women are murdered at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands. Every 12 seconds, a woman is abused. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. As a society, we should be incensed by this, we should be disgusted by this. And we should not sit idly by and allow it to continue.

I implore everyone to stand up for what is right, stand up for justice and fight for the rights of women to be protected and safe from cowards like William Gardner III and other abusers. Write your congressmen, write your senators, demand that abusers are held to higher standards. Demand notification be made to victims before perpetrators are released. Demand no bail for cases like this, and if bail is granted, demand ankle monitoring or other surveillance to protect the victim.

Do not re-elect judges who release these criminals and endanger the lives of innocent victims. Do not re-elect district attorneys who refuse to prosecute these crimes vigorously. Do not re-elect lawmakers who refuse to pass stricter laws for abusers.

Leslie Pinkston was a beautiful soul, a bright light in a dark world, and she will be missed tremendously by all those who knew her. She was not just another statistic; she was a real person, with a family and friends who loved her. She was a beloved mother with a beautiful daughter whom she adored. She was a beloved sister, a daughter, a cousin, an aunt and a friend. And she deserved better than this.

She deserves justice.

— Katie Winkler, a resident of Antelope, is a former colleague and longtime friend of Leslie Pinkston.

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 33 comments

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  • HeartbreakingNovember 22, 2013 - 5:21 pm

    Wow great article!! I grew up with Leslie and she was doing so great such a wonderful Woman and a great mom. My heart just breaks for her little girl that didn't have yo lose her mom !!! Something needs to be done !

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  • MarnieNovember 23, 2013 - 12:02 pm

    I'm so sorry for your loss. This shouldn't have happened! These abusive, sick people Never change!!! I was once a victim too, but was lucky enough to escape even though I went through years of stalking and scary moments until he found a new victim. So sad :(

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  • citizenNovember 22, 2013 - 9:03 pm

    Get involved in Safequest Solano, they specialize in domestic violence issues for Solano County.

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  • StefanieNovember 22, 2013 - 9:05 pm

    I went to high school with Leslie. She was truly a Gem. I.completely agree something has to be done! I have a stalker (an ex) that is currently harrasing my Mom. I am afraid to get a restraining order it Will NOT protect me it will only add fuel to the fire.. I'm ready to take a stand for Leslie for Beautiful little Calie and for women! RIP Leslie your greatly missed.

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  • housingrusulaNovember 22, 2013 - 9:13 pm

    A beautifully written article and one that I will share. I will not forget what you have suggested that we do to help stop these abusers.

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  • BradNovember 22, 2013 - 11:47 pm

    Wow an incredible and very sad story. Something really does need to be changed. This should not be able to happen so easily. The coward needs to be caught and put to death.

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  • Julie FosterNovember 23, 2013 - 6:42 am

    Katie, you should join forces with Ginny Scharbarth, the mother of Kathy Scharbarth, who was murdered in November 2011. Kathy was killed under similar circumstances. I had no idea how often this preventable tragedy occurred until Kathy was killed and her family began publicizing the justice gap for domestic violence victims. And now here is another horrific story! The Scharbarth family has been working diligintly to pass Kathy's Law, which works to close the justice gap. I am sure that Leslie's friends and family, working together with the Scharbarths, would make a powerful force in the effort to stop these killers.

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  • November 23, 2013 - 10:21 am

    WE as a PEOPLE ARE LOOSING THERE rights i seen this first hand in courtrooms that are full of people and there CRAZY offenses that get off scott free and then there are those who have minor offences and PAY BIG for them REMEMBER YAHUWAH SAID THAT THE TIME WOULD COME THAT GOOD WOULD BE BAD AND BAD WOOULD BE GOOD Well it's the time and it's been here it's just GETTING WORSE

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  • November 23, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    It is a sad truth that this is still so prevalent in our society today. There really hasn't been much if any progress in the 25 years since my ex-husband Ronald K Stone almost killed me. Although he did spend 6 years in prison I saw countless others get a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue to terrorize their victims. Why is the crime of domestic violence treated differently than assaults committed by strangers? We should all put pressure on our elected officials to create tougher laws and sentences for these perpetrators.

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  • KarenNovember 23, 2013 - 4:39 pm

    We need to teach our sons to be respectful and our daughters to make wise decisions. We as a society need to be responsible for everything that affects us and everyone around us but we also need to be mindful at home. Children need to learn early to respect each other and to be peaceful human beings. Until then, there can never be true harmony in the world.

