William Carl Gardner III, second from left, is led into his arraignment hearing at the Yolo Country Courthouse on Friday. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Crime, Fire + Courts

No plea yet for Winters murder suspect

By From page A1 | January 05, 2014

WOODLAND — The man accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend in Winters was arraigned Friday on charges that could bring the death penalty if he is convicted.

William Carl Gardner III showed no visible reaction as Yolo Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg read aloud the allegations: one count of murder, with the special circumstance that Gardner carried out the killing by means of lying in wait; plus one count each of stalking and possession of a firearm by someone previously convicted of a felony.

The charges also carry enhancements alleging that Gardner personally used a firearm, and that he committed the crimes while on bail for another pending offense.

The 30-year-old Sacramento resident is accused of fatally shooting Leslie Pinkston, 32, on the morning of Nov. 18 as she sat in her parked vehicle outside her Railroad Avenue workplace. He was arrested in Las Vegas on Dec. 10, after three weeks on the run and a six-hour standoff in what authorities say was a friend’s apartment.

Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said his office hasn’t yet decided whether it will seek the death penalty against Gardner, who is eligible for capital punishment in light of the special-circumstance allegation.

“The investigation at all levels is ongoing,” Raven said.

Although Gardner had been represented by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office in three previous cases dating back to 2010, the office declared a conflict of interest in the murder case, which has been handed over to the county’s panel of conflict attorneys. The specific conflict was not disclosed in court, and Public Defender Tracie Olson declined to comment when reached by email Friday afternoon.

Defense attorney J. Toney, representing the conflict panel, deferred a plea entry and attempted to waive a formal reading of the charges Gardner is facing, but Rosenberg insisted upon reading the complaint “based on these charges.”

A large group of Pinkston’s friends and family sat in the courtroom gallery, and several of them wept as Rosenberg read the document, in which Pinkston was identified by her initials, L.P.

Rosenberg, standing in Friday for Commissioner Janene Beronio, who typically handles the court’s arraignment calendar, also assigned the case to his own courtroom and set a date of Jan. 16 for entry of a plea.

Three other pending cases — two for driving on a suspended license and one charging Gardner with stalking and threatening Pinkston and her mother nearly a year ago at their Winters home — will trail the murder case, Rosenberg said.

Gardner is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail combined for the three trailing cases, but that was rendered moot when Rosenberg also ordered a no-bail hold for the murder case. The defendant was extradited from Las Vegas last week, arriving in Yolo County late Monday night.

Court records show Gardner had been facing a Dec. 9 trial in the stalking case when he allegedly killed Pinkston, who was slated to testify against her former boyfriend. Gardner also was on probation for an unrelated domestic-violence case out of Sacramento County.

The nearly 20 people who came to court on Pinkston’s behalf left the brief hearing without commenting to reporters, and huddled briefly on a nearby sidewalk before going their separate ways. No one appeared to be in court for Gardner.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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