WINTERS — A tip, followed by “good old-fashioned detective work” helped authorities track down the man wanted on suspicion of slaying his ex-girlfriend in Winters, law-enforcement officials said at a news conference held Tuesday to discuss that morning’s arrest.
But it will be at least several days before William Carl Gardner III is brought from Las Vegas to Yolo County to face murder charges for the Nov. 18 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Leslie Renee Pinkston, outside her downtown Winters workplace.
“We’re continuing to work in developing the best possible case for the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the man who we believe killed Leslie Pinkston,” Winters Police Chief Sergio Gutierrez said at the press conference, held jointly with the U.S. Marshals Service that assisted Las Vegas police in taking Gardner into custody.
Michael Cabral, Yolo County assistant chief deputy district attorney, said Gardner is expected to appear this week in a Clark County, Nev., courtroom, where a judge will read the outstanding murder warrant that Winters police obtained against Gardner on the night of the shooting.
“He can agree at that point to be extradited or not,” Cabral said.
If Gardner agrees, he could arrive in Yolo County for arraignment by early next week. If not, prosecutors must initiate a formal extradition procedure, which gives them 60 days to seek a warrant from the governor ordering Gardner’s transfer to California.
Standoff in Vegas
Although specific details were not disclosed, Gutierrez and U.S. Marshal Albert Najera said authorities closed in on Gardner on Monday evening after Winters police received information about his possible whereabouts and relayed it to the Marshals Service, which specializes in fugitive investigations.
“We were able to locate him after a few hours of surveillance and doing good old-fashioned detective work,” Najera said. The Las Vegas Sun reported that Gardner surrendered to police negotiators shortly after 1 a.m.
The arrest followed a six-hour standoff at an apartment complex during which Gardner had holed up inside a dwelling with a man, woman and young child — people that Najera described as having a “friendship” with Gardner but were not related to him.
It remained unclear Tuesday how long Gardner, 30, had been in Las Vegas prior to his capture, and what type of assistance he may have received in eluding authorities over the past three weeks.
“Clearly, he had some help staying under the radar, because he was,” Najera said, noting anyone suspected of harboring Gardner likely would face charges in their local jurisdiction. “We had a lot of resources out looking for him. … This was the first time that he had surfaced, to our knowledge, anywhere.”
Asked about the alleged motive behind the shooting, Gutierrez declined to comment, saying he did not “want to compromise any portions of this investigation.” The probe is still ongoing, he said.
Gutierrez said he personally notified Pinkston’s mother, Carla Crane, about Gardner’s arrest.
“She stated to me that she was able to sleep now, being at ease, because of that,” Gutierrez said.
Crane and other relatives expressed relief over Gardner’s capture Monday night as details began to surface about the Las Vegas standoff.
“It’s like an early Christmas present,” said Richard Haywood, Pinkston’s cousin.
Three weeks after seeing her gravely injured daughter wheeled on a stretcher to a waiting air ambulance, Crane said she only recently has been able to resume her normal chores and activities, only to encounter memories of her Pinkston around her, such as in old text messages on her phone.
“There’s just so many reminders,” Crane said, adding that tough times still lie ahead.
“The trial will be an ordeal,” she said.
Cabral, of the Yolo County DA’s Office, said his office hasn’t yet determined how it will proceed with its pending stalking and threats case against Gardner, which stems from a Jan. 13 incident at Pinkston and Crane’s Winters home. Gardner had been scheduled to stand trial on the charges this week.
“It’s going to go forward,” Cabral said, but whether it will be joined with the murder case or handled separately remains to be seen.
In addition to the U.S. Marshals Service, Winters police were aided in their investigation by the Davis and Woodland police departments and the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, whose assistance Gutierrez lauded during Tuesday’s news conference.
“This is a tragedy in our small town. This is a close-knit community, and sadly, something like this has happened within our city,” Gutierrez said. “Our thoughts are with (Pinkston’s) loved ones.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene. Winters Express editor Debra DeAngelo contributed to this report.