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  • Noreen MazelisNovember 24, 2013 - 2:47 pm

    Karen, what you wrote is useless mush which won't protect anyone from scum like William Gardner III.

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  • Carol AnneFebruary 01, 2014 - 7:42 pm

    Hey, stay positive here. Karen only meant well.

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  • AnonNovember 23, 2013 - 5:37 pm

    While I completely agree that laws could and should be stricter it is not the fault of the Judges or the District Attorney for letting people like Gardner remain free on bail. Every person charged with a criminal offense has the absolute right to bail and if they make bail there's very little the Judge or DA can do. The bail schedule is set by the state and Judges only have so much discretion. They can only set bail in accordance to what charges are at hand and the DA can only charge based on the facts known to them. If an arrest was never made for previous incidents they often have no way of knowing they happened and therefore can not allege priors. With that said stalking is a very serious crime and I do agree that we should urge our lawmakers to increase the bail and/or penalties associated with such acts. This is a horrible tragedy and I pray that he's found soon. My heart breaks for her little girl.

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  • Timothy HunterNovember 23, 2013 - 6:23 pm

    I hate stories like these, there are sooo many loser idiots out there that just don't understand NO. Cowards like this guy need a continual beating, but that will never change him. "Wisdom enters more into a wise man than a hundred stripes in the back of a fool" My heart goes out to her precious daughter!

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  • RynNovember 23, 2013 - 8:44 pm

    I'm so very for her daughter her family and her friends! If people and woman don't get what I'm about to say then this stuff will continue to happen more and more! Get your concealed weapons permit learn to protect yourself with a hand gun.. The law won't help you!!! help yourself and protect your live and your family!!! Wake up!! How many more shootings do we need to have how many more innocent lives have to be taken??? Get training and lean to shoot!!! Don't be the next victim This scumbag should have been shot dead for doing this

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  • DwaynaNovember 23, 2013 - 8:41 pm

    So sorry foryour loss, god kept her safe now in heaven Rip

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  • FamilyNovember 25, 2013 - 6:37 pm

    Whoever E is, is an idiot. Maybe you ought to keep your mouth shut and your long winded stories to yourself

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  • ENovember 24, 2013 - 12:14 pm

    This situation is terribly sad. But the article's writer is misguided. DAs are not refusing to prosecute. A judge did not release him on bail. Charges were working their way through the criminal justice system. Bail amounts are set. They are read out of a schedule by the staff at the local lockup - except for extraordinary crimes like murder. If you go in on a charge of X.y.22, they find that and read off the bail amount. The courts are already clogged without adding domestic violence to "must hear" bail proceedings. Jails are full too, and don't need hundreds more people held until a bail hearing can happen. California tried more draconian - convict the man before trial - policy. Ten years ago, it was written in law that the court had to accept the emotional state of a woman at face value in a hearing. It was written in law that an arrest had to be made of the larger, stronger, party in a domestic violence call - whether or not the victim wanted it. The result was predictable. Women abused the system for advantage, often on the advice of a divorce attorney. The implicit presumption in that law, that women won't lie, is false. For example, I sat in court and watched a hearing between man and wife. Note that the facts I am about to tell you were never contested between the parties during the hearing. Facts: Wife refused for months to allow husband into the bedroom to sleep, so he slept on the couch. Wife had a major internet sex habit. She would lock the door and have virtual sex with strangers online, using a very loud vibrator. She would turn up the volume on her speakers. This went on into the wee hours of the morning. Husband supported the family with a construction business. It drove him nuts that she would do this so he couldn't sleep. One night, around 2:30 AM, he banged on her door to turn it down. She swore at him. He tried the door and she had forgotten to lock it. He stormed in, grabbed her dildo, threw it through the window, breaking it, and smashed her computer. Then he went back to the couch, slamming the door. Wife called police. Husband was arrested for domestic violence. Wife filed an affidavit that she was afraid for her life, and requested a CLETS restraining order barring all contact. Wife filed for emergency support order requesting a great deal of money and the truck. At a critical point in the hearing, wife's attorney nudged wife with her elbow, wife looked puzzled, then screwed up her face and squeezed out some tears. Judge rolled his eyes, asked a few questions. Husband gave his opinion that wife was getting paid for her internet sex sessions, and didn't need the money. Judge asked if he had evidence of it, which husband did not. Judge reminded husband that in the state of California, now that a divorce was filed, it was a felony for a spouse to hire a private investigator on the case. Judge gave his ruling, which had little leeway under the law. Wife got money and restraining order, with the caveat that husband had 50% custody of their two young children, and wife was required under the order to release children to husband on schedule, and he was allowed to pull into the driveway while wife stayed in the house. Husband got the truck, as judge pointed out that husband couldn't make a living without it. In another case from the top end of the economic spectrum, a cardiac surgeon's wife had trashed the family home by stopping up the drains and leaving water on for several days before neighbors complained. Wife had gone to the police with bruises claiming he attacked her, but husband had an ironclad alibi that he was miles away otherwise engaged. Wife had been released from court-ordered rehab diversion shortly before the hearing. Wife wanted a CLETS restraining order against husband. I walked out before the ruling. In this case, both parties were well represented by attorneys, as husband's income was $33,000 per month, plus yearly bonus. So it would take forever. There are many other such cases where it is apparent that a woman worked the system with legal advice. Generally, the object was to destroy the man's access to money, or to establish leverage so that the divorce could be turned to advantage. There are many such techniques. Those draconian laws were changed back to something like what they had been. The unfortunate reality is that it is impossible to write laws that protect everyone. It just is not possible. There will always be tragedies like this one. Naively trying to 'fix' everything by locking everyone up and throwing away the key creates more tragedies and unfairness. I say this having probably saved the life of a woman who had a dangerous husband during their divorce. I know these deadly situations happen, though they are a tiny fraction of domestic violence. But I also know of situations where a woman was dangerous, and others who probably conspired to kill a husband during the divorce. (Of course, this is just my opinion. If I could prove any of them, they wouldn't be successful, now, would they?) Killing a husband succeeds more often than you would imagine. Why? Women are, in general, more covert, more used to pretending, and coverups. Women are not used to barreling into a room and dominating it. Women don't have instincts that tell them that it's fun to scare everybody into submission. Men who decide to kill are angry, not inclined to figure out how to do it without getting caught. Most of those men are, quite frankly, idiots. Like this Gardner guy. They haven't got the brains god gave carrots. Unfortunate reality is that there is no substitute for good judgment from the get-go. I know that it isn't always possible to know at first. Abusers, both male and female, can be very beguiling. They can be enchanting even. Yes, I know from experience. Here is my advice for every woman and girl. First, use your head for something besides a rack for hair and makeup. Second, snoop. Yes, snoop. Read his emails. Read his texts. Read his diary if he has one. Always do that. Find out what he's really up to. Do it early, and do it deeply. Be prepared to find out that real people are not perfect. If he catches you and gets upset, ignore it. You are protecting yourself and your children, born and unborn. Third, shut the mouth more often. Think before you talk. When you snoop, don't chatter what you found out all over town. For one thing, if you aren't married, it's a crime to read emails. But doing it will save you untold pain. Fourth, when you break up with someone who may be dangerous, skip the passion part. Yes, I know that being passionate is fun, and very entertaining. It feels great to scream and yell at him, and dial things up. But if you dial everything down to zero, then he has nothing to engage with. Seriously, this works pretty well. It's the best thing you can do against an abuser. They need your reaction, your tears, anger, fear. But sometimes nothing works. Sometimes, the law cannot protect you. If you follow my advice, it might save your life.

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  • DianaNovember 25, 2013 - 9:43 am

    E: Thanks for your fantastic comment. ou are 100% correct.

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  • Ron CraneDecember 02, 2013 - 8:34 am

    E .. you seem to speak from prior run ins with the law ...but at best your comments are ignorant of the social and personal ramifications of this crime, and case. MY BABY SISTER WAS IN THE MOST COWARDLY WAY STALKED THEN SHOT DOWN WITHOUT CHANCE TO GET AWAY ! until you have a loved one die in that way do not speak to things that escape your intellectually challenged mind. you must make your mother proud that she raised someone that would challenge the meaning of stupid and become such a shining example of it ! THE JUSTICE SYSTEM HAS FAILED YET AGAIN TO PROTECT TAX PAYING CITIZENS, THE LAW HAS FAILED, THE COURTS HAVE FAILED AND THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA HAS FAILED....AND NOW MY BABY SISTER HAS PAID THE PRICE FOR THEIR FAILURES ... THE COURT KNEW HE HAD A VIOLENT PAST, THEY KNEW HE HAD A TENDENCY FOR FAILURE TO APPEAR, THEY KNEW HE THREATENED HER LIFE AND THEY KNEW OF THE VIOLENT NATURE OF THE CHARGES ALSO THAT HE THREATENED HER LIFE !! at what point as a member of the criminal justice do you EVER let these people back on the streets. they should stay behind bars until their arraignment and or trial ! IT'S A VIOLENT CRIME , NOT A PACKING TICKET ! .. HE HAD RIGHTS ? HE COULD HAVE STILL HAD RIGHTS .. LOCKED BEHIND BARS FOR A VIOLENT CRIME IN WHICH LOSS OF LIFE WAS HIGHLY POSSIBLE ! FAILURE OF JUSTICE SYSTEM & HER KILLER MURDERED MY SISTER as has happened to many other victims of violent crimes ... i am out of words .. justice will not bring her back, she is gone forever, justice will not give Callie back her mother ,or our mother back her daughter, or friends back their friend. ALL WE CAN DO IS HOPE TO PREVENT SUCH TRAGIC SITUATIONS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN ! THEN TO MAKE IT WORSE EVERY IDIOT IN THE FREE WORLD HAS AN OPINION , MOST RANTS BY OBVIOUS DRUG ADDICTS, DRUNKS, ABUSERS THEMSELVES OR JUST PLAY IDIOTS OR THE EMOTIONALLY CRIPPLED ! stay home huff your brain cells and close your cake hole ! E you are an example of the most cowardly of people .. you think you have something smart to say then open mouth and bury your foot up to the waist .. sometimes it is better for people to think your a fool, then to open mouth and remove all doubt. ....YOU ARE WORST KIND OF COWARD YOU HIDE BEHIND ANONYMITY , yet god forbid something like this should happen to your family or a friend then see how smart your words sound and how cowardly you look. Just because you possess the ability to form words doesn't mean you can say every stupid irresponsible thing that pops into your closed mind. YES I AM ANGRY AND HURT, I AM FRUSTRATED AND FOUND A NEW DEPTH TO SORROW, I AM TORMENTED EVERY WAKING HOUR OF EVERY DAY... BUT MY EMOTIONS ARE BUT A DIM SHADOW TO THOSE OF MY MOTHER AND FAMILY .. but although i want justice it will never bring my sister back, but what scares me is that now he has killed and its only a matter of time before he plunges another family and community into his world of violence and evil. KATIE .. I AM HONORED & PROUD that you found an avenue to speak heart and attempt to bring change .. your are correct in your assumptions, WE THE PEOPLE ! have we forgotten what this means ? WHEN OUR SYSTEM FAILS .. WE THE PEOPLE must act and apply pressure for change ! WHEN THE LAW FAILS WE THE PEOPLE .. need to pressure them to make change in laws .. WE THE PEOPLE .. THEY WORK FOR US .. WE PAY THEM TO PROTECT US !! if we sit by like E and do nothing are we not as guilty ? EXCELLENT JOB KATIE ! sorry you have to hear from schmucks like E !

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  • Puddin TaneDecember 03, 2013 - 11:14 am

    Ron, I understand that you're in pain, but I don't think that angrily lashing out at E is a good way to vent. You may disagree with him, but he doesn't seem to be trying to insult you, an it doesnt seem like he's trying to justify what that horrible man did. We all understand that you're in an unbelievable amount of pain, and your family's world has been turned upside-down.

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  • Noreen MazelisNovember 24, 2013 - 2:50 pm

    Ryan, your words are hard to hear BUT you are correct. We must protect ourselves; when death or bodily harm are seconds away, the police are (at best) minutes away.

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  • DianaNovember 25, 2013 - 9:26 am

    Katie, thanks for your fantastic story. Your friend died at the hands of a criminal. It was the restraining order that got her killid. A restraining order is just a piece of paper, that the criminal can carry around, to remind him of the growing hate within him. Making the matter worse. Our government system is a complicated one, obscured by corrupt polititions, who are only there for themselves, and not your friend Leslie. The criminal system is protected by the labor unions. Then there are the people who protest death penalties. Clearly William Gardner III needs to be exicuted. For he will continue down the same path with another person, becomeing his victom. I ask one question. If crime were contolled or lessened, what would happen with all the jobs in the criminal system? America is a sad place.

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  • BobNovember 25, 2013 - 5:07 pm

    The reward has been increased to $85,000.00

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  • AnonymousNovember 25, 2013 - 6:39 pm

    Didnt she bail the guy who killed her out of jail?

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  • Rich RifkinNovember 25, 2013 - 10:27 pm


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  • Rich RifkinNovember 26, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    Evidently I was wrong and you were right. My apologies. This comes from CBS13: "For reasons we may never know, the DA’s office says it was Leslie Pinkston herself who paid the $130 that ultimately set Gardner free. The sheriff’s department tells the DA’s office it is her signature on the receipt."

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  • November 26, 2013 - 12:08 pm

    That is what the news is saying of course they get a lot of news incorrect. If she did not bail him out then the news media needs to correct the wrong information. This is so said what happened to this beautiful young woman. It is scary out there much of the time when people start dating they are not aware of the character of the person. A background check on people you are thinking of having a relationship with could help some if the person has a record prior to getting involved.

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  • Human Rights Vs. StalkersNovember 25, 2013 - 8:06 pm

    This is another chilling example of a human rights violation in America. Katie - your friend was not afforded the protections that are inalienable to all US citizens, and you have every right to be outraged. My sister is in the position Leslie was in, and we can't get the current laws enforced that "might" protect her. People do not realize that there is a systemic form of oppression going on here. It's not going to get any better until we stand up and respectfully demand to claim our basic rights. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know the movement to save women's lives is starting to build, and we are fighting for change in honor of women like Leslie. God bless, Tammy

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  • We Need a NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REGISTRYNovember 27, 2013 - 8:24 pm

    I am so sorry for this families loss. This is exactly why we are pushing for a MANDATORY NATIONAL DV OFFENDERS LIST. Just as we have for Sex Offenders. If people were able to see for themselves ones violent past it could prevent so much abuse and death. If this was not protected information in some states by JDR court women and men both could see for themselves before getting involved with, marrying or having children with someone that has a DV past. I am a Survivor and my abuser continues to abuse women 20 yrs later and now Felon because of repeat offenses. He's never spent any significant time behind bars though. Please help us get this out so our Government will hear us. Some states already have this information available to the public. It should be that way for all states. We should all have the RIGHT to know to protect ourselves and our loved ones. This is such a tragic story, I have shared it on our Page. My thoughts and Prayers are with all involved in this horrific injustice.

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  • Ron CraneDecember 02, 2013 - 8:38 am

    we dont need a list , paper works i not what we need .. we need action not more words .. we need to make sure all violent criminals when arrested are immediately arraigned and are automatically refused bail until trial especially when they have a history of DV, assault, weapons charges ect .... criminals have too many rights, while victims rights are slowly devoured by politics, legal juggling and state budget misuse ! FOR ONE TO DIE FROM THIS IS TOO MANY !

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  • November 27, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    So very true. Something has to change.

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  • CharmaineDecember 08, 2013 - 8:39 pm

    I am currently a victim-witness. It started May 2009 and has escalated massively. It's like Groundhog Day, my life has been at a stand still. Feeling several emotions at one time all the time is exhausting. With a 6 yr old I have no choice but to stick to routine and keep going taking one day at a time. He's evicted our son and I by interfering with my mail and I had only minutes to pack per the Sherriffs. In that same week I was fired from my job of 20 yrs, because of him and taken to court because he's demanded custody of our son, age 4, because I was jobless, homeless and an unfit mother. He has tormented me to the point I finally moved far away. And during my visit back home at my parents, he strangled me. It was abrupt and unexpected and I was seconds away from death. He was arrested and I went to the hospital. Currently I have full custody again and still live pretty far. I'm very scared. I'm scared for both mine and my sons safety. I look over my shoulder constantly. Never have money and very sad as I watch my son get excited for Xmas when I know he's going to be very much disappointed. I don't know what's happening with the DA's office as far as the most recent case. The mediator didn't feel he was a threat and believed every lie he told her even though I pleaded that I was in danger if he's allowed visitation. I wanted to disappear with my son. I'm his mother and I'm his safety. I changed careers and start school in January. I'm scared of even going to school. People's deaths are usually unexpected and knowing how you're gonna die is not usual. But I can tell you that he will try to kill me. And there's a good chance that's how I'm gonna die. If I go back and stay then I'm dead. If I'm gone I'm dead. And I'm scared. I just want to be a mom and provide for my son by establishing a career and comfortably live on one income. What will become of my sons future? I don't even know why I ask because I've already made arrangements if he's left motherless.

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